I just finished up a final copy of one of the papers that I talked about in my last post, so I thought I would share it with you now even though I said I wouldn’t be posting until next week. This paper needs some context for it to make sense. We were assigned a paper to read called “An Apology to Future Generations” by Simon Benlow and then write a response either about what we wanted to apologize for or why we disagreed with the paper. I tried to find this paper on google and had no luck so sorry; I’ll just have to tell you about it (I did find the text book it came from The Composition of Everyday life: A guide to writing chap 12 if your interested). This article basically said we are screwing everything up (environment, society, and stuff like that) with no regard for future generations. The response I wrote is called “No Apology for a Generation that Pushed and Exceeded, the Boundaries of the World around Them.” Here is a pdf if you want it (the pdf is a much better read). The html version follows.
No Apology for a Generation that Pushed, and Exceeded, the Boundaries of the World around Them
I can not apologize for what my generation has done. Yes, we made mistakes, but we also made great advances. Our mistakes will no doubt negatively affect future generations in some way, but I believe that the benefits of our advancements in medicine and science will far outweigh all of our mistakes. There is no reason to assume that our mistakes can’t be fixed with new break throughs in science. Our generations have done terrible things, but we have also made advances in science that may allow us to make up for those things; we can change the way we get resources and possible fix the damage that we have caused.
We have cut down forests, pillaged the oceans, and spewed green house gasses into the atmosphere. In hindsight these are terrible things, but when we started doing them we couldn’t imagine the effects they would have. The problems of our lifestyle has only just started to show their ugly faces, and my generation is poised to find a solution. I don’t think a solution means that we have to change our lifestyle; We need a cleaner, safer way to do things. Just because riding a bike can kill you doesn’t mean you should stop riding; it means you should buy a helmet and be cautious.
By not changing our life styles I don’t mean that we should keep cutting down forests, over fishing the oceans, and spewing out CO2. I mean we should find a way to have the luxuries of a scientific society without doing those things. We can plant fast growing trees, possible genetically engineered to grow much faster, in tree farms for making paper and other things that don’t require hardwoods. We can make fisheries on dry land so that we never have to fish from the oceans again, so that the fish are much closer to our homes, and so they will have lower mercury levels. We can make electricity, and other forms of power, in ways that don’t require us to burn fossil fuels. We can figure out how to remove the green house gasses that we have already put in the air. We can recycle.
It is obvious that cutting down the rain forests is something that just shouldn’t be done, but living without wood is almost impossible. That is where tree farm come in. Tree farms have been around for a while, but not in very large scale. There are problems to tree farms though; It takes a long time to grow trees, so it isn’t an overnight fix, and hardwood tree farms would be almost impossible. Most wood that is used goes into making paper and food products. All of the would that is used for those applications are softwoods, like pine, which can be fairly easily farmed. Combined with recycling the paper that we have already made and using less paper humans could almost get ride of the need to harvest natural forests entirely.
There have been universities and other organizations that been trying to make fish farms in the oceans work for a few years now. These farms consist of a big net full of fish and some computers that feed them whenever they need it. I don’t think that is the best way to do it, but it certainly could work. To cut down on pollution from transporting the fish from the ocean to plates, the fish farms should be on dry land. A large building with a big tank of water, like a giant fish tank, would be all one needs. Not only would this make it cleaner, it would make it cheaper in the long run. because if the fisheries are in the ocean one would have to travel to get to them and back. If the fish farms are in our backyards we can keep a watchful eye on them without motor-boating a few miles into the ocean.
On top of changing where we get natural resources we must change where we get non-natural resources. I have recently heard of self contained fission reactors the size of hot tubs that can power thousands of homes for upwards of a decade. These reactors are designed in such a way that they have no moving parts and thus do not require any human interaction to work properly and safely; they would be just like any battery that one might buy at any local store except much bigger. A town could buy one of these and power the entire town for years with no greenhouse gasses emissions at all. Of course, nuclear fission has it downsides, radioactive waste. Radioactive waste can be reburied in the ground, but it still remains dangerous. It could be thrown into the sun, but currently there is no safe way to get it into space. The ultimate solution to our energy needs seems to be nuclear fusion. Energy producing fusion is still years away but we have made great strides in the area.
Assuming that this generation, or the next, can reduce CO2 emissions to an acceptable level there will still be a lot of CO2 in the atmosphere that shouldn’t be there. The CO2 and methane that cause global warming must be removed from the atmosphere if the situation is really going to improve; I think that this could be done. I read once of a type of concrete developed that could absorb CO2; buildings made of CO2 absorbing concrete could greatly reduce the amount of CO2 in the air, but more is likely needed. If my generation can find a way to take huge amounts of both greenhouse gasses out of the air, there would be much more time to figure out how to stop polluting.
Not every country in the world could do all of these things, but the countries that can’t are most likely not the ones that are causing the problems. My generation has made mistakes, the fact that there are still poverty stricken countries that are being taken advantage of by “the developed world” is evidence of our mistakes, but we can fix them. I have always said that it is okay to break something as long as you can fix it; breaking things is just a learning experience.