We, the USC freshmen students of Professor Najm Meshkati's Freshman Seminar on "Technology and the Environment" wish to educate our peers on the critical state of the global environment which will have a drastic impact on our future. We always thought that the environmental problems are only for the environmentalists, but this seminar has made us realize how urgent these problems are and how all of us are responsible for solving them. As you will discover, the future is dark; by the middle of the next century, the quality of life on earth will be compromised greatly with dire consequences, if we -- our generation -- don't act NOW. As students, who will live most of our lives in the twenty-first century, we need to think about our actions -- how they will work to benefit ourselves and our children. The time for action is now, and the future is up to us.
We came across these facts when reading one of Professor Meshkati's class handout , Meeting the Challenges of Population, Environment, and Resources: The Cost of Inaction (September 1996). This report is recently written by the "Senior Scientists' Panels" of 8 distinguished scholars, 4 of whom are Nobel Laureates, complied by the Vice Presidency for the Environmentally Sustainable Development of the World Bank, and published by the World Bank . This report analyzes issues related to climate change, loss of biodiversity, food production, energy, disease, population and environmental destruction, and economic aspects of environmental challenges. It suggests that these issues "are a sobering and timely warning that the present course of human behavior is inappropriate and likely to have very negative effects on the planet in general and on developing countries in particular."
Here are some sample quotes from this report. For further information about our class and the above report, additional quotes, and our comments on the report please visit our Seminar web page on Dr. Meshkati's URL: http://www-bcf.usc.edu/~meshkati/
We think that you should know about the tremendous impact of the "population explosion" on earth in the twenty-first century:
"In the next thirty years, our 'urban' population will likely triple in number. This means it is going from 1.5 billion to 4.4 billion people. This is an astounding number that is going to greatly affect our methods of food production, technology implementation, and energy use."
"The roughly fivefold increase in the number of human beings over the past century and a half is arguably the most dramatic terrestrial event since the retreat of the glaciers thousands of years ago. That explosion of numbers has been combined with about a fourfold increase in resource consumption per person and the adoption of a wide array of technologies that needlessly damage the environment. The result has been an unprecedented assault on the integrity of natural ecosystems, the apparatus that supports human enterprise"
Another serious challenge to our future is the rapid rate of disappearance of species:
"I will consider only species being lost by reduction in forest area, taking the lowest decrease of species with loss of area usually found in nature. I will not include over harvesting of invasion by alien organisms. I will assume a number of species living in the rain forests. . . on the low side, and I will further suppose that many of the species enjoy wide geographical ranges. Even with these cautious parameters, selected in a biased manner to draw a maximally optimistic conclusion, the number of species doomed each year is 13,500. Each day it is thirty-seven and each hour, one or two."
Many people, even highly educated ones, are under the impression and believe that these problems will disappear through more technological advancement. However, a lot of scientists around the world think differently, and they ask for urgent action, these include the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which has released a statement endorsed by 105 Nobel Prize winners (World Scientists' Warning to Humanity, 1992). The following is a synopsis of their views:
"...humankind is being taken to the brink of disaster in hopes that a scientific miracle at the last moment will save the day."
It is of paramount significance that one of the most brilliant scientists of our time, Dr. Henry Kendall, Professor of Physics at MIT, 1990 Nobel Prize recipient in Physics, and the Chair the UCS , has concluded that: "Many people and governments share the mistaken belief that science, with new, ingenious devices and techniques, can rescue us from the troubles we face without our having to mend our ways and change our patterns of activity. This is not so; technology and technological innovation will produce no "magic bullets" that can rescue us from the dilemmas and risks that lie ahead, because the problems we face are human problems and must be recognized as such."
We are convinced and agree that: "We must act swiftly in order to halt the rate of decay our planet faces. No longer can we procrastinate facing these issues the irreparable damage to our planet is close at hand. We now have a decision to deal with these problems thus saving our planet, our race, and our legacy or to ignore these problems thus hastening the inevitable doom to our Earth."
Technology alone will not solve our problems. Our political leaders need to recognize the importance of the environment along side the economy. We need a collective effort of determined people who recognize the urgency of the problem. Now that you know the facts, educate your self further, and go out and please spread this information electronically to your friends at USC and schools around the world. Its is our personal responsibility, as citizens of this global village, to take initiative and act now.
MEETING THE CHALLENGES OF POPULATION, ENVIRONMENT, AND RESOURCES
THE COSTS OF INACTION
"Economic Aspects of Environmental Challenges"
by Kenneth J. Arrow
Arrow makes the point that certain activities, such as over-fishing and dam construction, sometimes cause environmental degredation in areas far away from where the activities are being carried out. In some cases, the effects will not be noticeable for decades. The perpetrators of these activities have not offered any sort of compensation. Arrow argues that we need to take "collective action" to prevent environmental degredation. We need to offer incentives to corporations and countries to convince them to discontinue their harmful practices.
Although Arrow helpfully offers examples of current practices and possible rewards that should be given to complying groups, he doesn't mention HOW anything is to be enforced. How exactly are we supposed to make other countries comply? Who will have the power of enforcement? The United Nations? Arrow starts off strongly, citing specific examples, but by the end, he gets bogged-down in generalities.
However, he brings up many valid points, especially when he discusses how a lot of countries are contributing to environmental degredation without any thought of the future consequences. This has to be stopped. I believe the United Nations should issue crippling sanctions against these countries.
"Population and Environmental Destruction"
by Paul R. Ehrlich
Ehrlich considers over-population to be the world's largest problem. All other problems (the economy, wars, deforestation) can all be attributed to over-population. He says that if the current trends are not reversed, the future of humanity will be in jeopardy.
I agree with all of his proposals. Like Ehrlich, I believe that the birth rate has to be curbed. People should obviously be able to have children, but for the most part, having twelve children, especially when you're poor, is ridiculous. I also agree that the per capita consumption of the rich needs to be reduced.
Ehrlich concludes his proposal effectively, reiterating the point that the draining of earth's resouces affects everyone; hence, it is everyone's problem.
by Henry W. Kendall
Kendall's description of a business-as-usual future is frightening. It sounds like a post-apocalyptic nightmare and in this case the apocalypse is a combination of environmentally destructive actions perpetrated by humanity. He offers many theoretical figures. By 2050, the world population will have doubled and 30% of all soil will be lost. The Greenhouse Effect will have tripled by 2100 and one-fifth of the population will be starving. It is a Dantean vision of the world's future, but it can be avoided.
Kendall argues that immediate, decisive action needs to be taken. Birth rates need to be reduced, climatic change minimized, cleaner energy resources utilized, and wars eliminated. Kendall claims that industrial nations must lead the entire world in reversing the business-as-usual practices. New innovations in science and technology are not the answer. Instead, it is up to governments to reverse destructive trends.
The effectiveness of Kendall's argument arises from the figures he cites while describing the "business-as-usual" scenario of the future. By showing the urgency of our environmental problems, Kendall emphatically illustrates that everyone must contribute to the world's well-being. Inaction is not an option.
In this day and age humanity is facing many crisis with the
environment. Problems such as population growth, the decline of
biodiversity, and the emergence of new diseases are all related; not only
with each other, but with our constant technological growth. These
problems have been caused by technology, yet they must also be solved
through the use of technology.
The number of Humans living on our planet today has been increasing at an enormous pace. Over the past century and a half the population has increased by roughly fivefold. This increase in population has been caused by, and allowed the increase of technological development. Increasingly sophisticated technology has lengthened our life-span and increased our ability to procreate. These two factors combined cause rapid incline in the number of people, which in turn demands the increase of technology. The increase of people has increased the desire for advanced, efficient methods of making life more enjoyable. The luxuries of life are in high demand and more advanced technology is needed to fulfill that demand.
Population growth also brings the need for space. In the search for farmland and living space, habitats are being rapidly destroyed. The destruction of various animal habitats has caused widespread extinction. An extremely optimistic estimate of the rate of extinction is approximately 13,500 species a year. Each hour, one or two of the species ceases to exist. Technological growth has started this expansion by providing the methods for the ecosystems to be destroyed. Companies in need of raw materials for their products use their technology to strip the habitats bare, causing the extinction of many species. Technology is also needed to stop the decline of biodiversity. New research and inventions can help repopulate floundering species, and bring them back from the brink of extinction. Technology can also provide more efficient methods of utilizing the land that is already in use, and thus prevent the need to destroy more habitats.
In recent years many new and virulent diseases have emerged. Horrifying viruses such as Ebola and HIV have caused widespread concern about possible pandemics. Where are these viruses coming from? Many scientists believe that the destruction of previously undisturbed habitats, such as rainforests, are the havens for various deadly germs. As we destroy these habitats we unloose these deadly bundles of genes on our population. The recent ability to travel from any point on the globe to another overnight, which is caused by technology, increases the chances of a widespread plague of incomprehensible proportions. Despite this problem that technology causes, technology is needed to find the cures for these emerging diseases.
The development of technology has caused many problems for the environment. However, it is necessary for us to further develop technology in order to fix the problems we have, or may later cause. We cannot uninvent the progress we have made in the past few years, just as we cannot undue all of the damage we have caused. However, humanity can improve technology so these problems no longer exist, and humanity can repair much of the damage caused and prevent future harm.
Our environment is our home, yet we choose to ignore the effects
that our actions have on our environment. These effects are a grave
concern right now, especially since they are global in nature. One of our
greatest tasks, no doubt, is to sustain the environments of our developing
nations, so that they will not be in the same shoes our developed nations
are in now, which is fighting to sustain their environments.
Unfortunately, it is human nature to opt for technological convenience in
the face of negative environmental effects. Furthermore, it is not human
nature to be foresighted, both of which makes our task formidable.
I believe the reason for our environmental problems, and the source of all other causes of these problems, is population growth. With increased population comes increased demand and therefore, the need to meet this demand with increased supply. I agree with Kenneth J. Arrow that measures taken today to address environmental concerns will have effects in the distant future. This precisely why people have problems with acting now to save the environment: they are impatient and want to see the results right away instead of waiting 40 to 50 years. The problem with people is that they too often avoid weighing the costs of technological actions against the benefits. Or if costs versus benefits are weighed, it is an incomplete analysis, only taking into consideration the financial aspects and not the environmental aspect. Population growth needs to be reduced. Also, as Henry Kendall emphasized, energy production need to be made more efficient, and alternate sources of energy need to be utilized. It seems that human population is unlimited, as are its demands, while people fail to realize that the earth's resources are fixed.
Industrial nations must help developing nations realize the significance of sustaining the environment, since problems resulting from the ignorance of this are global. Moreover, although technology is a vital asset in solving our problems, it must not be thought of as a reliance that can do our work for us. Attention needs to be brought to all people to help them realize the serious concerns we are facing. This is especially true since many people do not think environmental hazards or accidents can affect them, a deadly inaccurate assumption. One thing that must be avoided is the pursuit of expediency among governments and government agencies. We must all work together, and we must work NOW if we are to conserve our future.
Leland Ingraham II
The skyrocketing rate of population growth and inefficient use of
energy sources are two major hindrances to maintaining a sustainable
level of environmental safety. The result is an increase in food shortage
in developing and industrial nations while the finite amount of natural
resources is quickly being exhausted. "Business as usual",
("Challenges", Henry W.Kendall, page 32), concerning the
affairs of humanity's interaction with the environment must be altered in
an accelerated and timely manner to include the preservation of our
ecosystem. If we continue rumbling down the same destructive path of
ecological ignorance, the human race will display increasing signs of
extinction in the middle part of the twenty-first century.
This assumption is more of an indication based on our present situation rather than a threat to our existence. The discrepancy of interpretations offers the advantage of a possibility to avoid the ultimate disaster of extinction. There is an ample amount of time if we so choose to persevere towards a harmonious balance with our physical surroundings. This is not to say that we are entitled to procrastination, for the window of opportunity is accessible only through a conscious and pointed attempt at cleaning up the environment. An example of this can be seen in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." Scrooge experienced an epiphany due to his farsightedness, or rather the fantastical ghosts' offerings of visual repercussions for his present acts of inhumanity. He was thus able to avoid going to hell, (symbolic for environmental collapse), by improving his poor moral character. Similarly, if we can reevaluate our actions that are detrimental to the environment, there still remains a chance that future generations, as well as the present generation, can enjoy a stable level of environmental safety.
The specific tasks that we can undertake to achieve this goal of environmental safety is: the curbing of population growth and the harnessing of alternative sources of energy.
To control population, it is imperative to minimize the birth rate. "Education of both men and women is a wonderful contraceptive." ("Challenges", Henry W.Kendall, page 37). The easiest and most efficient way to handle a challenging situation is to avoid it. Unexpected or unwanted pregnancy can be overted by intelligently not subjecting ones' self to uncomfortable situations. Furthermore, population can be controlled by the legalization of abortion. "We must... guarantee women control over their own reproductive decisions," ("Appendix A, What We Must Do, 5.), by reserving them the power to utilize technological means of avoiding pregnancy, namely abortion.
The exclusive relationship between technology and environment can be categorized as one greatly affected by an action and the subsequent reaction. Nuclear energy, as opposed to the combustion of fossil fuels, is a probable staple source for the future. However, a "nuclear accident anywhere is a nuclear accident everywhere." (Freshman Seminar "Fact Sheet", Fall 1996). A catastrophic malfunction is able to transcend borders as the Chernobyl incident illustrated. Cold fusion seems to be the most advantageous form of nuclear energy to humanity and the environment if it can be successfully transferred from the laboratory to the public-accessible domain. On a smaller scale, a single example of a possible energy system is fitness gyms. The rubber bands, resistance pads, hydraulic presses, and rotational devices could be manipulated to contribute to a single power line whereby a summation of small inputs would create a unified source of energy. It is frustrating to think that sources of undoubtedly clean and efficient energy are possibly being wasted. Solar, geothermal, and wind energy similarly fall into this category of sources that would relieve the environment of having to support technology if only they could be implemented on a wide-scale use.
The mere realization of the global problem of a declining level of environmental safety is a major accomplishment in itself. The quandary facing humanity is the method by which it will be rectified.
Mr. Henry W.Kendall,
I would be honored if you can respond regarding my reflection of "Challenges", the World Bank, high energy electron studies of nucleon structure, or any relevant matter. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you very much.
"Meeting the Challenges of Population, Environment, and Resources: The Costs of Inaction" is a report by the Senior Scientists' Panels. This report warns us of the irreversible damage done to our planet caused by our human activities. The irreversible damage includes carbon dioxide release to the atmosphere due to our use of fossil fuel. There are way too many cars in the world that are giving off a plethora of carbon dioxide. Some improvements need to be made to the filteration of carbon dioxide. Using another energy source for the running of cars would be too costly and too time consuming because there is an urgent need for change since the damage is irreversible. Another damage is the careless activities of land use by erosion, overcultivation, overgrazing, salinizatio, and deforestation. These careless activities cause agricultural and food production shortages and puts a substantial stress on our environment. Also, damage to our oceans and fresh water is due to careless human activities. Everything that we dump into the water eventually falls back on us as acid rain, water contaimination, and ecosystem disruption. Many species are lost due to human mistakes and environment damage. Energy has been in constant demand, but new methods of using energy are needed. Too much pollution and devestating side effects have already done an enormous amount of irreversible environmental damage. The world seems to be getting heavier every year because about 90 million people are added to the world census. Land, food, and water are scarce, so we must make improvements to our activities in order to save what environment we have. In addition to human activity damage, the earth has its own damager: disease. Disease is a problem that we must deal with immediately because it spreads quickly. Immunization and antibiotics have slowly been disrupted to many areas of the world, but new outbreaks of diseases like Ebola and flesh-eating streptococci have warned us that the fight against disease is non-stop. Many diseases like AIDS are irrevesible damages. Parasitoses have plagued our food and water. Scientists think that deforestation has caused us to be exposed to jungle animal viruses like yellow fever and HIV. DNA technology to fight back against disease is necessary because "we can no longer be indifferent to the suffering of others."
Environmental damage has been done, but we can stop futher damage. The Senior Scientists' Panels have suggested controlling environmental damage by: reorganizing human activities; sustainable resource use by efficient use of land, water, and energy; reducing conflicts by ending violence and wars that cause large amounts of environmental and human wreakage; and stabilizing population. We must listen and act immediately to this warning from a group of nobel scientists who are concerned not just for their childrens' future but the our future. Our human activity will affect us now and not decades later. Science and technology must used with care because they can be environmental damagers or environmental cleaners. Educating people about the environmental problem would be a good start in stopping the extinction of the human species.
Henry W. Kendall wants to make sure that the public and the world
understands that the two panels of senior scientists at the Annual World Bank
Conference on Environmentally Sustainable Development are in complete agrement
with each other on the importance of keeping and meantaning a environmentally
sound devleopment of technology. It seems that the media believes that the two
panels do not agree an these issuse but they do and that is what Henry Kendall
goes to prove in his report. The introduction talks about the warnings, the
warnings to the environment and to the people that it will effect. There are
steps that need to be taken to keep people safe and taking care of the
environment is one of them. The international community knows all the problems
that technology can pose to the global environment and these two panals of
scientist agree that some action should be and needs to be taken to protect the
people of the world. In fact the panel of scientist have a list of issuse that
need to be dealed with by the world because it effects the all of us in this
global environment. Then he states the problems and gives a brief summery of
all of thies issues which have been addressed by group of respectable scientist.
The list of problems that we and our world face are: the Atmosphere, Land and
Forests, Oceans and Fisheries, Species Loss and Ecosystem Damage, Fresh Water,
Agricultue and Food Production, Energy, Disease, Patterns of Economic Activity
and People. It is important that some one has put all these articles into one
place know the next thing to do is to give this full report to are leaders and
show them the importance of taking care of the environment and how it hurts ever
one when one person use technalogy in a harmful way.
The one issue that seems to be the most import to deal with is that issue that is talked about by Joshua Lederberg, "Disease." Disease is the one thing that scares people the most because every one can get sick and every one hates it when they do. Joshua Lederberg mentioned how most people in this country think that disease is something that we have control over ever thing, thanks to all of are technolagical, but as he points out we are not. AIDS is no longer something that just happens to people in other countrys who are with out technology. The spread of HIV and vireses such as Ebolas and crytosporidium are hitting people all over the world and maybe it is the environments way of saying "Hay I don't like all this population that is being created by your technology!" Technology helps spreed thies virese because it brings people closer together. Then article states the evidence and then gives ways to protect and prevent our selves from getting thies disease. All the steps should be taken to protect use because we are slowly driving our selfs to death and the improper use of technology is the engine driving use there.
At the end of this handout Henry W. Kendall sums every thing up and then restates the solution and steps that should be taken to help clean the environment. He gives alternatives to use and then calls the world to a challenge, he challenges the world to change and do things that are more environmentally sound. I take his challenge and think that our world leaders should also accept the challenges that Dr. Kendall gives.
Henry Kendall presents many important issues in his articles
in this report. The problems which our environment is facing is not an
American problem, or an Asian problem, or an African problem. The damage to
our Earth does not affect either the rich or the poor to the exclusion of
the other. These environmental issues transcend every division among
humanity and affect the human race as a whole. We, as human beings, can no
longer sit back and hope for a happy ending to this problem or leave it for
future generations to decide. Right now we face an imminent possibility of
essentially irreparable global disaster within the next 60 years. Our
population is becoming too bulky for our planet's carrying capacity, we are
unable to keep up with the neccessary food production to support such a
population, we are overexpending existing resources such as fisheries thus
depleting them at a rate which they will be eventually destroyed, and our
beloved technology that many of us believe will save us is indeed the cause
of many of our problems.
This reliance upon technology as a miracle cure-all to solve our problems no matter how bad we mess up is a dangerous one, because this report shows that technology indeed causes many of our ecological woes. The very theme of our Seminar, 'Technology and the Environment,' is about technology and it's (Usually adverse) effects upon the environment. In one of the examples in the report it states that with new technologies in the area of fishing with large nets, humans are able to extract more fish from fisheries, but at the same time it adversely affects the environment since the fish population can not reproduce at a fast enough rate to compensate.
It is clearly stated by the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident
that the environmental problem in one nation is an environmental problem
of a whole world. the representatives from each nations have joined
together to solve this world's environmental problems. yet, the effort is
not sufficient enough to bring whole nations due to the economic problems.
"Meeting the Challenges of Population, Environment, and Resouces," a
Report of the Senior Scientists' Panels, addresses the danger and warning
of the world's environmental problems. Especially, Henry W. Kendall in
his writing, "Challenges," stated, "The destruction of our environment and
resources cannot be stemmed unless the growth of the world's population is
stemmed and ultimately reduced."
Although many other suggestions have been proposed, reduction of the world's population is the ultimate solution. Let's consider next example. There is a samll town with five thousand inhabitants next to 5000 square miles of rainforests. As the technology and civilization of this area develop, the population increases uncontrollably more than twice resulting in expansion of town through the rainforests. Still, the population continues to increase in great numbers. Thus, the massive deforestation occurs to obtain more spaces for people to live. The ecosystem of this rainforest is totally destroyed by the human activities. Even with the extinction of some species and oxygen supplies by deforestation, many other environmental problems arise by this growth of population. In order for people to survive, food production will be in great demand. By technological development, successful food production will be accomplished, however, excess of production will result in the loss of arable land effecting food production in the long run. Especially, toxic chemicals used in agricultural activities will cause unbalance in ecosystem.
Due to the human activities, massive household and industrial wastes pile up causing conflicts to find a place to discard them. Harmful gases from cars and factories rise in the air destroying the ozone shield and causing greenhouse effect. With the atmospheric pollution, the water will be contaminated also. Some gases in the air will react with rain and deposit in the water sources or on the soil. Practically, every surroundings of human beings will be contaminated with toxic chemicals. Not only the wast problems, energy demand increases resulting in great increases in fossil fuel uses or nuclear power plant uses to satisfy people's needs. Although the technology is advanced enough to control nuclear power plant accordingly, there is always a chance of human error that can bring a disaster like Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident. Yet, technology cannot be excluded in human's life since it is the only way to protect environment from the accidents.
Yet these examples do not describe the environmental problems that we face today precisely. Every human activities cause environmental problems like a chain reaction as population increase starts the problem in this example. Moreover, one nations' problems become every nation's problems. Therefore, it is necessary for every nations, either developing or advanced countries, to work together to solve this global problem. Since human activities are the main cause of the environmental problems, one of the solutions can be proposed to control our population in civilized manner.
The environment is presently under siege by the expanding technology of society in both the industrial and underdeveloped worlds. However, the blame cannot be placed solely on technology itself, but rather, humans should be the principle focus of attention. The current behavior of society is not acceptable in order to even simply maintain the present status of the planet. Humans are on a self-destructive course and are constantly destroying the only home, Earth, that they have. In addition, many negative effects have already or will become irreversible. Unfortunately, although numerous governmental officials are aware of many of the problems and even some of the consequences, they are reluctant to take firm stands on many issues due to political reasons. Thus, the responsibility of becoming educated and taking action lies with the people around the world. The World Bank is one of these concerned communities, which is made up of panels of some of the most important scientists of the time. Meeting the Challenges of Population, Environment, and Resources discusses their views, the costs of inaction, and suggestions for all nations to take in order to reduce the risks of negative consequences.
Technology has both been an enrichment and an impediment to the scientific and medical fields, especially regarding the environment. The unveiling of many untried lands has opened several environmentally distant worlds. This has provided much new information, yet has also exposed humans to previously unknown diseases, such as yellow fever and possibly the basis for HIV. Fortunately, scientific research, especially genetic, is becoming very common and extensive, which helps to develop innovative medications, such as antibiotics, to combat these new biological enemies. Although, there are various setbacks; some problems involve cleanliness, nutrition/famine, and migration, which often introduces dangerous foreign particles throughout all parts of the world. These battles are especially common in, but certainly not restricted to, impoverished regions. As the state of the environment declines, more scientists and leaders are recognizing that it is imperative to work together and share their research, in order to globally maximize the opportunity for invention and prevention. Despite these efforts, emerging diseases is another crucial issue that is plaguing the medical community. Tragically, in addition to the already existing ailments, scientists are forced to deal with new ones. Therefore, people in the fields of science and medicine are constantly, and desperately, rushing to find cures to this seemingly never-ending trail of afflictions.
It has been observed that nature has not been used efficiently nor to its fullest potential. Although nature provides the world with nearly half of the American prescriptions of today, there is a much larger variety of uses for nature's own products. Thus, utilization of natural products is becoming increasingly critical, due to the immunities that pathogens build up over time, for example. Biodiversity, according to Edward O. Wilson, is "the totality of all genetically based variation across all levels of biological organization, from the genes within a species to the species itself (which is the pivotal unit of classification) to the ecosystem." There is enormous diversity within living things, especially with insects and flowering plants. Unfortunately, there is an unimaginable number of additional species that will never be discovered, along with the many that are left to be uncovered. However, human destruction of numerous habitats results in the extinction of countless species of all types of organisms. The deforestation of the rain forests is one of the most publicized, yet hardly sufficiently recognized, abuses of society. Sadly, the termination of so many living things also means the end of years of evolutionary changes, mutations, and adaptations that can never be regained or imitated.
The present generation has been given one of the greatest international challenges that it will ever encounter. The problems that the world faces range in everything from human overpopulation to incurable diseases. The population is growing at an incredibly rapid rate, which results in stresses on the environment. Although this furthers modernization, it also has negative side effects, such as the abuse of cultivatable land and an increase in the spread of diseases, poverty, famine, and crime. The effects of the rapid loss of soil, which affects the productivity of crops, and deforestation, which causes extinction, will be obvious within as soon as half a century. The atmosphere is ruined by greenhouse gases, which can cause drastic climatic changes, such as a persistent increase in temperature. There are also serious food and water shortages that only worsen the already underdeveloped nations. These are only some of the major concerns of the environmental community at the present time.
Inaction appears to be the worst reaction to the entourage of problems that lie ahead for society and the planet as a whole. It is frightening to learn about some of the powerful and long-ranging effects of human activity, or even more so, those of human inactivity. Although several consequences have already been presented to the people, it is impossible to predict the actual extent of damage being done to the present and future. Due to the crisis of the environment, society needs to become much more educated about the issues and the possible solutions. People can not ignore the damage that they are doing. The most important lesson is that there is no longer any time to be indifferent. For the sake of the entire planet, every person needs to realize their potential role in this world, take the initiative, and make a difference today.
Being in the business scholars program, we are offered to take a class in
management and organizational behavior. Recently we learned about
motivational techniques. This basically said that we expect a reward for
everything we think we do positive. So when business people perform they
expect something in return. They do not regard whether or not they
damage the environment, all they care for is getting what they feel is
appropriate for the job that they performed. Logging companies do not
regard the fact that they are destroying our source of oxygen, they care
that they are getting paid for cutting down the trees. The money is their
reward, and that is all that they focus on. This unconscious search for
rewards is destroying our environment. There should be some sort of
different reinforcement that can focus on the entire spectrum of one's
actions. But until then, there is no hope because money is the root of
Another thing we should take into consideration is the problem of spillover costs. I remember this from my high school economics class. Basically, it is the negative effects of the action performed. There is a tendency to ignore the spillover costs of major companies because there is a feeling that we owe them. It is because of them that we have the luxuries we have today. I bet there is no one person who would want to return to the 19th century way of doing things. So in return, we ignore the damage that they are doing to our environment. This is until it is too late to reverse the damages and we are left to point the finger at someone. We must find a scapegoat to blame for every negative reaction. But in doing this, we forget that we could have prevented the entire tragedy if we were not captivated by the glory of technology in the first place. It is that awe and amazement that got us in trouble in the first place.
There was only one word that came to mind after reading "Challenges" by Henry W. Kendall, and that word was "frightening." Basically, what Kendall is saying is that if our generation does not do something soon to alter the environmental destruction currently taking place all over the world, then we will be handing over to our children a planet which is beyond hope, and is slowly spiraling towards the irreversible destruction of the current ecosystem and, thus, the collapse of the human race. It is up to the leaders and educators of today to plan for a better tomorrow. This ignorance towards our earth's environment has gone on for much too long, and, according to Mr. Kendall, there are only a few decades left to take action before it's too late. The fate of our future existence is lying on our shoulders, it is up to us to educate the world and begin the process towards the creation of environmental plans to save mankind and our environment.
The key, in my opinion, is education. It is vital that the world be informed of the environmental problems that we are currently facing. The environment should be an extremely important subject in the education of our young people, and it is necessary that it play an active part in the elementary, junior, and high school education curriculum. However, we must not wait for the next generation to try and clean up the mess that we have left behind. It must begin with us and continue with our children, our children's children, and many generations beyond.
Kendall writes that "governments must now take a leading role in moving their nations in the right direction." It is up to the government to provide programs and develop legislation that would guide its nations people towards the betterment and preservation of the environment. New regulations must be set on pollution and the destruction of the rain forests. Although the cost may be high for those businesses and its workers, the cost is even higher when one considers the incredible and irreversible destruction to the environment that those businesses are causing.
The time to act is now. And although, in our lifetimes, we may never see the effects of our efforts to protect the environment, we can be proud of the fact that our children will be able to enjoy the same beautiful green earth that our generation and the generations before us were able to enjoy.
Remarks on "Loss of Biodiversity"
Edward O. Wilson, the author of "Loss of Biodiversity," says that each day thirty-seven species become extinct-that's one to two species each hour (Wilson 15). This number is staggering, and what's even more staggering, is that we are the cause of most of these extinctions. Wilson also says that "wild Biodiversity supports the natural ecosystems on which human life ultimately depends, enriching the soil, purifying the water, and creating the very air we breathe. We need all the species, and it is essential that we do all that we can to maintain a healthy ecosystem where all species can survive. As is proposed by Leo Szilard, "we must never destroy anything we cannot create." (Wilson 14)
It is important that governments and the world begin to take care of their many natural resources. Without these resources, many more species will become extinct, and eventually, mankind will become just another species on the extinct list. We are part of a massive ecosystem; certain animals depend on us to stay alive, and we depend some of those animals to survive. With the annihilation of the rainforests, we will never be able to study the millions of undiscovered species that presently live there. The cure for future epidemics and diseases may lie in the Earth's natural rainforests and we may destroy those vital plants, fungi, bacteria, etc. These are all very serious issues that must be rectified as soon as possible. However, as long as our government and other governments around the world continue to ignore the issue of the environment, the earth will continue to be destroyed, species will continue to become extinct, and our natural resources will continue to disappear until all is lost and our time, at long last, is up.
Click to go back to Dr. Meshkati's Homepage