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Thread: Scientific solutions to environmental problems

  1. #1 Scientific solutions to environmental problems 
    Forum Freshman kristian's Avatar
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    Do you believe that scientific/technological solutions will be sufficient in solving current and future environmental problems, or do we need to change other things as well, such as our consumption patterns?


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  3. #2 Re: Scientific solutions to environmental problems 
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    Quote Originally Posted by kristian
    Do you believe that scientific/technological solutions will be sufficient in solving current and future environmental problems, or do we need to change other things as well, such as our consumption patterns?
    I think that question is on many minds lately. I for one think it's going to take a joint effort of both technology and mindset, people love to waste. I don't think you'll see any major changes in attitude until something really bad happens. Living in the US I can tell you many of my fellow countrymen are just stupid when it comes to the environment. We have more SUV's driving around over here then I can count, I often think it's 1 SUV for ever 1 car. I of course don't drive one.

    One can only hope we learn before it's too late.


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  4. #3  
    Forum Freshman kristian's Avatar
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    I sure do agree with you there: Heavy research on pro-environment technologies as well as heavy changes to consumption patterns is what is needed now!

    I have been warning people about Global Warming for about 15 years now, and it's both frustrating and comforting to see the scientists getting surer and surer every year about the effects of G.W. that we will see the next 100 years. Hopefully people will wake up soon.

    If not information, then perhaps their insurance costs will do the trick.
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  5. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kristian
    I sure do agree with you there: Heavy research on pro-environment technologies as well as heavy changes to consumption patterns is what is needed now!

    I have been warning people about Global Warming for about 15 years now, and it's both frustrating and comforting to see the scientists getting surer and surer every year about the effects of G.W. that we will see the next 100 years. Hopefully people will wake up soon.

    If not information, then perhaps their insurance costs will do the trick.
    There are a LOT of people in this country that still say global warming has not been proven and that we can wait longer to see if it's real or not. I'm not sure I subscribe to that policy.
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  6. #5  
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    I think global warming is a sure bet. The controversy is over whether or not there is anything we can do about it. Michael Crichton has a great essay/speech on the issues that currently confront those like kristian that are spreading the warning and the pit that has been dug for them.

    The question is not so much if technology can solve the issue, the question should be if it should. we know so little about the environment. Will our changes have long term positive effect or short term positives with long term reprecussion that are worse than the problem they solved? Nobody knows yet.
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary
    The question is not so much if technology can solve the issue, the question should be if it should. we know so little about the environment. Will our changes have long term positive effect or short term positives with long term repercussion that are worse than the problem they solved? Nobody knows yet.
    You bring up a very good point, with the history of man I would say any efforts we make to alter our environment to "correct" the problem would just end up with even worse problems in the long run.
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  8. #7  
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    I can't perfectly picture the future and what materials we will use, but like Insanity said, it always takes something really bad happening to change things.

    Like what if we run out of oil? Plastic will be a thing to save, because you won't be able to get any more of it. I just think that's so weird, we're making disposable things out of plastic and it isn't like paper, it doesn't grow. Isn't it a byproduct of oil, like you have to burn oil to make it? And it's such a revolutionary material, for babies, for food, for everything, it's just a wonderful thing.

    But besides that, if we ran out of oil you can bet that people will stop buying cars or perhaps a new business will emerge, the business of converting an old car into an electric car, or whatever cars will run on in the future.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2112
    Like what if we run out of oil? Plastic will be a thing to save, because you won't be able to get any more of it.
    Some smart scientist will come with a way up to create a new gene and have bacteria make plastics. In fact work is being done at projects like this at this very moment. They already have found bacteria that can turn toxic waste into plastics.
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by DEChengst
    Quote Originally Posted by 2112
    Like what if we run out of oil? Plastic will be a thing to save, because you won't be able to get any more of it.
    Some smart scientist will come with a way up to create a new gene and have bacteria make plastics. In fact work is being done at projects like this at this very moment. They already have found bacteria that can turn toxic waste into plastics.
    How long does the process your mentioning take? I saw something where earthworms eat garbage and turn it into dirt, but it would take more than centuries to consume all the garbage in landfills, very slow process.
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  11. #10  
    Forum Freshman kristian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2112
    Quote Originally Posted by DEChengst
    Quote Originally Posted by 2112
    Like what if we run out of oil? Plastic will be a thing to save, because you won't be able to get any more of it.
    Some smart scientist will come with a way up to create a new gene and have bacteria make plastics. In fact work is being done at projects like this at this very moment. They already have found bacteria that can turn toxic waste into plastics.
    How long does the process your mentioning take? I saw something where earthworms eat garbage and turn it into dirt, but it would take more than centuries to consume all the garbage in landfills, very slow process.
    I guess it will be different with bacteria. With their insane potential for biomass growth and short generation span they can be applied for a great number of technological tasks. I would think the use of bacteria for plastics generation is possible, although in some time.
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    So what are the alternatives to plastics, that don't require oil to produce?
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    surely the most effective way to save this planet.... is giving up everything man has achieved. Cars, mobile phones, fridges, tv, computers, .... everything. It might seem that this a stupid idea, but most problems on the earth including many environmental issues can be related back to us.

    Giving up all the above will definitely not happen.... man is too greedy and selfish to give all these luixuries up. Another very effective way to save this planet maybe to kill every last human on this planet...

    This planet will one day be destroyed by humans, maybe not now but most definitely in the future
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  14. #13  
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    Quote Originally Posted by (In)Sanity
    So what are the alternatives to plastics, that don't require oil to produce?
    It should be possible to synthesise plastics from all kinds of organic material. Wood, for example, should be possible.

    As of today, you can create plastics out of natural gas.
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  15. #14  
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    Technology isn't even the major problem, it is the mind. We need a major shift in human consciousness before we figure out how to live on this Earth in a more sustainable way. Our economy is based on constant growth, the same as a cancer cell. The current situation of us as territorial apes with nuclear weapons is basically untenable.
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  16. #15  
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    Of course we will need to change consumption patterns, indeed, there will be little choice about it, peak oil means the end of the industrial lifestyle.

    Even if it is possible to make plastics out of other materials, I don't think people realize that everything about the production and distribution of plastics is also based on (inexpensive) oil, and it's related fossil fuel natural gas, which is also being depleted. How will you make the injection-molding machinery? How will you ship the parts? How will you transport the workers from their homes to the factory? Where will the electricity come from for lighting and computerized inventory systems?

    Even if you invent a better electric car, everything about our highway system is based on fossil fuels. Can you image a solar-powered bulldozer or grader? What about concrete factories? It takes alot of heat to bake the limestone or whatever they make concrete out of, and where do you think asphalt comes from? The very infrastructure of suburbia is based on cheap motoring. If there were less energy available to us, we would never have built everything so far apart in the first place!
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    Okay, I hate to ask but what exactly does everyone have against plastic?

    It's mostly inert in the environment.
    It's reusable.
    It requires less energy to produce and recycle than wood or paper.
    Recycling plastic causes less chemical waste than recycling paper.

    It can be made to a huge variety of items with different properties: from bullet-proof glass, to medical tubing and syringes, to plastic grocery bags,, bio-degradable food wrappers, artificial hearts, CDs, etc, etc, etc, etc.

    So, why the bad rap?

    ~Raithere
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    Plastic waste may be hazardous if there is no proper logistics for collecting, sorting and recycling/disposing. Thin plastic carrybags, that cannot be recycled economically, are creating problems in solid wate management. Inceneration of solid waste with plastic releases dioxin which is carcinogenic and causes birth defects and other serious ailments. If such carrybags mix with soil in large quantities they prevent seepage of rain water and hampers the recharge of ground water sources. Growth of plants over such wastes is also impaired. Over the years waste dry lands are in store for us. Environmentalists may find 100 more other 'reasons' for their ban.
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    Quote Originally Posted by everneo
    Plastic waste may be hazardous if there is no proper logistics for collecting, sorting and recycling/disposing. Thin plastic carrybags, that cannot be recycled economically, are creating problems in solid wate management. Inceneration of solid waste with plastic releases dioxin which is carcinogenic and causes birth defects and other serious ailments. If such carrybags mix with soil in large quantities they prevent seepage of rain water and hampers the recharge of ground water sources. Growth of plants over such wastes is also impaired. Over the years waste dry lands are in store for us. Environmentalists may find 100 more other 'reasons' for their ban.
    Interesting considerations, if a bit overstated. As far as I can tell from a few brief searches the "100 more other reasons" seem to be non-existent. The primary "hazard" seems to be the collection of rainwater which may offer a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

    As to the rest, the problem is more about how the waste is handled rather than some inherent danger of the waste itself. I know that every grocery store in my neighborhood has a recycle bin expressly for these thin plastic carry bags which seem to be the primary concern. Aquifer damage is incorrect; you don't want water leeching out of a landfill into your water system anyway. Release of toxins with incineration is a concern with any type of waste, the problem is addressed in areas that have the proper technologies in place to prevent the toxins from being released (the US and most of Europe, for instance) but not in other countries such as India.

    My issue is with the seemingly blind demonization of various products, such as plastic. My intent was to help clarify the issue here. Simplistic responses resolve nothing. The mantra of "oil and coal and plastic are bad, we have to stop using them" is not a solution.

    Choosing paper over plastic at the grocery store does not make the problem go away; the disposal of paper has environmental consequences as well. We have to move away from the concept that everything "natural" is inherently good and everything manufactured is inherently bad and actually examine the processes and the impact involved. As is typical, the primary problem is what we decide to do with these things rather than the things themselves.

    ~Raithere
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raithere
    As far as I can tell from a few brief searches the "100 more other reasons" seem to be non-existent.
    They are my 'own' words. You have to use your searching skills with googles to find out one by one. :wink:

    As to the rest, the problem is more about how the waste is handled rather than some inherent danger of the waste itself.
    I agree. If proper logistics and systems are in place, there is no need to fear plastic.

    I know that every grocery store in my neighborhood has a recycle bin expressly for these thin plastic carry bags which seem to be the primary concern.
    People use carry bags to carry away things. I am not sure how many of them would deposit back those bags.

    Aquifer damage is incorrect; you don't want water leeching out of a landfill into your water system anyway.
    Rain water or drainage water, no matter, they get purified when they reach ground water level filtered through different layers of soil. With the exception of chemical wastes, but they are not supposed to be released into the environment without treatment. With strict laws we can enforce this also.

    Release of toxins with incineration is a concern with any type of waste, the problem is addressed in areas that have the proper technologies in place to prevent the toxins from being released (the US and most of Europe, for instance) but not in other countries such as India.
    damn you, raithere.

    My issue is with the seemingly blind demonization of various products, such as plastic. My intent was to help clarify the issue here. Simplistic responses resolve nothing. The mantra of "oil and coal and plastic are bad, we have to stop using them" is not a solution.

    Choosing paper over plastic at the grocery store does not make the problem go away; the disposal of paper has environmental consequences as well. We have to move away from the concept that everything "natural" is inherently good and everything manufactured is inherently bad and actually examine the processes and the impact involved. As is typical, the primary problem is what we decide to do with these things rather than the things themselves.
    I agree, but economic feasibility is a main concern for most of the countries.
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  21. #20  
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    Simplistic responses resolve nothing. The mantra of "oil and coal and plastic are bad, we have to stop using them" is not a solution.
    Even discounting the environmental consequences of these substances, there is a limited amount of them on Earth, and we are already perhaps halfway through, with respect to oil. We will soon reach the time when the cost of recovery exceeds the value of fuel and products produced. This is an economic limit to fossil fuels. Coal is still a viable alternative for some time, but it is more expensive to make plastics and synthetic fuel from. We either use the remaining cheap fuel to invest in alternatives before we no longer can, or live in a fantasy world until the shit hits the fan.
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    Bacteria will not be a good method for large-scale production of plastics. Bacteria needs to feed on other food to perform their operation. Most food are produced from fertilizers. Fertilizers are made from oil. See, we are back to oil.

    Electric car won't solve the oil problem. Oil produce rubber. Rubber produces car tires. Without oil, the electric car has no tires. A car without tires is a piece of crap.

    In conclusion, there is no solution to peak oil. Say hello to the stone age.
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  23. #22  
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    I agree that actually burning valuable chemical feedstock just to generate energy is really dumb. The only thing I can find in its favour is that it provides me with a living.

    That said, I don't see a reversion to the neolithic in our near future:

    Energy options

    1) Renewable resources - we have only scraped the surface on these so far.
    2) Fission - with rigorous safety systems, proper design and scrupulous adherence to procedures these are safer than houses.
    3) Fusion - not too far away. Even closer if we invested in it seriously. Pollution minimal. Green house gases minimal. Nuclear contamination neglible.

    Hydrocarbon Source Options:

    1) Recoverable oil, using improved secondary and tertiary recovery methods is at least three times what we have produced so far, not equal to what we have produced so far, as you have suggested.
    2) Tar sands and oil shales. Abundant
    3) Methane hydrates - arguably at least an order of magnitude greater than oil reserves.

    No need to sharpen the stone axe yet.
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  24. #23  
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    [Quote]2) Fission - with rigorous safety systems, proper design and scrupulous adherence to procedures these are safer than houses.
    3) Fusion - not too far away. Even closer if we invested in it seriously. Pollution minimal. Green house gases minimal. Nuclear contamination neglible.
    [Quote]
    But you have to understand that it takes billions of dollars just to create on nuclear reactor. Too expensive.

    Hydrocarbon Source Options
    Too much greenhouse emissions.
    I don't see a reversion to the neolithic in our near future
    I agree with that.
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  25. #24  
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    Quote Originally Posted by funzone36
    But you have to understand that it takes billions of dollars just to create on nuclear reactor. Too expensive.
    The fact of the matter is that fossil fuels will not last forever and we NEED another energy source. Whether fusion reactors are expensive or not is kind of irrelevent when the alternative is running out of power. If the cost is that high right now, that tells me we need to spend some money researching how to get get the cost down.
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    Research also takes money. Uranium will run out with fission reactors.

    We do need another energy source. It's just that it's so unfortunate that none of them has the potential to replace fossil fuels.

    "Manufacturing one automobile requires approximately 118,877 gallons of fresh water. This water comes in clean and goes out polluted. With peak oil putting our entire energy paradigm in question, if we consider what it means to create a new generation of alternative-fuel cars - to build 700 million new vehicles would require 83,213,900,000,000 gallons of fresh water"

    http://www.fromthewilderness.com/fre...ond_peak.shtml


    And where are you going to get 83,213,900,000,000 gallons of fresh water? Consider the cost of desalination. You have to contruct those cars because you're switching from internal combustion engine to electric engines.
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  27. #26  
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    Quote Originally Posted by funzone36
    But you have to understand that it takes billions of dollars just to create on nuclear reactor. Too expensive. .
    I understand fully. Do you understand how much it costs to develop a medium sized oilfield in the North Sea?
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  28. #27  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    Quote Originally Posted by funzone36
    But you have to understand that it takes billions of dollars just to create on nuclear reactor. Too expensive. .
    I understand fully. Do you understand how much it costs to develop a medium sized oilfield in the North Sea?
    I'm not sure about the exact cost but it must be cheaper than nuclear energy.
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  29. #28  
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    Why must it?
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  30. #29  
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    Oil is cheap. At least, right now. How much do you pay for gas?
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  31. #30  
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    Quote Originally Posted by funzone36
    Bacteria will not be a good method for large-scale production of plastics. Bacteria needs to feed on other food to perform their operation. Most food are produced from fertilizers. Fertilizers are made from oil. See, we are back to oil.

    Electric car won't solve the oil problem. Oil produce rubber. Rubber produces car tires. Without oil, the electric car has no tires. A car without tires is a piece of crap.

    In conclusion, there is no solution to peak oil. Say hello to the stone age.
    Last time I checked subways, trains and monorails didn't need rubber.

    What about mass transportation?
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  32. #31  
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    Firstly, i'd like to state my opinion that nuclear is non sustainable. It requires fuel. Fuel has an annoying tendancy of running out. No matter what you may think, there are finite quantities of hydrogen (and uranium), large but ultimately finite. We've already made that mistake with fossil fuels. Lets try to learn. Why don't we look to the long term for once and concentrate on finding a longer term solution. Solar seems to me to be the best way by far. It's available everywhere. Even space. And i've seen a study (can't remember where, sorry) which proves that at current efficiency levels it could supply the entire world with electricity on it's own.

    Secondly, has anyone read this:
    http://www.wired.com/news/technology...l?tw=rss.index
    Can anyone think of any other major problems that aren't mentioned here?
    For example, i know that sulphur dioxide causes acid rain. Can sulphur do the same?
    Is sulphur toxic?
    Or would this make the entire world smell of rotten eggs for centuries to come?
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  33. #32  
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    Mining, or stealing from Pluto, is the cause of our decline. Anything taken from below is taken in the middle of a cycle, a moment when it is NOT supposed to be on top of the ground. Steal from Pluto, and Pluto will get revenge.

    So yes, scientific and technological research should be used to alert those dimwits of leaders we have, because to them that is what they understand. It should also be used to increase our knowledge.
    Pierre

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  34. #33  
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    Quote Originally Posted by jacques
    Secondly, has anyone read this:
    http://www.wired.com/news/technology...l?tw=rss.index
    Can anyone think of any other major problems that aren't mentioned here?
    For example, i know that sulphur dioxide causes acid rain. Can sulphur do the same?
    Is sulphur toxic?
    Or would this make the entire world smell of rotten eggs for centuries to come?
    Sulphur is damnably toxic. The rotten egg smell is from hydrogen sulphide. sulphur smells, but not as bad.

    The author of this proposal, to shoot sulphur particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect back light, is a Nobel laureate in chemistry, so you would have thought he would have considered the downside.
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  35. #34  
    Forum Bachelors Degree The P-manator's Avatar
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    Did he?
    Pierre

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