From Earlham Cluster Department
It’s hard to imagine that fifty years ago, the biggest challenges that society faced were centered around issues such as extraterrestrial life and finding more efficient ways to communicate. We seem almost light years away from the idea of UFO’s and pagers and with the emergence of satellites and cell phones that can fit directly in your ear, the scientific and technological “problems we once had seem trivial. This forces one to question whether or not waste disposal, clean water, and replacement body parts will also one day be seen as trivial, instead of as the most important issues society faces today. All one has to do is walk through any neighborhood after Christmas Day to fully grasp why it is imperative that a solution be found for disposing of waste. The amount of cardboard, Styrofoam and other non bio-degradable products that have to be collected and thrown into a landfill somewhere has begun to pose a huge threat not only to the environment, but also to the way we utilize the shrinking supply of land that we have left. If scientists could somehow discover or create more materials that are bio- degradable then we could at least have garbage that is broken down at the same or a faster rate than it is being built up. Although advancing technology has provided us with products that are smaller and hence take up less space when they are thrown out, more can be done to make these products more easily compressed. If there was technology available that could take a car and compress it into something the size of a lima bean, then we might be able to put off the effects of over-flowing land fills for at least a few years! The situation that Haiti has found itself in concerning cholera is a direct effect of not being able to supply some of it’s citizens with clean water. Scientifically speaking, there are several ways of purifying water. However, these ways usually take a lot of technology and tend to be costly. If scientists could somehow figure out how to clean large bodies of water using cheap and easy to obtain chemicals. Then, technology could figure out a way to detect bacteria and other harmful organisms that might find there way into them and destroy them quickly. Being able to replace body parts is one problem that comes with a lot of social implications however, the benefits of such a scientific advancement would far out way that moral discrepancies that may arise. Firstly, the quality of lives would be improved and the mortality rate would take a significant plunge. The role of science in this would be to find an efficient way to harvest and supply organs that worked just as well as those that are formed naturally. Technology would bare the responsibility of making sure these organs could be properly stored and distributed around the world. The may concept seem extremely futuristic and in some ways too ‘artificial’ but the fact is that advancing science should aim to make life on earth not only sustainable but easy. Science and technology have found themselves inexplicably linked in our society today. It is a pseudo-partnership that should always run in tandem with each other to provide advancements that serve humanity and the environment.
One cannot help but be sucked in by the soft blue light that radiates from the atmosphere gallery in the Victoria and Albert Science Museum. The exhibits which focus mostly on climate science, make it pretty easy for just about anyone to become engaged with the issues and history of the world’s changing climate. In particular, I found the kiosk about different climates of the world to be informative. Although I have a basic idea of what climate is, I admittedly was not completely aware of how the changing climate was affecting different areas. This kiosk (Climate systems) allowed me to pinpoint areas of the world that I might not ever be able to visit and in a way ‘experience’ by visual aid, the climate of that region. Even more engaging was the option to see how a changing climate would affect those areas in the future. The kiosk that I did not find enjoyable was the kiosk that talked mainly about the United Kingdom’s plans for reducing carbon emissions. It merely stated that emissions would be reduced by 80% by 2050 but did not go into great detail about exactly how the government planned to do all of this. It was also the least interactive of all the kiosks in the gallery. I most enjoyed the non- interactive displays like the tree bark with the growth rings and the ice core. I was unaware that ice cores could also supply information about how much carbon is being emitted during different time periods. It was without a doubt the most surprising thing that I learned. These non interactive displays were basically exactly what I thought I’d find in a science museum. For me, they represented cold hard undeniable science that I could see and hypothetically touch. The source of the information seemed to be mostly textbooks, which I thought was quite interesting. There are a lot of theories associated with climate and climate change and it was a relief to see that the gallery focused mostly on providing information that was factual. It made the entire experience comparable to a really ‘cool’ virtual classroom.
It’s the supermarket scene that really gets the feeling of guilt rolling in. As the actress suspended in the air shouts down at the shoppers about the amount of plastic that we use to wrap everything in, one begins to realize that dealing with the issue of global warming is a lot more within grasp than one would think. However, I got the sense that the aim in creating the play ‘Greenland’ goes beyond making the audience feel guilty about buying flowers wrapped in clear plastic. The show provided a strong sense of awareness and did well to inform listeners of exactly what the ‘situation’ is. It was quite impressive to see just how easily the actors portrayed the roles of persons with different levels of interest in protecting the environment. Most people are unaware that global warming is far more than a scientific issue and has managed to reach the forefront of the political arena. The story line of the play, despite being disjointed, was easy to follow once the actors got further into their roles. What is at first confusing becomes all of a sudden clear once one understands that the play is about the way different persons within society are linked by one common goal. There was the young girl who left her college ambitions behind to join protesters and the secretary who worked in the UN, these characters were going about affecting change but in vastly differing ways. I was impressed by the way the stage set up and lighting was used to keep the audience engaged in what seems to be an issue we hear about in some way all the time. The lighting, the music, the elements of ‘rain’ and ‘snow’ made the show not only visually appealing but quite simply stated, cool. I especially appreciated the monologue about using toilet paper. It was a clever way of bringing a serious issue like wasting to an audience without ‘preaching’. One aspect of the play that I felt could use clarification was the entry of the polar bear on the stage. Polar bears face one of the biggest threats to their habitat because of the melting ice. However, those far removed from the scientific world may not have understood the inclusion of this in the play. “Greenland’ is a play that can appeal to those who are aware of the issues associated with global warming as well as those looking to be informed. The fact is, no one can walk away from this production without a newly found sense of responsibility as a global citizen.
Reflection on Climate Change
As a science major, I have the privilege of being quite aware of the threat that global warming poses to our planet. Needless to say, I am always hoping to learn more. Having this subject presented to me in so many ways this semester has told me a lot about myself. The kiosks at the museum were well done and of course very enlightening but were probably the least effective in holding my attention. The reading exercise was easy to follow and definitely appealed to me more than the museum gallery. It could be that I prefer reading my material to feeling as if I’m playing a video game. The theatre performance was without a doubt my favourite mode of learning. In fact, I now think that all my classes should be taught as plays. It was intriguing to see scientific matters presented in such an entertaining way. The difference between the message that is delivered in London versus that which is delivered in the United States is simple. In London , the message appears to be to reflect the idea that, “each person should take responsibility for their own actions” whereas in the United States, the message more or less reflects that saving the planet has to be a group effort. Also, the way in which the message is delivered is different. In London there is much less ‘fashion oriented’ environmental awareness whereas in the States there seems to be a whole pseudo culture surrounding it.
Review Of Sustainability Lecture
The image of mirrors surrounding earth is the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about last Wednesday’s sustainability lecture. The information presented was not only current and informative but it helped me to understand exactly how much thought and care scientists are putting into the issue of global warming. I was surprised to realize that a bulk of what was presented dealt with ideas that I had never heard of. For instance, the fact that we could move into an age where instead of throwing ‘whole machines’ away we could simply deconstruct parts and reassemble them into a new machines, was an idea that had never crossed my mind. The lecture also brought up the issue of living in the city versus living in the country. The myth that city dwellers are the main cause of environmental degradation has been completely dispelled from my mind because it completely makes sense that they are not. They do indeed travel shorter distances and they usually share the transportation that they utilize which is far better than the way of life those living in less inhabited areas are accustomed to. I was also surprised by the fact that if more persons decided to move to one area, then disaster control could be vastly improved. If nothing else, the presentation revealed just how important it is for different areas of science to collaborate in combating the issue of sustainability. There is no single branch of science that can come up with a solution. In fact, I now realize even more how important public education on this subject is.
With more and more primary schools introducing the idea of ‘school gardens’ to children, carbon sequestration is being introduced to us even before we completely understand what it means. However, even if the understanding isn’t there, the fact is that planting trees is the a perfect way to sequester carbon by creating a carbon sink. However, with issues such as overpopulation and the development of cities, more and more tree filled land is being replaced by concrete and factories. I believe that if scientists and engineers were to find a way to make building materials that could somehow ‘collect carbon dioxide’ from the air as efficiently as trees, then we wouldn’t completely suffer all the losses that come with cutting down too many trees while still putting carbon into the air. In my paper I plan to discuss the possibility of finding alternate sources of carbon sequestration through an alteration of the materials we use for building structures.
I think this is a good topic with lots of interesting material in the areas of science, technology and society. There is lots more going on with school gardens than just carbon sequestration, organic produce (I doubt many of them use chemical ag approaches), the "localvore" movement, local empowerment, healthy food for communities that traditionally haven't had it, etc. Alice Waters has lots to say (and do) about these matters as does Frances Moore Lappe (an Earlham grad!). Make sure you take a big view of this, what is the science behind gardens, carbon sequestering, food health; the technology used to do it (fortunately all simple and inexpensive) and the societal implications of all this. Carry on!
Questions (Chapter 18)
1. How are dinosaurs included into the argument for evolution 2.Are there any theories that investigate the rate of evolution?
Outline of paper
1)Introduction Brief synopsis of the paper
2) The Carbon dioxide cycle - brief summary of how natural carbon cycling works
3)The current carbon crisis - Greenhouse effect.. - Air pollution - How much carbon does the average person produce - How much carbon gets produced in the average large city (London) - Possible visual aid for the carbon cycle, different rates of carbon production in a city vs. a small town
4)What is carbon sequestration -What efforts are currently being made to reduce carbon emissions -How can these efforts be modified to accommodate the infrastructure of cities
5)The Role of Science -What research is being conducted with materials -Possible visual aids
6)The Role of Technology - What research is being conducted with the structure of buildings - Possible visual aids
7)Efforts that have already been documented?
Volti: Reading 1
Recently, technology has made it possible for persons to check emails, pay bills, watch movies, tweet and update their face book statuses, all from one phone. In fact, the advancement of cell phones has come so far that some phones such as Apple’s Iphone can perform all the same tasks just as well as a fully functioning laptop. Understandably, more persons are able to complete simple errands quickly from virtually anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, the convenience that comes with the advancement of cell phones has made our existence even more dependent on the internet. Cell phones are quickly becoming the cause of many road traffic accidents as drivers attempt to multi-task while on the road. Even worst is the deterioration of writing skills that has recently surfaced as a side effect of habitual texting. As far as harmful technology goes, the invention of high quality televisions. As Televisions evolve, the obesity rate of adults and children increases. Less persons seek entertainment outside of their homes and fewer children become engaged in reading activities. This ultimately leads to countries with great percentages of unhealthy citizens.
Volti: Reading 2
The choice between making a scientific discovery and inventing useful technology is not a hard one for me to make. Without hesitation, I would want to make a scientific discovery. While making useful technology would be a notable accomplishment, I feel like the basis for inventing anything lays in the science behind it. When new discoveries are made in science, they usually directly affect the field of technology. For example, a centrifuge machine, used to separate particles within a liquid, could only be created after it was discovered that spinning a liquid at a fast rate would make it behave this way. Now, there are several companies that produce centrifuge machines. However, there is only person or group of persons that get to enjoy the credit for discovery the principle behind it. With the value of a patented product increasing, technological discoveries are usually laden with financial benefits. From this regard, a technological discovery would certainly be the way to go. For example, the person who created the refrigerator, would get to collect money every time someone made anything similar to it. However, as time passes the technology only advances making the original basic and obsolete. The fact remains that for any technology to be created, science has to be employed and so, I would want to be the person that made that invention possible.
Volti: Reading 3
If I were the leader of a poor or developing nation, I would remove all taxes for the importation of technology. This would make the decision to sell such products a lot easier for business owners. I believe that in doing this, more vendors or businesses small and large would be willing to buy and sell these products. Not only would this most likely increase the amount of technological products that come into the country but it would also force vendors to compete to sell their products at affordable rates. Also, businesses that invested in upgrading to include more technologically advanced equipment ( for example self checkout) would be privy to tax exemptions. I might also create a policy that made it possible for some of the country’s ‘budget’ to subsidize the cost of certain technological equipment, like ATM‘s, construction tools etc. This might open avenues for persons to explore inventing new technology that might be more applicable to the country.
Volti: Reading 4 (Fourth STC Question)
The issue of terminating life support is high on the list of complex decisions that sometimes have to be made. When I first read this question, I thought, I certainly would not want the person who decided whether or not any of my immediate family members could be taken off of life support to be a stranger. However, the more and more I argued it in my head, the easier it became for me to see that this decision is best left to the doctor, a professional who should be free of emotional implications. If dealing with issues such as this was made a part of the training that doctors undertake before getting their degree then I would see no problem in having a doctor make this decision. In fact, more often than people are aware of, doctors are forced to make similar decisions while in surgery. When a doctor decides not to attempt to resuscitate a patient, they are in essence ‘making the decision’. I also feel as if keeping someone alive because of the emotional ties to the situation might be taking advantage of the state that they are in.
I am aware of the fact that on rare occasions persons do recover from seemingly vegetative states. I am also aware of the fact that with the amount of cultural and religious identities that there are, certain considerations should be made. Nevertheless, I do think that if all doctors or perhaps a few were to specialize in analyzing this issue, it would significantly reduce the financial as well as emotional costs that often accompany it. Training could include having to study the case, way the chances of recovery, consider the religious affiliation and cultural restrictions, and counseling the family in an understanding environment.
Volti:Reading 5 (Fifth STC question)
Whether or not anyone approves of it, gene therapy is definitely one of the directions that science is heading. The power to alter/ repair genes can radically change human kind. I do not think it could be controlled by anyone. In fact, I think that the trouble would come about if the government did try to control it. No matter what kind of new medicine is discovered, it always follows the same trend. First, it is incredibly expensive because of being in the rudimentary stages and then as technology improves, it becomes cheaper for everyone. I predict that gene therapy will follow this pattern as well. I think that if it is studied sufficiently to ensure that there are no harmful implications, then it should be used to help with smaller issues like baldness. It might even be better if the smaller issues were studied first and then bigger issues like genetic diseases were tackled.
Volti: Reading 6 (Sixth STC question)
Yes, it is a bad thing. Allowing electronic media to overtake print media will surely have the effect of making literacy rates plunge even further down. I think that we should begin to focus on implementing tools to help with literacy into electronic media. For instance, the Microsoft word program flags basic errors in spelling and sentence structure in a way that a user cannot ignore. This has the effect of making persons stop, re-examine and sometimes correct the flagged error. If this tool was implemented on cell phones then more persons might pay attention to their language. To some extent, predicted texting has also helped in assuaging the problem of ‘text language’. Furthermore, print media still holds importance in areas such as advertising. Advertisement would be severely restricted if it were completely electronic. For example, in a place like London, where people walk everywhere, advertisements have to be placed on cars, buildings and inside public transport to reach a broader demographic.