Running Head: SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Science, Technology and the Environment Jamie A. Adesso Empire State College
Author Note This paper was prepared for Science and Technology in Western Culture taught by Professor Raymond
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT The mentality and beliefs of early society have led to the many environmental issues that the modern world must resolve. Despite the knowledge provided by science and technology, controversy still exists over the importance of the environment, which problems should take precedence and the best solutions. The argumentative idea that man owns nature is an old belief that has led to two modern day conflicts; the first is between the Gitga’at of British Columbia and Enbridge, an oil company wanting to place pipelines through their home and the second is that of the European nations battling drug contamination in many waterways across the country. To deal with the environmental problems resulting from technology and science, Western societies created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Energy Council (WEC). Both organizations constantly fight against big businesses and politicians for the safety and improvement of the environment but this has been an uphill battle. In British Columbia, Canada lays a rain forest full of red cedar trees and endangered black bears with white fur. These bears owe their survival to the protection offered by the First Nations who did not hunt or trap the animal. In the water, purple starfish and eelgrass thrive while sharing this perfect biological environment with bands of the First Nations. The Gitga’at, a band that came to British Columbia because of a sinking ship, has helped to protect their natural and coastal environment to preserve their way of life. After the ship sank, the Gitga’at developed two beliefs; the first is “no matter how safe a ship, the most mundane human error can sink it” and the second, “when disaster strikes, they alone will be left to clean up the mess” (Barcott, 2011). It is these beliefs that not only cause the Gitga’at to worry, but also to fight against the placement of an oil pipeline through their home. Enbridge, a Canadian company yearning to build this pipeline, has big plans for sending large tankers with 2.15 million barrels of crude oil out west in order to open the oil sands to the
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT Asian markets. Patrick Daniel, CEO at Enbridge, believes it is in the interest of Canada to lay these pipelines. His business associate and the president of Northern Gateway Pipelines, John Carruthers claims the companies involved in this project “want aboriginal economic participation…” and they want the bands “to own a stake that will establish a long-term benefit to First Nations communities” (Barcott, 2011). Despite these statements, the oil and pipeline companies view the world quite differently from the Gitga’at, bringing no end to this fight. The Gitga’at have beliefs similar to Emerson’s thoughts in his essay, “Nature.” They feel that while a person may own land, no one owns the landscape. “There is a property in the horizon which no man has…[it] is the best part of these men's farms, yet to this their warrantydeeds give no title” (Emerson, 1849). In an effort to save their land and keep their landscape pure and natural, the Gitga’at are strongly opposing Enbridge’s plan to preserve their home and nature. An opposing argument stemming from beliefs passed down throughout history, the oil and pipe companies feel nature belongs to them. They no longer “see nature” the way they did as children. According to Emerson, “most persons do not see the sun; they have a very superficial seeing. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood” (1849). While it is unlikely that this is the direct source of the beliefs of the Gitga’at or Enbridge, it does provide a foundation and reason as to why some people value nature and others do not. A person can say the same thing a thousand ways, but the meaning remains the same, so whether the words of Emerson are used or not, the belief and founding principal is present.
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT After stumbling across the fact that Enbridge had a pipeline leak over the summer, it is even clearer that this company no longer sees the sun. This pipeline company, as well as those involved in this project, place no value on anything but money, since contaminating the United States’ Yellowstone and Kalamazoo Rivers with tons of oil appears to have no meaning and raises no concerns. For the upper level executives on this project to go before the Canadian government, guarantee nothing is going to happen and try to convince them to trust Enbridge and Northern Gateway Pipelines is the work of people and companies that have no moral or ethical standards, let alone concern for the environment. Thus far, Canada and its people have managed to preserve their environment and sent many loggers and drillers away, but locals still have concerns since the project is under review. Doug Neasloss, a Kitasoo wildlife guide and marine planner, has fought for the Canadian rainforest since childhood and fears another Exxon Valdez situation on Canada’s shores (Barcott, 2011). The fact that this pipeline proposal is on the Canadian government’s schedule for the next 18 months and is so big a joint review panel was set up to oversee it, also triggers much concern among the local population (Barcott, 2011). Hopefully, the Canadian government looks at the historical and recent damage done throughout the world by the negligent and reckless behaviors of companies such as Enbridge and prohibits the pipeline. In addition to the technological progressions of man and their impact on the environment, science has also contributed to the downfall of nature. The many types of radiation used for xrays, chemical combinations in pharmaceuticals and experimental projects have caused much harm to all aspects of the environment (Mukherjee, 1977). The improper disposal of legal and illegal drugs created by scientists is contaminating the water, soil and crops throughout European
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT countries, as well as the rest of the world. Steps to alleviate this problem are in place but many concerns and arguments still exist surrounding this issue. For centuries, people have looked for cures to treat illnesses and diseases. During ancient times, herbal and natural remedies were common, along with holistic methods of healing (Castleman, 2001). As times changed, scientists created modern prescription medicines and with them came environmental hazards (Van Dersal, 1946). Again, this goes back to the idea that man owns nature or has power over nature. People are no longer using natural resources in their raw form. Instead, they are combining, manipulating or altering them to make products beneficial to society and survival, but never the environment. Discarded medications end up contaminating the soil, affecting crops and the people that consume them. Drugs, whether legal or illegal, also make their way into water systems, poisoning fish, animals that come to drink and humans by entering tap water (Alter, 2009). While these problems pose a risk to everyone and many countries are striving to address the impact of drugs on the environment, Europe is creating the controversy. The European Union wants to make it a requirement for doctors to perform an environmental review of new drugs before writing out a prescription. Sweden, responsible for voluntarily implementing this requirement, created a database enabling doctors to check whether a medicine is ecofriendly. According to an article published by Environmental Health Sciences, “this database is the first of its kind in the world, prompted by a broader law in Europe that transforms the way pharmaceuticals are evaluated before going to market” (Knoblauch, 2009). The European Union developed this requirement after learning of drugs in drinking water and waterways as well as the harmful effects they have on aquatic species.
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT Germany was the first to realize pharmaceuticals were contaminating the waterways when they found a drug used to lower cholesterol, clofibric acid, under a water treatment plant. Soon, this same drug appeared, along with fenofibrate, ibuprofen, phenazone and diclofenac, in local water systems and beneath sewage plants. Further studies done on drinking water showed traces of drugs used to treat bacterial infections and cancer along with hormone supplements (University of Arizona, 2011). The fact that so many different types of drugs exist in a number of water sources throughout the European nations is alarming and prompted the EU to take action, hence the database. Many European countries, along with the pharmaceutical industry, are on board with the new database but some scientists and medical professionals do have concerns. A physician at Central Hospital in Vasteras, Dr. Lars Loof, said, “…the database is useful but it needs more hard data on drugs, especially older ones that don’t fall under EU legislation. Physicians do use the database, but it’s not yet common for them to use it for every prescription because it’s still lacking a lot of information on pharmaceuticals” (Knoblauch, 2009). Frederick Bouder, a King’s College research associate, has another concern and states “It’s far worse if people in need of a treatment lose the treatment because of a poor risk assessment that overestimates something that’s a small risk to the environment. At the same time, it would be a pity if people are contaminated by something quite bad because we haven’t understood the interactions of several chemicals in the water” (Knoblauch, 2009). Both professionals make valid arguments as to why the EU should delay implementing the database and the current issues need a resolution prior to going forward otherwise, people’s health is at risk. Another problem is the lack of cooperation of all of the European countries. Although many nations are on board with this new database, some only want to fulfill the minimum
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT requirements set by this new practice if it receives the European Commission’s approval. While no one country or organization is fighting this policy, much disagreement does exist over the database and the ability to create only “green” pharmaceuticals. This way of thinking stems partly from the instinct to survive and put oneself first but also from man’s sense of entitlement. “Man in the state of nature was vested with an entitlement to make use of nature’s bounty in order to advance his survival and his well-being” (Kramer, 2004). Such a belief has led men to use nature for his own purpose with regard for no one and nothing other than himself. It is of the utmost importance that people finally begin to change their views and work to protect the environment, which is the intention behind this new database. Lisa Anfalt from Sweden’s Environmental Ministry Division feels that “Without this information, doctors and patients cannot take environmental aspects into account when choosing between products” (Knoblauch, 2009). In Germany, they are taking action to show their support for the new database through a program called START. This program is responsible for uniting pharmaceutical industry officials so they can work together and “explore ways to reduce contamination of waterways” (Knoblauch, 2009). This database is simple and upon improvements, could be beneficial to the future of medicine, the environment, man and other living species. For too long, too many people have held on to their deeply rooted ancient beliefs about nature, even if not on a conscious level, and now is the time for these beliefs to change. Humans have to understand they can live healthy and productive lives without damaging the environment and that the maintenance of nature means the survival of all. The human race has to realize now is the time for ignorance to end, for thinking to progress and for old world beliefs to fade away.
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Alter, L. (2009, September 24). Treehugger. Retrieved September 19, 2011, from Treehugger: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/09/epa-looking-at-gender-bender-chemicals-in-water.php.
This article is about a study conducted by the EPA regarding the impact of drugs in waterways on aquatic species. The article also mentions concerns the EPA has about drugs in drinking water and how they may affect today's children, as well as future generations. The author speaks with no biases, cites sources and provides facts. This article is relevant in supporting the idea that science is not without its consequences and the damage done to the environment and to people requires corrective action, a topic that arouses much controversy.
Barcott, B. (2011). Pipeline Through Paradise. National Geographic , 54-65.
National Geographic Magazine has a reputation for providing informative, unbiased articles to its readers and this story is no exception. In addition to factual details and interviews from a variety of sources, the author provides visual data to enhance the article and as another way of getting his message to the reader. This article was useful because it spoke of a current environmental issue and offered views from people on each side of the argument.
Castleman, M. (2001). The New Healing Herbs: The Classic Guide to Nature's Best Medicines. Rodale.
This book contains information about the top 100 herbs that a person can use to treat illnesses, from ancient remedies to modern discoveries. The value placed on natural remedies shows that at one time man respected nature and looked to it for survival. As the mind evolved, so did the beliefs around cures, leading to the creation of science. This book helps to remind members of modern society about medicinal roots, alternatives to science and the power that nature possesses. Holding strong views about herbal medicines, biases to science are present within the pages of this book, but it is still informative and reliable in regards to medicinal history and how man's thoughts on nature have changed.
Emerson, R. W. (1849). Nature. Boston: James Munroe & Company.
Emerson is a credible source and a writer whose works often come up as references in conversation or essay. His views on nature provide insight into the thoughts of people during this time and his philosophical approach permits him to question his own thoughts, then answer them. By looking at both sides of the argument, Emerson avoids any bias. The statements and beliefs held in this particular essay support the idea that people do not own all of nature, that their "entitlement" ends with their property line, giving them no right to destroy or change what is not theirs. This oppositional view to the majority's beliefs of the time and in the past, shows how man's thinking can lead to problems for society.
Knoblauch, J. A. (2009, February 4). Europe leads effort to push for design of "green" drugs. Retrieved September 19, 2011, from Environmental Health News: http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/benign-drugs-by-design
In this article, the writer talks about the impact of science on the environment and the efforts made by Europe to rectify this problem. This information supports the reckless behavior of man through scientific progression due to poor attitudes regarding the environment and the view that these attitudes need to change. Controversy is also depicted in this article since there is some opposition to the proposed changes, though mostly to improvements needed regarding the software. The writer quotes reliable sources and appears to be without bias.
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT Kramer, M. H. (2004). John Locke and the Origins of Private Property: Philosophical Explorations of Individualism, Community, and Equality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
In his book, Kramer talks about law and property but in reference to Locke, his philosophy and beliefs. In one section, he refers to Locke's thoughts on "man" as the individual and as the society. He goes on to talk about entitlement and questions how this view affects society since each man may feel he is entitled, while every man (society) feels they are also entitled. This view allows one to consider how people's various interpretations can lead to the survival of the individual versus the survival of society. The greater concern for the self leads to the downfall of the whole and supports the idea that people do not care about things, i.e. nature, if they do not benefit from them.
Mukherjee, R. N. (1977). Comparative Biological Hazards of Chemical Pollutants and Radiation.
The author of this document discusses the damage scientific advancements have caused to the natural environment as well as ways to avoid certain types of destructive elements. It also points out that despite having knowledge of detrimental effects from experiments gone wrong; the desire for improvement was enough to overlook the long-term complications. This study supports the idea that people care about themselves more than they do about the environment or lasting consequences, making it useful in supporting the historical aspect of this assignment. The study was also significant because it provides facts and details regarding the impact of pharmaceuticals on nature.
University of Arizona. (2011). Pharmaceuticals In Our Water Supplies: Are “Drugged Waters” a Water Quality Threat? Tucson, Arizona, USA.
This article appears unbiased and provides general information. It speaks of water contamination in Europe and the United States as well as the causes and origins. It makes some reference to authoritative figures or organizations but provides no direct sources. Still, for the purpose of this paper, it provides data supported by other research and therefore, appears accurate and reliable.
Van Dersal, W. R. (1946). The land renewed: the story of soil conservation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
In this book, the author talks about the impact of man and his ancient remedies on soil, which led to erosion. This book also mentions the fact that ancient civilizations cared enough to try to resolve such problems because they knew how important the land was to their survival. Somehow, these beliefs got lost in time because these are not the values held by modern man. The book provides useful and supporting information about mans desire to improve and how this desire was overcome with a more selfish attitude that lead to the continuation of scientific developments, mostly with regard to medicine, thereby increasing the damage to the environment. This section is very brief within the book, as the main focus is on soil erosion, but it gives an overview of the history of man's values as well as some information on the topic of science and the impact both had on nature.
Volti, R. (2010). Society and Technological Change. New York: Worth Publishers.
This book speaks specifically about technology, its evolution, and its impact on society. It refers to society's reluctance and acceptance of technology over the years and the problems brought about by man's lack of foresight. The author does appear to favor science and technology but does talk about arguments for and against technology, with an emphasis on man's resistance and the downfalls of progression. It is these arguments that provide support in this paper.
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT