The negative effects of technology are numerous. In our march to progress we have degraded the natural world. Forests are chopped down, topsoil is washed away, rivers are polluted and our waste is dumped in the oceans.
On the surface this appears to be a relatively recent problem. If we went back 100 or 200 years it would seem that mankind treads quite lightly on the planet. On face value the culprit is industrial technology. However this is not the case. The culprit is our cultural vision; our cultural vision wields technology in a destructive fashion.
Prior to civilization all cultures on the planet saw themselves as belonging to the world; they were a part of it. These cultures had varying degrees of technology. Some were very primitive, others quite complex.
But the negative effects of technology were non existent. All technology was exercised within certain natural laws. Civilization changed this. Instead of seeing man as a part of nature people saw man as a separate and higher order of being. Thus the rest of nature merely existed as a resource for man’s benefit.
Due to this world-view civilization used their technology to subjugate nature. Indigenous societies never did this. Using technology in order to bend nature to man’s will is what creates negative effects. The negative effects of technology are not inherent in the technology itself; it is what we use it for that is the issue.
For most of civilization’s history the negative effects of technology were localized. When the Phoenicians destroyed the forests of what is now Lebanon the trauma was local. When the Greeks and Romans collapsed due to the exploitation of their land with advanced technology the effect was local.
Destruction of the natural environment has been taking place since the birth of civilization yet it is only now that we are seeing it on a global scale. Our industrial technology has progressed to the point where we can do more damage in 100 years than we could in 10,000. But again this is not a problem of the technology. It is the fact that our cultural vision sees us as separate from nature that allows us to destroy it.
Nobody knows if industrial technology is sustainable because we have never used it in a sustainable manner. But perhaps it is possible to do so.
The way our culture operates is unsustainable. If we cannot find a way to operate a complex society within natural laws then we will inevitably return to a much simpler existence. We cannot blame technology for our own shortcomings. We are holding the technology so it is up to us to use it for good and not for the destruction of the planet.