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Sunday, Dec 29, 2019 13:30 [IST]

Last Update: Sunday, Dec 29, 2019 07:54 [IST]

Is progress in science and technology turning detrimental for our environment?

SAIKAT K BASU
With A. DAS

Science undoubtedly has made tremendous progress over the past two years in almost all disciplines that is certainly going to impact us all in some way or other. From astronomy to geo physics; and from biotechnology and medical science to meteorology every discipline has demonstrated phenomenal growth that is awe inspiring and significant for our socio-economic growth and development around the planet. However, I personally feel that how we use the blessings of science and technology and adopt them into our life and society is a larger question to better explore, appreciate and understand.   While phenomenal growth in science and technology are blessings to our life and economy; but at the same time imminent challenges such as tackling malnutrition, pollution, Global Warming and Climate Change, automation and robotics, cyber crimes are negatively impacting our life despite the fact significant scientific and technological developments are associated with it. Technology is the use of science, which we are most familiar with.  Today, science has developed with great enthusiasm. The last two years have been the most glorious days of the development of Science. The most important developments in Science according to me in the past two years which has or will impact human kind in near future include: the research on Astronomy, the alien planet: KB18; research on Global Warming and Climate Change, Genomics, Robotics, 3D Printing Technology, Nanoparticles and many more.
Man has improved the method of creating things of luxury and now we need them more and more. Today, industries provide us with every need of our life starting from electricity to beds, cushions and items of luxury like couch big LED TV sets to expensive vehicles. However, to fulfill our needs we are exploiting our natural resources. However, we need to remember although based on the tremendous scientific and technological innovations our industries create a lot of useful items but at the same time it leads to the generation of significant amount of pollution. Common people are generally not aware of the hazards of pollution. Some major types of pollution include: air pollution, water pollution, etc. Let us look at them individually:
Air Pollution is the type of pollution that comes into most people minds when they hear the term ‘pollution’. This is the most widespread and common type of pollution. It occurs due to the harmful gases emitted by our numerous industries and factories. As an Indian the most common prominent example of air pollution in the country is demonstrated by the recent infamous fog in New Delhi. Air pollution might not seem harmful at lower concentrations like in the rural areas. But in places like New Delhi, the air pollution is so high that not a single thing could be seen in the sky during, office hours, on the road and the suspended particulate matter is seriously detrimental to both human and animal health. Air pollution is the main cause for many diseases like pneumonia, lung cancer, etc. which can be fatal if not treated properly and timely. Many air-borne diseases also have better chances to infect us due to the dust particles already damaging our lungs if we live in a polluted area. People also catch cough and cold more frequently than others. Air pollution mainly affects children and old or sick people.
Water pollution occurs to the water is called water pollution. This is also caused due to industries and factories. They release harmful chemical substances into nearby rivers and lakes polluting the water and making unfit for consumption. This mainly harms aquatic life which does form a staple food diet for the people living in coastal areas. People eat infected fish unknowingly. Marine animals can be polluted with various items like machinery oil from oil spills or plastic substances thrown away by humans or even their own waste which contains ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3), harmful to aquatic life. Hundreds of people die each year by drinking contaminated water or infected fish. WHO or World Health Organization announced that over 450,000 diarrheal deaths are caused due to drinking contaminated water! Contaminated water also causes a lot of diseases like dysentery, cholera, diarrhea, typhoid, etc. in fact there is an awful lot of diseases which are caused due to water contamination. After all this, still many people waste water not knowing how essential it is. Water is nowadays very scarce. Water scarcity has been showing a trend of rapid risen across India. This is all due to people wasting water without even thinking that how important it is for life. Many people die due to not getting water to drink. And the fortunate people waste water, a resource which should be used judiciously.
The recent findings on Global Warming and Climate Change are extremely worrisome that is negatively impacting our life across the planet. The rapid melting of polar ice and glaciers across all the major continents are a serious concern due to sea level rise with the potential of inundating several low land areas and islands; thereby jeopardizing the life of millions of innocent people. The scientific progress made in oil and gas exploitation and the technological innovations in automation industry has increased the release of greenhouse gases that is depleting our ozone layer and making the survival of a wide diversity of species including humans extremely vulnerable.  The scientific progress in genomics and nutrition research is phenomenal; however, we have malnourished children going to bed empty stomach across the world. The monumental development in robotics is changing our life but at the same time we are losing jobs that is certainly going to initiate socio-economic crisis in different countries, in this sense I feel that our lives are being seriously negatively impacted by the development in science in past two years.  The missile technology is an outstanding scientific development; but is this not making us more vulnerable to destruction? Pollinator insects are rapidly vanishing due to indiscriminate use of sophisticated pesticides making agriculture, apiculture and forestry industries vulnerable in the not so distant future.
Science has made monumental progress in the past two years. I hope it goes on evolving, bringing us new mysteries to solve and to understand the tiny bit of the universe on which Newtonian physics simple do not work which includes black holes and the speed of light. We are now under the developing stage knowing about everything partially. But, we will need to be careful because you never know what lays in the void of space maybe something beyond our imagination or theoretical objects like white holes and worm holes. We might be able to crack the riddles one day. For now, we do our best to understand our surroundings. Even when scientists are researching upon space; another group of scientists are making hypothesizing, experimenting and trying to figure out how to save our mother earth from the dangers of Global Warming and Climate Change. Modern air conditioners and refrigerators are equipped with technology to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, etc. are helping the establishment of green technologies to replace old carbon-based technology. Scientists have many ideas about how to stop the rise of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Mechanical trees are also under-construction. These would have the ability to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and catch the carbon in sheets of some special material. Well, these are just hypothesis of what would happen, for now. Let science keep amazing us with new technology and who knows how much more is awaiting us both on the positive as well as the negative use of science in our life and society.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi