Digital Technology For A Greener Earth

“The future will either be green or not at all.” - Bob Brown

Mr. Brown got that one right. We can deny it till we’re blue in the face but the fact is, we’re approaching some pretty apocalyptic times and boy, are we moving fast! Years of denying or simply ‘eh-ing’ the dangers of imminent climate change has led us to a stage that’s about to become the perfect example of what happens when you misuse and mistreat natural resources.

You have plastic making up oceans more than fishes these days with a mind boggling 9 million tons entering the waters every year (That equals one garbage truck being emptied a minute!), marine life being choked to death in their very homes, mutinous seas threatening to sweep away the entire planet’s landscape, weather related disasters like hurricanes, landslides and thunderstorms causing more death and destruction than freakin’ nuclear weaponry, more and more animals finding an honourable mention on the endangered species list, roughly one-fifth of the world’s population displaced because of climatic disturbances, rising temperatures that make us wonder if it’s Mercury we live on rather than Earth and an estimated $2 to $4 billion worth of environmental damages.

Safe to say, the apocalypse is dangling right above our heads. While we all celebrate days like the World Environment Day or the Earth Day (well, some of us at least), what have we actually done to make our planet better?

In this article, we’re going to be taking a look at some ways by which technology helps us combat climate change and make this azure colored jewel we call home a cleaner, greener place. While there’s bound to be some skepticism, it’s been proven that today’s technology is inspired right by mother nature. Designed to the last T to be eco-friendly, these latest tech innovations encourage only the most environmentally sustainable practices.

So, what are we waiting for? Let’s read on ahead to find out more!

Here are some ways technology is helping the environment today:

Going Digital

We all know what deforestation is. Each of us had that one chapter in the Social Science textbook dedicated to the perils of deforestation. Until now; when it’s much more real than a few coloured pictures of cut down, crying trees.

We’ve been dependent on paper for as long as we can remember. Schools, hospitals, banks, businesses, and industries; whatever the field, paper has been a deep-rooted part of every aspect (from forms to money to contracts to agreements to research and.. well, we could go on and on)

But lately, use of paper in day-to-day transactions has seen a declining trend. We have everything from emails or e-bills, smart classrooms, cloud storage over filing cabinets overflowing with endless records, computers and smartphones instead of typewriters, fax server solutions that send and receive faxes via your mail inbox instead of the sheer wasteful ways of the old fax machines, the latest paper scanning technology (E.g. Doxie, a modern paper scanner) enabled with Wifi that instantly scans to the cloud, to even Server Virtualization! A process that consolidates the older server units into the new through a combination of technology and cloud services to help your office bring them electricity bills down.

Going digital is a comfort through and through and it does its bit for the environment! All your data is easily accessible from anywhere, anytime without the need for actual physical backups. Even note taking, planning, and scheduling have packed their bags and moved to the virtual world. Say goodbye to hurting trees, and say aloha to a better environment!

Smart Farming

As the global population continues to inflate (explode more like, if we look at the numbers), so does the need for agriculture. We’re all set to hit the 9.6 billion mark by 2050. That’s right, 9.6 bn! And feeding these many mouths are bound to leave the farming industry a little breathless.

And this is where some revolutionary technology steps in to play the perfect hero to the agro-industry. By merging tech to the mech, we get to create a highly efficient industry - one that’s perfectly capable of meeting any challenge head-on. With extreme meteorological changes, generating a mega amount of food is priority numero uno. And the application of technology to agriculture could just make all the difference.

Whether it’s speeding up the growth rate, reducing waste or enhancing productivity (from fertilizer quality to the number of journeys a farmer needs to make), revolutionizing technology means revolutionizing the way food gets divvied up across the globe. In fact, there are apps that let you read soil conditions and tell you when to water your plants. The real deal, however, is explained below:

  • Precision farming - Precision farming includes everything from rearing livestock to growing crops using a very controlled and calculated approach and involves a systematic use of sensors, control systems, robotics, autonomous vehicles, automated hardware, variable rate technology, etc.

Whether its soil moisture probe technology, virtual optimizer PRO for central, cloud-based water management, VRI (Variable Rate Irrigation) optimization to maximize field profitability and water efficiency - precision farming is a powerful way for farmers to use modern agronomic innovations to reap the best rewards.

  • Smart Greenhouses - Greenhouses help farmers enhance their crop yield but manually running them can often mean running up a sweat. Literally. What with rising energy and labor costs and rising temperatures, maintaining such greenhouses is officially a great pain. A smart greenhouse, on the other hand, is just what you need. Using subtle sensors (via a remotely accessible cloud server) to monitor and control the climate, plant requirements, sunlight levels, humidity and temperature soil density etc, these greenhouses can do anything! And we mean just about anything. From automatically opening windows, turning on the lights, to controlling the heaters via a WiFi signal; smart greenhouses are the future.

You also have greenhouses that are solar powered, helping monitor your crop’s water consumption and carry out automatic irrigation through SMS alerts. Automatic Irrigation is also carried out within these greenhouses. Like we always say, green is definitely the new black!

  • Monitoring Livestock - Technology even comes handy when it comes to handling animals. It helps ranchers and herders gather data concerning the location, welfare, and safety of their livestock. Whether it's identifying animals that are sick to prevent the spread of infection or locating one's separated from the herd via sensors; applying tech to animal husbandry lowers labor costs for farmers.
  • Drone Farming - You heard correct. Drone farming. With an abundance of technology at our hands, it’s only fair that it gets adopted by the agro-industry. Agricultural drones are a perfect example of a major industry using them to help (both ground and aerial based) assess crop health, irrigation, monitoring and spraying, planting, and soil and field analysis or even simply keep an eye out for poachers and so on.

Drones perform in-flight monitoring and observations and help save time by real-time imaging, mapping, and surveying the agricultural land. Farmers enter the details of what field to survey and select an altitude or ground resolution. From the data gathered, farmers can study plant health, estimate yield, water mapping, chlorophyll measurement, nitrogen content, drainage mapping, weed pressure mapping, and so on. How freaking cool is that?!

Environmental Monitoring

It should come as no surprise that technology also happens to be a great way of ensuring all environmental laws and regulations are being fulfilled. Whether this is using drones to preserve and protect endangered animals in carefully built sanctuaries from frequent poaching, cracking down on illegal hunting, or government sanctioned technology that monitors companies and their environmental protocols, high tech gadgetry is key to studying and monitoring the environment.

There are several examples that prove how technology is perfectly capable of saving our environment. Take the air pollution systems that carry out geospatial measurements by drawing in the air around gas and oil facilities to test the number of pollutants present. Or the Environmental Simulation Testing that helps ensure new products and technologies are up to the mark before they hit the market. Or drones that do everything from taking photos to delivering packages to tracking and observing wildlife without causing harm. Examples include:

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s monitoring of Sperm Whales and their health conditions.
  • The International Anti-Poaching Foundation ’s preventive measures against poaching.
  • The World Wildlife Fund’s observations of endangered animals’ movements and so on. 

Another example is the $2m Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE promise to boost an understanding of how CO2 emissions affected ocean acidification; encouraging participating teams to design prototype sensors that helped to heal the oceans. Similarly, a Carbon XPRIZE was also advanced to fulfill the goal of developing tech that reeled in CO2 from power plants. All typical yet glorious examples of innovations used for sustainability.

Most of this technology happens to be brand new, but that doesn’t stop it from kicking some pollutin’, earth destroyin’ ass and helping protect our planet!

Renewable Energy

One of the biggest and widely recognized names in eco-friendly tech advancement is none other than renewable energy. With our growing need for everything ‘clean’ in recent years, there have been some massive haul ups in the energy sector. Whether it’s harnessing energy resources like solar, wind or hydroelectric power, renewable energy has become all the rage.

With the world steadily turning pro-sustainability, this reflects in the manner in which technology has been adopted. We’re being hot-footed towards some awesome sustainable solutions. An example of this would be the agreement for energy transfer between the Jiangsu Redbud Textile Technology and the governments of Benin, Mali and others to promote jute fiber-green technology. This Chinese company found a way to develop and test some new varieties of jute that fit in with diverse environmental conditions; 100% recyclable and adaptable to wastelands, saline ground, low-lying wetlands and drought conditions. Now, it’s being introduced into Africa.

Many of today’s up-and-coming technologies are environmentally focused and tackle areas like energy-efficient water purification, carbon dioxide (CO2) conversion, inch-perfect drug delivery via nanoscale engineering, organic electronics and photovoltaics with a generating capacity of 36.5 gigawatts, solar panels that look just like regular roofing tiles, biofuels with an estimated market pull of around $98bn, and wind power harnessing mechanisms with a cool 35.5 GW capacity and an equally cool market pull with $58bn head-on.

The green industry is now literally green with billions being spent every year. And this fast-track growth is the by-product of continuous R&D and powerful breakthroughs made by dedicated organizations and individuals.

And is it any wonder? With technology amped up as it is today, it was only a matter of time before we found ways to apply it to find more renewable energy options - making it more accessible and appealing to consumers.

Reading all this makes it obviously clear that technology isn’t going anywhere and is here to build a better, eco-friendly world. It’s not just saving lives, but saving this wonderful, beautiful planet of ours that we (usually) take for granted.

And while all these are awesome and inspiring, we must also remember that technology can take us this far. It’s definitely not the magic solution to the world’s environmental problems. Policies need to be put in place and efforts need to be maximized by every responsible citizen for us to bring about any real change. Whether it’s adopting better habits like switching off the lights before leaving the room or shutting down computers and monitors, adjusting the thermostat, or practicing recycling and waste management; make sure every single one of you is in it for the long haul. 

Remember what Marlee Matlin once said, “The Earth does not belong to us: we belong to the Earth".