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Working with our environment: an introduction
Working with our environment: an introduction

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6.4.3 Problems and solutions

These concepts apply equally to our interactions with the environment. As we have seen in Case Studies 1 and 2, our use of technology can contribute to environmental problems (the release of ozone-depleting chemicals and greenhouse gases) and at the same time is the basis of environmental solutions through the control of CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs, and improved energy efficiency. The general point is made by the following passage from Our Common Future, the report for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development:

'The mainspring of economic growth is new technology, and while this technology offers the potential for slowing the dangerously rapid consumption of finite resources, it also entails high risks, including new forms of pollution and the introduction to the planet of new variations of life forms that could change evolutionary pathways. Meanwhile, industries most heavily reliant on environmental resources and most heavily polluting are growing most rapidly in the developing world, where there is both more urgency for growth and less capacity to minimise damaging side effects.'

(Brundtland, 1987, pp. 4,5)

The scale and range of environmental problems we face are daunting, but, as Case Study 1 has shown, problems can be addressed and harm can be reduced, hopefully to safe levels. Technology can and should be used for sustainable development.