Technological fix


geographical patterns and access

  • southern and eastern europe has fewer users than northern europe
  • Latin america has similar levels to parts of europe 
  • Asia and especially africa have a low percentage of users, but many asian megacities such as mumbai and shanghai have levels of internet access well over  40% 

Economic - 


  • it cost $2,300 for an annual connection
  • language - most web pages are in english, chinese or spanish
  • electricity is needed, plus access to a computer
  • content needs to be what people want to us
  • there needs to be internet service providers
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Agricultural technology and vulnerability

irrigation - to provide additional water fro crops during dry periods - dry regions produce fewer crops in a shorter season, droughts can lead to crop failure

pesticides- sprayed on crops to kill pests and increase yield by decreasing crop losses - expected yields factor in a % loss to pests; crops are vulnerable to pest plagues

fertilisers - added to soil to provide additional nutrients for growth - yields are restricted by natural nutrients available in the soil

farm achinery - used to replace human labour and increases efficiency and farmed areas - size of farmed area is determined by population and distance they can travel; crops may have to be abandoned during floods or servere weather due to lack of manpower

hybridisation - inter-breading of crop varieties under controlled conditions to produce disease or pest resistance, and higher yield - crops could become vulnerable to a pest or disease with no viable replacement

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The technology gap

developed world economies are increasingly knowledge based as we move from the industrial age to the infromation age

the growth of the knowledge economy has been promoted by:

  • gloablisation of markets and free trade
  • information and communications technology
  • netwroking using internet technology
  • high-tech products and services

much of the developing world is still industrial

developed world governments and TNCs invest huge sums in R&D, and high rates of funding for universities ensure a steady steam of skilled graduates who can carry out yet more R&D.

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the developing world would like nothing more than to break into the R&D, patents and royalties club. however this is hard to achieve :

  • skilled researchers are required, meaning invetsment in universities
  • governments budgets are earmarked for water and housing projects;there is little spare money
  • much r&D spending in by TNCS- there are few in the developing world
  • laboratories and research facilities are expensive 


moble telephones :type of communication, leapfrogging a telephone landline netwrok

lifestraw:water purification, leapfrogging a water purification and distribution network

laptops and WIFI - without a hardwired network

solar panels and micro HEP - without a cpomplex electricity transmition grid

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The green revolution

high yielding crop varieties plus fertilisers, irrigation and machinery double or treble wheat and rice yields, increasing food security in the developing world

in many cases yields increased dramatically

two crops per year could be grown and harvested

increased food security

introduction of machinery leads to unemployment and increases rural-urban migration

only relatively well-off farmers can afford the new technology

improved diet and health

increased use of fertilisers causes nutrient rich runoff and eutrophication

pesticide over-spreay damages biodiversity

some HYV monocultures wiped out by pests and disease

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The gene revolution

genetic make-up of crops altered so they are resistant to pests, disease and herbicides, or tolerant of drought; yields and food or income security increase

farmers become dependent on seed and chemicals from TNCs such as monsanto

some studies as suggest yields have not increased

increased exports and rising farm income

public opinion, in countries such as the UK, reject the technology

in Argentina, larger GM maize farmers have tended to buy out smaller ones, leading to social polarisation

many of the crops are for export, not food

weeds may be developing resistance to herbicides 

deforestation in Latin America in order to increase the farmed areas

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which type of technology is best?

intermediate - low cost, simple, small scale, using local skills and resources - example - village hand pump installed by an NGO such as wateraid

mega-engineering projects that provide a one-off solution at a very high capital cost - example - large dam funded by government

high-tech - most advanced solution currently available e.g. nanotechnology, bioengineering and electronics - example- nanofiltration systems from TNC R&D labs

renewable future- alternative technology - lowest possible environmental impactt and pollution - example - solar powered water pump - TNC?NGO joint venture

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past failure - the aral sea

transform arid USSR steppe lands into productive cotton-growing farmland using mega-scale irrigation

dams and diversions of the amu darya and syr darya rivers redircet river flow along 44,000 km of canals to irrigate an extra 3.5 million hectares of land

syr darya and amu darya rivers dry up

aral sea shrinks up to 25% of its original size

the exposed sea bed is scoured by wind creating 'salt storms' dumping salt and farm chemicals on people and land

chemical pollution increases local incidence of cancers

fishing industry collapse

flora and fauna in the sea have died out

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future possibility - artificial global dimming

reduce solar input by creating an artifical areosol blanket in the atmosphere to reflect sunlight back into space

using aircraft, rockets, artillery or balloons to 'shoot' sulphur dioxide areosols into the stratosphere to increase concentrations

aerosols cool the planet by reflecting incoming solar radiation and promoting cloud formation 

calculating the amount of sulphur dioxide required to create the desired cooling could be difficult

additional sulphur dioxide could increase the acid rain problem

cooling could have wider consequences and knock-on effects altering climate in unforeseen ways 

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