The ‘use-misuse’ case of Science

Of all the developments human race has achieved, there are a few that cannot be ignored. This is the story of Science and Earth.

In 1698, Thomas Savery, an Englishman, made the first operational Steam engine. It was a pump with valves operated by hand and was essentially used to raise water from mines by suction produced by condensing steam. This was further refined in design terms in 1712 by Thomas Newcomen, another Englishman, who added pistons to it thereby replacing valves. Then came 1765, and we got a revolutionary design of the steam engine that we can relate with even today. James Watt developed a new engine that rotated a shaft instead of providing the simple up-and-down motion of the pump, and he added many other improvements to produce a practical power plant. Little did he know then, that his invention would become a harbinger of ultimate chaos our planet has ever seen.

Early Steam Engine. Source: Britannica

These steam engines advanced, and were replaced by more efficient ‘Internal Combustion Engine’. The Internal Combustion Engine is nowadays the basic principle of gasoline engines, diesel engines, gas-turbine engines, and rocket propulsion systems.

Most of the vehicles around the world are using these engines to script their success stories. But what about the planet Earth?

While formulating a new device, technology, or invention, researchers cannot claim to their utmost safety and reliability to everything around. The perfect example to it is attributable as pesticidal application of DDT. Paul Muller was awarded Nobel Prize in 1948 for this. It wasn’t until Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, published in 1962, questioned the logic of broadcasting potentially dangerous chemicals into the environment with little prior investigation of their environmental and health effects. Thanks to Rachel, the whole world banned DDT afterwards.

The Earth’s modern-day fossil banks are the polar regions since these are covered with ice. Ice acts as a natural preservative. If you leave a wrapper of your candy now in Antarctica, there’s a good chance that your 20th generation would be able to collect that evidence well preserved (frozen) there after 800 years. Climatologists rely heavily on polar ice caps for their research because these provide an undisturbed reference to Earth’s climatic changes over the years (in the form of layers). This is way more effective than radioactive carbon dating because the fossils are well preserved uniformly in the form of layers. Now that these are melting at unprecedented rates, the loss of these fossilized layers looms largely on the Climatologist community.

The picture shows giant tabular icebergs. Source: APF Getty Images

The two biggest issues of 21st century are going to be disputes over fresh water resources and food security. Nobody is talking about it because everyone is busy in reaping profits from their personal concerns. Once the fertile lands transform into semi-arid lands, slowly turning to arid ones (thanks to chemical fertilizers and soil erosion), the risk of growing crops for a ‘larger than present’ population would be a challenge. The flash floods, the loss of seasons (and seasonal water sources as ponds and springs), and discharging pollutants into rivers would be a concern for cities relying heavily on these freshwater sources.

In all these above examples, we’ve seen that we’ve used Science and its tools beyond our scope. We overused these scientific measures, discoveries, and technologies, just so that few industries thrive better.

We can work out for the betterment of the human race and nature, all at the same time, but we won’t. Why? Because It doesn’t fall in our personal interests. It has started affecting our everyday lives, but we fail to admit. When you are allergic to fumes, gases, dust and pollution (all these constitute particulate matter, the PM) in a city like Delhi, don’t ask for others to change for you. Be the change yourself, because your next generation is learning from what you preach and what you exercise ‘in-real’.

Ajay Dixit

Ajay is currently working as consultant at Climate Connect Technologies Limited. He is an M.Sc in Environmental Sciences. An avid practitioner of Eco-friendly lifestyle himself, he likes to advocate same to the masses.


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