Sunday, 21 November 2010

Waste and Technology

My mobile phone is a 3 year old HTC Touch with a touch-sensitive screen and a stylus.  When I bought it, it was reasonably cutting edge, although in choosing the phone, price and value for money were also significant factors.

It still works, but I'm now on the look out - potentially - for a new one.  I've decided I'd like an Android phone and am currently considering the Dell Streak.

My reasons for wanting to upgrade to this phone are:
  • It has a much larger screen (5 inches) and higher resolution, which makes it a lot better for browsing the internet, reading and viewing photos.
  • Pinch zoom - which my current phone doesn't have - so again a lot better for browsing.
  • Bigger keyboard - so easier typing and no need for a stylus
  • Access to Android app store
  • Accelerometer, GPS

Mobile phone technology is improving at a rate of knots and I think it's great!  I love technological gadgetry and being a bit of a sci-fi fan as a child, I've long dreamed about being able to do many of the things that mobile phones are now capable of.

Here's the rub though - mobile phones are extremely wasteful, to a large extent because the technology is advancing so quickly!  This results in most people who can afford to do so upgrading their phones on a regular basis.  Old phones can of course be recycled to some extent and this helps reduce waste, but you can never recycle everything and manufacture and recycling are both energy intensive processes.

My wife's job is to encourage the public to reduce waste on behalf of our local council.  Her team's mantra is, "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle".  It makes perfect sense.  If you don't need it, don't buy it.  If you do need it, don't buy a new one unless you have to.  If you don't need it anymore, don't just throw it away - find another use for it if you can, then recycle as a last resort.  It's also the opposite of prevailing popular culture, which says if you want it and you can afford it then buy it.  Heck, if you can't afford it, buy it anyway - you can pay for it later on!  We are constantly surrounded and bombarded by adverts which try every trick in the book to persuade us to spend, spend, spend!

So I'm pro-technology and anti-consumerism, which puts me in a difficult spot.  On a personal level there's obviously a tension between a desire to own and use technology and a desire to care for the planet.  There's also a tension on a larger scale though, because technological research and development, which I love, is generally funded by consumerism, which at least in its present form is out of control, causing massive damage to our planet and completely unsustainable.

I don't believe God is anti-technology - in fact I believe inventiveness and creativity are part of God's nature in whose image we were made.  I'm sure it is God's desire that we develop this side of our nature to the full.  There must be a way we can do this though, which is less destructive to others, to the planet and to ourselves.

Thoughts anyone?

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