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Understanding the essence of research is a vital first step toward increasing public awareness of the effect of human activities on the environment. Science can be described as a collection of earth-governing mechanisms, principles, theories, and methodologies. Humans research natural phenomena to develop ideas on why such things happen and how they happen in nature, how to interact with natural rules to produce desired outcomes, and how to construct a theory about how the universe works. In many ways, the study of all forms of sciences has helped humanity develop into a thriving and dominating species on earth and consequently adopting the role of ‘stewards of the earth'. It is said that Mother Nature is the gift that keeps giving, but this mentality among humans is very problematic. This pattern of thinking results in the excessive use of natural resources without giving the earth enough time to replenish itself; and that is where the issue of sustainability arises.
According to Thwink.org sustainability is defined as “the ability to continue a defined behaviour indefinitely” (Twink.org, par.3). This definition extends to environmental, economic and social sustainability respectively. In this article the authors argue against the main tenets of the popular sustainability definition from the Brundtland Report of 1987 which says “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Twink.org, par 10). The authors have two main objections to this definition. Firstly, they consider the concept of ‘poverty is an overriding priority’ over environmental sustainability as wrong. Poverty is one of the oldest running social ills and will most probably continue to exist; attempting to eradicate it at the cost of a fallible natural environment is not a form of sustainability. Nevertheless, the author is not opposed to helping the poor and needy of the world. Secondly, in most industrialised countries development means the growth of sales and sales growth means profit growth at the expense of the environment and its ecosystem. And so, since one cannot indefinitely create capital without depleting the natural resource these profits are generated from, it follows that “economic development” is often not sustainable.
Human survival has reached a stage where without the use of technology and the immoderate harvesting of minerals and other natural resources, man will not be able to meet the wants and needs of a +7 billion population. These resources provide food, shelter, transportation, commerce and connectivity that is required to sustain the lifestyle of an ordinary 21st century person. There is a stark difference between the magnitude and manner of natural minerals extracted and used by people living in urban areas compared to rural homesteads, but the human impact on the natural environment is largely still the same. Technology continues to improve the lives of people but there are often unintended consequences to this upgraded standard of living.
In some ways one can say humans are defying nature in the way technology and medicine have advanced. People live longer than they are ‘supposed to’ and survive diseases and conditions which would have otherwise killed or maimed them. Darwin’s law of survival o the fittest is does not hold power in the biomedical sphere. On the one hand the more praised strides of medicine are examples like a person who has had a leg amputated receiving a prosthetic leg which assists the patient with the ability to walk and do activities any ‘fully able’ bodied person can do including running for the Olympics. On the another hand there are more controversial medical issues that people have not come to agreement on whether it is moral or not to do. For instance the issue of stem cell research. The ability to mix and match cells to manipulate them into whatever organ the scientist desires. This research has gone to the extent of creating a genetically modified animal; Dolly the Sheep. Some argue that scientists are playing God and this is immoral and should be deemed unethical. This form of science meeting nature cannot be considered as development because these genetically modified mammals don’t usually live long and are infertile, and therefore this is not an example of sustainability.
Scientist’s are also known for making some of the most powerful and amazing things in the world and one of their most phenomenal creations is the nuclear bomb. This explosive bomb commonly known for its use as a weapon of mass destruction during times of war can actually have economic uses. “If there’s one thing nuclear weapons have been proven to do, it’s to make big holes, and some scientist have realised that [this] could be a business proposition” (Madrigal, par 5). Atomic bombs are useful in the mining industry to blast huge holes on the earth to give access beneath the surface in order to unearth various types of minerals. Other uses of explosives is creating harbours for ships to dock, blasting through mountains to create passage ways for the construction of roads or demolishing tall building in order to rebuild new ones on the same location. The benefit of this method of breaking down large masses of earth is time and resource effective, but at what cost? “Radioactive particles can travel from the site of an atomic bomb explosion and contaminate bodies of water, including aquatic life like fish...genetic mutations and disease in the generations of animals and animals would occur” ( Lemon, par. 5). The above is one example of the effects of a detonation of a nuclear bomb.
Mining is a thriving business to get into promising large profits to the owner, but many times companies ignore the effects the actual mining process has on the surrounding communities. People living close to mines rarely benefit economically from this extraction of minerals in their homelands. Miners working in asbestos mine for example, are at risk of developing lung diseases. “People who become ill from asbestos are usually those who are exposed to it on a regular basis, most often in a job where they work directly with the material or through substantial environment contact” (National Cancer Institute, par 1). Science and nature working together can be useful to humanity but it can also be destructive if precautionary measure to protect people and the environment are not put in place.
At the beginning of the new millennium, world leaders gathered together at the United Nations to discuss strategies to fight global poverty in its diversity. Eight areas of concern we targeted which translated into the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which have shaped the direction of global development in the first 15 years of the second millennium. The eight MDGs are: 1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, 2. Achieve universal primary education, 3. Promote gender equality and empowerment, 4. Reduce child mortality, 5. Improve maternal health, 6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, 7. Ensure environmental sustainability, 8. Develop a global partnership for development. In September of 2015, after the MDG implementation period had phased out, world leaders gathered again in a summit to discuss a way forward which resulted in the development of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals which are an extension of the Millennium Development Goals. The United Nations has recognised that development without sustainability is detrimental to the society and the environment at large and therefore seeks to improve the lives of people in a manner which does not put the well-being of the future generation at risk.
Governments of states and regions of the world are the ones who are in a better position to implement legislation to monitor and control the effects of how people use the environment and its resources in a way that is sustainable. Many laws can be changed which alter the standards of production or the types of fuels and resources we choose to use to produce to operate our daily appliances. Going green is not a myth or only for the tree huggers, it only requires economic and political will guided by environmental scientists to instil it as a new standard of living. The following are a few examples of what can be done at a national level in order to create a more environmentally friendly society: 1.Taxes on industries that emit greenhouse gases which deplete the ozone layer can be increased in order to force companies to invest in finding other ways to make profits. 2. Every new residential building should have a solar geyser installed to decrease electricity usage. 3. Street pipes should be installed with technology similar to a fire detector that alerts the authorities immediately when a major pipe has burst in order for large amounts of water to not be wasted.4. Each household investing in natural gas appliances instead of electric appliances, these are more efficient and use less power to operate.
Science and nature gives sustainability context since sustainability cannot exist within a vacuum. Science and nature cannot also exist outside of one another. Science requires an environmental framework to exist, that is nature and nature on the other hand needs laws and principles to govern its operations; science. The problem arises when man manipulates the natural resources and science through technology to better himself selfishly without considering and preparing for the future. Often times what people call development is simply a system created by human beings to validate the excessive but not sustainable use of natural resources. Sustainability ought to be the manner in which humanity says thank you to nature and the laws that govern it for helping the human species survive on earth.
Source: Madrigal, Alexis. “7 (Crazy)Civilian Uses For Nuclear Bombs”. Wired.com. www.wired.com/2009/04/yourfriendatom/ .Accessed 27 April 2017
Source: Millennium Project. “What They Are”. Millennium Project. www.unmellenniumproject.org/goals/ . Accessed 27 April 2017
Source: National Cancer Institute. “Asbestos Exposure and Cancer Risk”. National Cancer Institute. www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/substances/asbestos/asbestos-fact-sheet . Accessed 27 April 2017
Source: Sciencing.com. “Environmental Effects of the Atomic Bomb”. Sciencing. www.sciencing.com/environmental-effects-atomic-bomb-8203814.html . Accessed27 April 2017
Source: Thwink.org. “Sustainability”. Thwink.org. www.thwink.org/sustain/glossary/Sustainability.htm . Accessed: 27 April 2017
Source: United Nations Development Programme. “Sustainable Development Goals”. United Nations Development Programme. www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sustainable-development-goals.html . Accessed: 27 April 2017
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