Tech Tuesday: Nature & Technology

Image from Flickr via (Creative Commons License)

Image from Flickr via (Creative Commons License)

Nature built the first technologies. Giraffes innovated an elongated neck for feeding on fruit trees; species of birds, insects, and mammals (bats) all converged on the invention of the wing for aviation. Perhaps the most complex technology of all—the human brain—was designed and constructed by natural selection.

Yet technology and nature are often at odds. Our consumption of manmade technology depletes natural resources, destroys natural habitats, and causes global warming.

During much of the year it is easy to forget the importance of the natural world, but spring surrounds us with dazzling reminders. As the magnolia and cherry trees begin to blossom in our neighborhoods and migratory birds return to our backyards, we may ask how we can bridge our appreciation for nature with our reliance on technology.

While the progress of technology often threatens preservation on a large scale, as individuals we can improve our natural surroundings by using technology to reduce energy consumption and protect the environment.

Save Paper
You may daydream about warm, sunny days you will spend reading Sense and Sensibility in your yard or on a park bench. But this spring, bring your eBook, laptop, or iPad to your favorite shady spot instead. The authentic sound and feel of turning pages of a paperback has a powerful nostalgic draw, but remember that by reading eBooks, writing emails, and sending Evites, you are saving paper and doing your part to help the planet.

Protect Birds
Every year, an estimated 600 million birds are killed in America alone from collisions with windows. The toll is especially high in fall and spring migration seasons, when flocks of migratory birds see windows reflecting surrounding foliage and cannot detect the presence of the barrier. We have all heard the loathsome “thump” of a bird flying into the window. There are several ways you can equip your windows so that you won’t hear that sickening sound this spring. Low-tech, but effective, options include closing window shades when the windows are not in use, displaying beautiful baskets of hanging flowers in front of windows, and putting up diaphanous window curtains to allow in natural light while blocking reflections. Technology is also an asset to bird conservation, as technologically advanced screens and stickers can manipulate birds’ perception of glass while allowing you to gaze out of your window.

  • CollideEscape is a film that covers the outside of a window. From the inside looking out, the window appears clear, but from the outside looking in, the window appears tinted, preventing birds from seeing a reflection of the outdoors.
  • ABC BirdTape, created by the American Bird Conservancy, is tape that appears clear from the inside, but reflects UV light, which birds can detect while humans cannot. The ABC’s website suggests several patterns that effectively deter birds.
  • Ornilux Bird Protection Glass is specially designed and manufactured glass that appears clear from the inside, but reflects a complex UV pattern to birds on the outside.

Harvest Sunlight
If reptiles can soak up the sun for energy, then why can’t we? One of the most powerful ways that we can use technology to protect nature and prevent climate change is by investing in clean energy. The cost of harnessing solar power has dropped significantly in the last few years, thanks to a boom in the production of solar panels in China, as reported by NPR. With the cost of full installation by residential providers like SolarCity shrinking, going solar may help you reduce your costs and your carbon footprint.  

Get Creative
Most activities that consume energy and pollute the planet, like driving, charging electronics, or turning on the lights, can be done more efficiently and sustainably. This spring, think green with these home technologies that can help you save money and the planet.

  • Electric and Hybrid Cars
  • Smart Power Strips
  • LED Light Bulbs
  • Composting Toilet – it’s real!
  • Home Energy Monitoring Systems
  • Programmable Thermostat

While nature may have been the original innovator, now that manmade inventions are ubiquitous and quickly evolving, we need to consider our actions to preserve our planet for future generations. But this same technology that damages Earth may also rescue it. Improving the fraught relationship between nature and modern technology starts with the smart, deliberate use of technology to make our homes, cars, and lives more sustainable.


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  • Kelly May 7, 2015 at 7:23 am

    I love these ideas. I do a bunch of these already!

  • roz warren May 5, 2015 at 9:56 am

    Saving the planet is a great way to welcome spring. Thanks for this useful information.