The Western way of life way of life faces the challenges of technology
By Idrian Burgos, Senior Columnist
A People’s Climate March and Mobilization was held in downtown Vancouver on September 21, in anticipation of the UN Climate Summit held two days later. With participation from First Nations, religious groups, political and civic organizations, and concerned individuals, the protest denounced federal and provincial government support for natural resource development, the businesses behind them, and its negative effects on humans and the environment. It called for public action in favour of ecological preservation and an end to human exploitation of the environment for economic benefit.
But this isn’t just an ecological issue.
An issue addressed by the Other Press’ News Editor, Angela Espinoza, in a recent feature was the dismal state of the Douglas Women’s Centre. A service dedicated to meeting the personal needs of women is important. But with the lack of staff to meet those needs, how can the service live up to its purpose?
This is also not just a women’s issue.
While it may seem difficult to see or make a connection between these issues, such a connection does exist. What we see here is a big challenge that has existed since the Industrial Revolution and has spread around the globe.
The development of technology and the industry it created increased material standards of living. Starting from the industrial owners to the middle class, the benefits eventually spread to the working class after World War II. More food, more comfort, and more leisure time became available both outside and inside the house. It’s definitely clear that humanity has improved in material terms thanks to technology.
In some ways, the negatives outweigh the benefits. Industrial life has been harsh on both women and the environment. While forms of exploitation of women have indeed existed since ancient times, no such exploitation on a mass methodical scale existed until after the Industrial Revolution. Long hours and little pay drained both dignity and health. While women may find a way to survive in an industrial world, the environment cannot. Technology and the economic revolution it initiated made minced meat out of ecology. Exploitation became the slogan as the hunger for material wealth led to mountain erosion; water and air pollution; and the death of trees, animals, and other branches of the environment. In this regard, both women and the environment became casualties of industrial-technological progress.
Industrial activity and technological distraction have affected all adults: in the former, highly organized and regimented lives with almost no place for contemplation and in the latter, pointless and hollow amusement preventing us from thinking more about serious, higher things. Then there’s also the impact on the way we connect with fellow humans, both on a personal and social level. Truly, industry and technology has made our existence better but not deeper.
Others are negatively affected by the industrial-technological revolution: children have been exploited and reduced not just by industrial activity but also by technological distraction not conducive to their education.
How can this be resolved? Contrary to popular belief, it cannot be found in technological progress, where the benefits are more evenly stretched out; it may improve surface conditions but fail to address deeper problems. The answer lies in looking back to the past and reemphasis on ethics and the common good.