With the ever changing world we live in, green technology is here for the betterment of our fellow man. The future of our planet is dependent on mankind to produce a safe, clean, and viable resource that does not rely on non renewable resources. The history of green technology, how we currently utilize it, and what we can look forward to in the future acuminate to how we may live on a healthier, more efficient earth. Due to the growth rate of civilization and its ever increasing advances, green technology has become a focal point for many pioneers that want a better planet to live on. Green Technology is defined as: “technology whose use is intended to mitigate or reverse the effects of human activity on the environment” (Oxford University Press, 2010). In other words, green technology is being utilized as a response in order to preserve the world for generations to come.
The knowledge that we have obtained along with the understanding that we are pursuing better technology, will eventually lead to a more environmental conscience society. Environmental or clean technologies are terms used when referring to green technology as well. These terms have been in the public arena for nearly a decade, but the use or thought of clean technology has been around for generations without it ever being defined. There is not much history to be found concerning green technology. However, its practices in America can be traced back through many generations. From windmills built in the Midwest that were used to power irrigation in the early 1800s to the electric taxis in New York used in the 1900s, green technology has been on the American conscience. CBS news (2011) stated, “An estimated six million windmills once pumped water on the U.S. prairies, allowing people to settle the west” (para. 2 ). Clean Technology has always been talked about with scholars, but the push for better technology has come from society slowly learning the importance and magnitude of our footprint on this planet. Another example for the
influence on societies push for the betterment of green technology is provided as an environmental snapshot from the 1960s and 1970s. Meyer (2010) provides an account of environmental events that occurred in the 1960s and the action responses in the 1970s as seen in Figure 1 of this paper.
It is apparent that as these events unfolded, public concerns over environmental safety grew and legal action by the government was implemented. This is not to be construed that corporations did not take notice as well. The interest was eventually brought to a head as it was realized that green technology would become extremely profitable. The 1969 National Environmental Policy Act was one of the first laws put into action that started the pathway towards Green Technology. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, 2012) states, “NEPA establishes that all federal agencies’ funding or permitting decisions be made with full consideration of the impact to the natural and human environment” (para 3). This has paved the way for how we hold ourselves responsible for making today’s technology user friendly and beneficial for the environment. We have come a long way with green technology in a short period of time. This type of technology covers a broad spectrum. Green building, chemistry, environmental, and energy are some subject areas of green technology. Many feel the most important study in green technology is energy usage and conservation. The understanding that coal, gas, oil, and fossil fuels will not last with the demand for energy is a reason for the push towards cleaner, renewable energy sources.
Another reason is that society is better educated. The acknowledgment that we are responsible for better living is fueling the need for green technology and producing some awe inspiring uses. Green technology is most utilized today in the quest for alternative energy. Solar energy, wind turbines, and using the oceans energy are in the lead for making a softer imprint on the planets environment and its resources. Solar panels use the heat from the sun to convert into useable electricity. That energy can either be stored in batteries or returned to the local energy provider if still connected to them. The idea of this is to utilize the local grid as a bank to receive credit for the energy you provide and pull it out when needed with little to no charge. The panels that provide this are fast becoming more cost effective, easier to handle, and readily available to the average consumer. Robbins (2009) demonstrates an example of these promising ‘thin film’ solar cells as seen in Figure 2 of this paper.
These thin panels have been displayed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. Thin film solar panels are relatively low in cost and are highly adaptable because of their flexibility. Wind Turbines are another means that green technology is making an impact by designing lighter, longer blades. As noted in Green Technology World (2012), “Wind power is created when the wind energy converts to other forms of energy like electricity, fuel, and power. Wind power can be created using wind turbines, wind mills, wind pumps, wind farms” (para. 1). It is an extremely effective means of harnessing the energy brought on by the worlds wind currents. Wind turbines do produce clean energy but there is some opposition due to birds being killed by flying into the extremely large and powerful blades. Another energy driven technology is ocean tidal or water turbines.
The basic design is dependent on the high and low tide of the ocean. The rise and fall of the ocean creates water flow that can be harnessed into usable energy. Breeze (2005) added, “The energy carried by a wave depends on the windspeed and the distance a wave travels in the wind” (p.205). The tidal flows are extremely predictable but the inexperience and cost affiliated with making technology that can harness this energy is still quite expensive. Today’s green technology is still evolving, but the interest from public and private funding needs to be given so that green technology can expand and contribute for the future. The future of green technology and its positive impact on the world seems to have endless possibilities. Piezoelectric floor panels, nuclear fusion power, and orbiting solar panels are a few items that individuals are researching. Often times with research done for green technology, it is not specifically mentioned, but very much implied. One of the pioneers in piezoelectric floor panels was researched and designed by a student at the University of Michigan by the name of Elizabeth Redmond. She had working knowledge of what piezoelectricity was and applied that to a new form of energy usage. This technology is not new as it was brought about in the nineteenth century by scientists conducting experiments with ceramics and crystals and applied pressure that in turn created electricity.
“Piezoelectricity is electrical energy produced from mechanical pressure (including motions such as walking). When pressure is applied to an object, a negative charge is produced on the expanded side and a positive charge on the compressed side” (Trimarchi, 2008, para 1). Elizabeth Redmond is one of a handful of visionaries that believes someday the pressure of a step or jump can potentially power whatever our civilization desires. A newer green technology has been studied for the last forty years called nuclear fusion power. The sun and stars produce this energy due to high temperatures and conditions that allow positive and negative neurons to get close enough to allow fusion. The current draw back with nuclear fusion power is in the technology. Scientists have not found an effective way of making more energy than what it takes to produce nuclear fusion power. This is a potential unlimited resource if it can be produced and harnessed in a safe, cost effective manner. A more tangible future concept, compared to the previous two, is orbiting solar panels. Studies show that this could become a possibility in thirty years. The concept is rather simple. Huge solar panels would be launched into space and assembled. These panels would constantly absorb the suns energy, turn that energy into electricity, and beam it back to earth to be utilized. This green technology is slowly growing in interest as our energy needs increase.
The negative issue with this and all future investments in green technology is funding. The financial cost and research is currently outweighing the private and government sector drive to finance their money on uncertainties. With the research conducted for this paper, it has become evident that each individual is responsible for the future health of our planet. Green technology is being utilized to curb our needs and wants, but until then we need to be good stewards of the world. Green technology is present. The history of green technology, how we currently utilize it, and what we can look forward to in the future acuminate to how we may live on a healthier, more efficient earth.