Progress: is there anything about that word that doesn’t just sound all-around great? Progress is all about moving forward, improving, and making the world a better place with each passing day. Technology can (and has) saved lives, improved conditions for humanity worldwide, and continues to advance each and every day.
But then, technological progress can have a downside, too. We don’t always know how to anticipate the ecological impact of our new technologies. Cars and gasoline are an obvious example. We all know about the depletion of the ozone layer, but did you know that gas has a negative impact on our water, too? Gas has a massive virtual water footprint, so cutting back on driving doesn’t just save the air, it saves water, too.
Or how about computers and electronics we use every day? For years, I thought that computers were a greener alternative to paper. What I forgot to anticipate, however, was the impact of the construction for computer chips. Of course, we’re not saying everyone should give up their computers altogether. They’re still preferable to paper and hard-copies in a lot of ways, even though you might not realize the impact of always upgrading to the latest phone or device.
And then, there’s the technology at the center of our whole film and activism: the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Over a century old, the aqueduct is hardly “new” technology, but it set off a new wave of development when it was built in 1913. And, like nearly all technology, it had unintended consequences.
Consider the Owens Lake. Over 100 miles of water, the lake dried as the aqueduct diverted the streams that fed it until it was completely dry. Or take a look another hundred miles further north, where Mono Lake nearly suffered the same fate as Owens Lake until the Mono Lake Committee formed and filed a lawsuit to protect their natural home.
We’re not advocating for being luddites or returning to Stone Age lifestyles. We are, however, saying that there’ssometimes a downside to progress, and that it’s important to see the impact of what technologies we use. And if we have a less-than-green product, we can act in awareness to improve technologies and hopefully make them better in the future.