An excerpt from the Passionate Earth: The Evolution of Our Relationship with the Natural World by John Del Signore. I will be posting new articles to this site on a regular basis.
Science has been the backbone of technology since its inception and has contributed to the invention and production of a wide range of products and services that have forwarded the development of society and have allowed us to live increasingly more comfortable lifestyles. However, the extensive use of creature comforts has also removed us further from direct contact with our natural surroundings.
The industrial revolution introduced the power of machines to the human race, which in turn, enabled the production of great quantities of products that added comfort to our lifestyles and gave us more time to engage in other personal pursuits. But the lure of profit resulted in factories with dangerous equipment, poor working conditions and low wages that primarily benefited the owners and stockholders. This scenario is still prevalent today and even worse in poor developing nations. Many inventions did improve our lifestyles but many more were not evaluated for their negative effects on the environment or on society in general. This fact is as true today as it was back then.
We have come to rely more on machines and specialized tools to do work that we formerly did by hand. This has caused us to become more sedentary, as much of our modern forms of work and recreation occur indoors and are highly automated. Most of us do not get enough physical exercise and incur poor health over time as well as many medical and psychological disorders.
Our recreational pursuits are extensively based on mechanized vehicles in which we have become passive observers of our experiences. Spectator sports are a good example of increased passive engagement, especially via the television, the media and the computer. A wide array of electronic devices gives us another avenue of passive activity that can be utilized almost anywhere on the planet.
A moderate use of these commodities is certainly advantageous to our modern lifestyles but these activities have become more of an addiction than a convenience or a necessity and interfere with the fulfillment of other important human needs.
The manufacture of many products has also contributed to the pollution of the planet and its natural resources. We have continued to utilize processes that are harmful to our air, water and soil and have not put enough effort into finding environmentally friendly alternatives, mostly because of cost and profit motives.
Technology is also the beginning of the chain of events from which marketing, sales and consumerism flow and create a feedback loop that demands the constant selling and consuming of products to support the businesses and corporations of society. New products are constantly created and introduced to the public to ensure the repetition of this cycle so wealth can be obtained and accumulated, despite the actual wants and needs of the consumer.
An alternate feedback loop of great concern is the prevalent one that leads to the addiction of seeking power and wealth as an end in itself that also typically fosters a cycle of corruption and crime.
Again, as in many other human endeavors, our dualistic and reductionistic philosophies promote a technology that is value free and does not answer to the higher call of ethics or environmental and social responsibility.
Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth Healing the Mind, Sierra Club Books,1995, edited by Theodore Roszak, Mary E. Gomes, Allen D. Kanner. The all-consuming Self by Mary E. Gomes and Allen D. Kanner, pp. 77-91.