Johnathan R.

4th Place - $1,000 Resolve to Evolve Scholarship Winner

The Environment: Right, Wrong and Future

John R.

For thousands of years, man has developed methods of harnessing the power and products of his environment. He has mined and refined metal ores, extracted petroleum and natural gas, used wind and water as generators of electricity, and developed chemical compounds to increase productivity. Today, due to a large demand for direct natural resources of a large world population and the results of producing and refining synthetic substances from natural ones, the environment is wearing thin. Thankfully though, the extent of damages is not irreversible.

Although there are many areas in which increased environmental concern and attention are needed, three major fields show themselves as extremely increased risks. The first field is that of the combustion of fossil fuels. Whether it is petroleum or coal for an energy facility or the gasoline needed to run one’s car, the use of these fossil fuels has increased carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and carbon waste output several times above what is environmentally safe. The two major contributors to the excess pollution include lack of waste filtering both in refining the fuel and burning it as well as the sheer amount of fuels required to be burned to support modern day society. The results of such endeavors have been shown in several scientific studies, such as increased rain acidity, depletion of ozone content, and the decline of several ecosystems dependent upon areas with lower carbonic percentages. Although the problems caused by the burning of fossil fuels are numerous, the options of recourse are even more numerous. For example, modern science has proposed many new forms of energy production. Reintroducing safer nuclear fission, instituting cold fusion, and increasing natural energy production to replace fossil fuels have all been hypothesized. Ever since its conception and development, nuclear energy has been far more efficient than fossil fuel energy. However, due to the extreme potency of the ramifications of failure of one of these power plants, and due to the lack of necessary safety, most nuclear power programs were closed. Today, due to increased technology in both waste recycling and safety protocol, nuclear energy is again an appealing form of clean energy production, especially with the possibilities of recycling nuclear fuel. Also of interest is the development of natural energy production over the past years, particularly solar energy. Although current solar cells are rated as only collecting 18% of total energy, new developments in nanotechnology and microcrystals have expanded the possibilities of efficiency to nearly 58%, making solar power the cleanest and most efficient form of energy available. Although these developments remain in the prototype stages, the possibilities they bring are quite hopeful.

The second area of increased concern is that of chemical and nuclear waste. Although nuclear power is exceptionally efficient, the byproducts it creates, if not properly handled and recycled, can be extremely dangerous to any ecosystem. The same is true of several chemical compounds that have recently been developed or formed as the byproduct of modern industry. These compounds are perhaps the most lethal threat to our environment. However, due to modern technology and increased scientific ability, modern industry has at its disposal the processes to dispose and even make useful the toxic chemicals which it creates. For example, scientists postulate that if a fusion and fission reactor could be run in sequence using compounds that could be repeatedly broken down and reunited, nuclear waste would nearly be a thing of the past. Other solutions for decreasing the risk of nuclear and chemical waste have also been made available thanks to modern chemistry. As science, technology, and engineering progress, undoubtedly there will be even more ability to protect our environment.

The final area of environmental concern deals with the use of land and harvesting of products. Due to the demands of nearly six billion people, entire ecosystems are being destroyed to provide increased room for living and farming. In addition to this, other areas of the environment are being harvested of products needed by man, but necessary to sustain that particular ecosystem, and farther, the entire environment itself. However, increasingly efficient ways of land use and production provide the possibility that the environment could be restored. For example, modern fertilizers provide much more yield per acre of land used. Increasingly efficient methods of harvesting natural products are also being instituted. The lumber industry for example, has begun endeavors to reestablish forests by planting young trees where older ones were harvested. In addition to replenishing the forest used, this also invigorates a fresh growth of a young and more productive environment.

As the years continue to progress, so will man’s knowledge of science, so that, in future years, man and the environment will again live in complete harmony, both sustaining and using one another for progress and growth. Through venues of various fields of study, man will be able to bring environmental safety to a point where fewer and fewer portions of the environment are threatened through their use or the products produced by mankind. Though there will always be issues to deal with, and areas to improve safety and efficiency in, it is exactly these issues that shall lead man to progress into an advanced and hopeful future of collaboration with this wonderful planet humankind calls home.

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