Renowned people of today such as esteemed scientists and author Rachel Carson, Canadian scientist David Suzuki and other experts concern themselves with the issue of environmental sustainability. The relationship between the environment and society is unbalanced nearly to the point of no return because of such a large human population and an economy driven world that is globalizing. The sustainability of the environment is a major concern of the 21st century especially since technology has advanced so fast. Our previous scientific inventions have exploited the earth’s resources much faster than we can restore them, however we must continue seeking solutions because the benefits outweigh the costs. DDT and other pesticides are scientific inventions that eliminate insects and ensure farmers a larger harvest, but don’t take into account the negative polluting effects. Rachel Carson, an expert in zoology and biology, states that these chemicals “should not be called insecticides but biocides” (Carson 421).
When scientists and farmers alike promote and use pesticides, they don’t realize that the pollutants embed in the soil and run into the drinking water sources affecting future crops and eventually us. The pesticides harm the whole ecosystem, despite that they are only targeting insects. Similarly, we exploit the earth’s resources as most of our inventions detriment the environment without our realization. An example of the damaging implications is illustrated through Suzuki’s example. Suzuki, an expert in zoology, declared that, “years later, when bird watchers noted the decline of eagles and hawks, biologists investigated and discovered the hitherto unknown phenomenon of “bio magnification,” where by compounds become concentrated as they are ingested up the food chain” (Suzuki 431). This is a prime example of the implications DDT has on the ecosystem. Farmers and scientists did not predict that the chemicals used to exterminate insects would move up the food chain and harm birds of prey. The utilization of pesticides is an example of our exploitation of the earth without having the time and ability to restore as easily.
Another chemical known as CFC, chlorofluorocarbon, is harmful to our atmosphere. There are layers to the atmosphere, the troposphere, the air we breathe, and the stratosphere, where the ozone layer is located. The atmosphere and it’s sections are all part of the environment and influence the earth’s well being. Suzuki affirms that, “no one anticipated that because of their stability, CFCs would persist in the environment and drift into the upper atmosphere, where ultra-violet radiation would break off ozone-scavenging chlorine-free radicals” (Suzuki 431). When the chemical was first created, scientists weren’t aware of the ozone layer and thus couldn’t evaluate the negative outcome of such chemicals. The fact that the chemicals are artificial and so ‘stable,’ hints towards the idea of it being too good to be true. The environment does not supply such chemicals naturally because it is not compatible and therefore damaging to our ozone layer. CFCs are usually found in aerosol spray cans, which is another invention that has exploited the earth’s resources without considering the implications. Unfortunately, we don’t have the ability to fix the ozone layer because the chemicals of the ozone are hazardous down on earth in the troposphere.
The best we can do is stop the hole from enlarging by ceasing our use of CFCs and similar products and hope for nature to balance out the compounds needed on its own. With the exponential growth of population our use of synthetic materials has grown as well. We think of our economical needs and wants first before considering the environment. In Andrew Feenberg’s text Questioning Technology, he states that previous scientific inventions include “synthetic fibers for cotton, plastics for wood, increased use of aluminum, air conditioners, more powerful automobiles and escalating fertilizer and pesticide use on farms – Commoner, 1971: 175” (Feenberg 56). Most materials we use are becoming more and more artificial. The overall increase in artificial products and technology is exploiting the earth’s resources at a rate the earth cannot endure. We need to move towards more natural products that are biodegradable in order to save the earth. The process of mining aluminum and other metals for automobiles ruins the earth and possible water sources, farmland, flora and fauna. Similarly, the fossil fuels removed from the ground to power our cars and vehicles cannot be replenished in our lifetime.
Thus the only hope we for the earth’s restoration is to step away from the damage and not worsen the problem. Although our previous scientific inventions have harmed the earth, we must attempt to resolve the problems through modern solutions. “Someday we will harness the rise and fall of the tides and imprison the rays of the sun – Thomas Edison” (Sangster 45). Thomas Edison, inventor of the electric light bulb, predicted that technology would go a long way to capturing the power of nature. And we have. An example of this scientific feat is renewable energy. This term refers to attaining energy from sources that are recyclable or reusable, unlike fossil fuels that cannot be replenished in our lifetime. Different types of renewable energy are solar power, hydropower, wave power, wind power, and tidal power. Renewable energy uses the natural flows of nature to collect energy and convert to electricity. Hydropower is the use of water flows from a higher position to a lower position. Sangster mentions that, “the power of the plunging water…is endlessly exploitable at no cost to the environment. It is supplied, for free, by gravity” (Sangster 46).
Hydroelectric power uses the natural flows of fluid to generate electricity. The solar energy evaporates water and gravity brings it down, which is known as the water cycle. Taking advantage of the water cycle allows us to step away from burning fossil fuels and ceasing our misuse of the earth’s resources. It will slow down the damage to the earth as consumers slowly switch energy sources but it will not replenish the fuels that took millennia to form. Additionally, the innovative solution’s positive implications outweigh the negative side effects. Sangster claims that, “Each new hydro-station, although carbon clean once built, has it’s environmental costs…at the construction stage, fossil fuels power machinery …[and] large schemes destroy farm land and disrupt the local ecology” (Sangster 52). Even though scientists are trying to develop new technology that will provide us with renewable energy sources, the implementation still uses fossil fuels and disturbs the surrounds ecosystems. For example the dams created disturbs the river ecology.
Considering the negative side effects of the hydropower station, it is still a better investment for the future well-being of the earth, than to continue using fossil fuels. Another innovative solution in progress, that scientists propose will aid the atmosphere and decrease the greenhouse effect, is carbon sequestration. Carbon sequestration refers to removing carbon dioxide from our atmosphere and placing it back into the ocean and earth. Ocean fertilization is one method. Moriarty explains, “Adding iron in the form of finely ground haematite, the reasoning goes, will encourage plankton blooms, thereby increasing uptake of CO 2 in the surface layers of the ocean and reducing atmospheric CO 2 concentrations” (Moriarty, 148 – 149). The intensions are to replace some carbon that was originally released into the atmosphere by fossil fuel consumption. The scientists hope that the carbon will move through the ecosystem of the ocean and rebuild layers of earth that we have excavated elsewhere. Unfortunately, Moriarty evaluates the negative consequences by stating that, “the environmental risks could be significant, and, as is so often the case for proposed tech fixes, are not fully known” (Moriarty, 149). Most technology has its downsides and the best way to understand the risks is to implement it in a mock ecosystem.
This solution in-progress has a solid foundation and with more experimentation it can be modified for the best results possible. Even trying small concentrations of iron could begin to reduce carbon in our atmosphere in hopes of reducing the effects of global warming. The results may display some negative consequences but most likely less harmful than allowing the earth to heat up uncontrollably. Our environment cannot sustain the damage we have done to it as noticeable by the reoccurring natural disasters and obvious heating of the planet. This is because of our previous inventions such as pesticides, CFCs and synthetic materials exploiting the earth’s resources. Fortunately, scientists are innovating and modernizing their methods to achieve solutions that will attempt to restore the earth’s resources.
Despite the negative side effects the solutions have on the environment, it is a step in the right direction and away from severe damage to the earth. These solutions include renewable energy, hydropower in particular, and carbon sequestration that are intended to balance out the relationship between environment and society. Al Gore, an American politician and activist, announces that, “If we keep the right perspective and keep our eyes on the prize, we can solve this problem [and] we will solve this problem” (Gore 465). Inspirational world leader Al Gore understands the scientific reasoning behind the problem of global warming and destruction of the earth. He believes society has a chance of changing our fate and is able to begin this process of the earth’s restoration.
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Technology. London: Routledge, 1999. 45-74. Print.
Gore, Al. “Climate Emergency.” Reading the World: Ideas That Matter. 2nd ed. Ed.
Michael Austin. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2010. 455 -465. Print. Moriarty, J. Patrick., and Damon Honnery. Rise and Fall of the Carbon Civilisation
Resolving Global Environmental and Resource Problems. London: Springer, 2011. Print. Sangster, Alan J. Energy for a Warming World: A Plan to Hasten the Demise of Fossil
Fuels. Dordrecht [Netherlands: Springer, 2010. Print.
Suzuki, David. “The Sacred Balance.” Reading the World: Ideas That Matter. 2nd ed.
Ed. Michael Austin. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2010. 428 -433. Print.