Lila Tretikov, CEO of Terrawatt Initiative, spoke on technology’s effect on the environment and the interconnectedness of the world at a Berkeley Forum event Thursday.
Tretikov began the event by asking the audience what they want to do on this planet.
She then asked the audience members how far ahead they were planning their lives — 10 years or up to 100 years. She explained that extending one’s perspective to the future is important when analyzing the effects of technology because of its fast progress and large impact on the world.
“When we look at the Industrial Revolution and the combustion engine, what we have done today has created a huge amount of carbon, reversing millions of years of evolution,” Tretikov said at the event. “Two hundred years ago, we had clean air and a good planet.”
Tretikov said at the event that technology has given us “amazing” inventions such as telephones and artificial intelligence, or AI, but that we still have a “responsibility toward our children and planet to maintain sustainability.” She added that the entire world is interconnected, and that an event in one country can have a tremendous impact on another country.
“The pollution put in the air in China or the U.S. causes pollution off the coast of Nigeria, which causes population displacement elsewhere,” Tretikov said as an example.
The Terrawatt Initiative CEO also encouraged audience members to empathize with and care about strangers around the world. She added that when people think about others, in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, as siblings, their actions will go farther and be bigger than themselves.
Tretikov said at the event that the lack of empathy people have for those in other areas is a barrier preventing human connectivity.
“How much do Californians on the coast know about those working in the mines in central country?” she asked.
Tretikov mentioned that the work she does with Terrawatt — an organization that works to remove the political, legal, political and technical barriers in the way of adopting clean energy — analyzes environmental issues by “looking at the entire system” and then identifies solutions to those problems.
Campus senior Benjamin Pirie, who attended the event, said Tretikov’s speech was “interesting” when she spoke about the limitations of technology.
“We need to adjust our cultural ideology, how society functions as a whole in order to see meaningful change,” Pirie said.
Tretikov ended her speech by further challenging audience members to think about their lives through a longer span of time, to create a larger community and to remember that although technology can bring development and change, it also has negative impacts.