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Sustainable Development Towards a Better World

Updated on August 7, 2010

The Role of Science in Building a Better World

“As the eagle was killed by the arrow winged with his own feather, so the hand of the world is wounded by its own skill.” – Helen Keller

This quote from the famous deaf-blind author captures what might be happening to the world when human beings continue to look for means to make like easier and more comfortable without considering the impacts of these efforts to the environment.  Yes, developments in the fields of science, technology and engineering have contributed to a better mode of living for all of us.  Many of us have benefited from technological advancements that made travel, food preservation, product manufacturing and even our day-to-day lives easier.  Nevertheless, in the efforts of researchers in the industry and the academe to make life more comfortable, some have forgotten of the fact that the world’s natural resources are limited.  Many have forgotten that these can be used up so that nothing will be left for the succeeding generations.

It is good to note, however, that we are now responding to this daunting reality of having limited natural resources through efforts for sustainable development, local and international environmental laws and protocols, research on environmental preservation and waste treatment, and emphasis on waste management by waste reduction, reuse and recycling.  When integrated to national development planning and city planning, these efforts could greatly help reduce the negative impacts of technology to the environment and contribute to clearer skies, bluer seas and a greener earth.

 

There are a number of research works nowadays which take into consideration the world’s environment and natural resources while these are still geared towards improving the lives of the earth’s inhabitants.  Many of these research works focus on the use of alternative raw materials so as not to consume the scarce albeit traditional raw materials.  Among these kinds of research work are those which use organic products from plants in order to produce biofuels.  This reduces the reliance on fossil fuels and encourages carbon dioxide recycling to reduce the fuels’ contribution to global warming.

 

Other researches focus on improving processes to increase their efficiencies by using better process equipments and alternative chemical reactions in order to reduce the waste generated.  These are called cleaner technologies and include the utilization of energy from the sun to power communities, and the development of hydrogen-powered vehicles.  These research works, aside from being renewable, consume less of the earth’s resources and produce less waste matter.  Another example is the development of starchware or “biodegradable plastic” used as food containers.  These, unlike plastic and Styrofoam food containers are easily biodegradable, and could be degraded to something that can be utilized by the organisms living in the soil, unlike plastics and Styrofoam which are non-biodegradable solid wastes.

 

Moreover, there are also research works focused on the treatment of wastes produced by different processes.  The most common examples of these include wastewater treatment plants in manufacturing plants in which the polluted wastewater are treated before these are released to rivers, lakes and other bodies of water.  The catalytic converters in gasoline-operated fuels are also of this type since these converters transform the nitrous oxides formed during the combustion process in the engine into non-toxic oxygen and nitrogen.  Another example would be the different processes used in the incinerator of IHI Japan in which the gases coming out from incinerated garbage pass through catalysts in a tall chimney to convert nitrous oxides to nitrogen and oxygen before releasing the gases to the atmosphere.  There are also researches done to transform methane produced in industrial processes to carbon monoxide which has a lower greenhouse gas potential in order to deter global warming.

 

These technologies show that science indeed plays a role not only in making life more comfortable, but also in addressing the environmental problems brought by the development that it had caused.  Nevertheless, doing life cycle analysis might be necessary to assess if the benefits of these developed technologies outweigh the costs to the environment and the people’s health and safety.  If the benefits are found to be more, it would indeed be good to adopt and promote the new technology; otherwise, the use of such should be limited and restricted.

 

Hence, interaction between the scientific community and the policy-making bodies of the government should be strengthened.  The lawmakers in different countries should always consult the experts in specific fields of science before writing and passing laws to ensure that these laws are not only neutral to the environment, but also beneficial.  The government and the scientific community hand in hand—only through this way can sustainable development be achieved towards a better world with clearer skies, clearer waters and greener earth.

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