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Science, Technology and Innovation for a sustainable future

The pressure of population with growing consumerism is exceeding the earth’s capacity to support life
Dr Muhmmad Amin Malik
Srinagar | Posted : Apr 16 2018 1:27AM | Updated: Apr 15 2018 11:54PM
Science, Technology and Innovation for a sustainable future
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Science is all about developing theories and discovering laws to promote better understanding of the whole physical and natural world around us. Technology is the application of this knowledge to create products that promote quality of life and human wellbeing. Innovation is the process of introducing novel ideas into use that creates value. It opens the inventions from science, technology, engineering etc to be usefully applied in the society. Science, technology and innovations are important drivers of economic growth and social development in the contemporary world and it has contributed a great deal to the human welfare. Its role for building a sustainable future has become a topic of discussion across the world.  We need to take a holistic view of the impending situation, examine its role in overcoming the greatest challenges facing humanity today.

The pressure of population with growing consumerism is exceeding the earth’s capacity to support life. The natural resources vital to our survival are running out faster than we can replace them with sustainable alternatives. The environment is steadily eroding, the planet is heating up, climate is changing and in search of food and luxuries humans continue to exploit everything on earth. At the local level, the air quality is becoming more and more toxic; wastes threaten surface, ground waters and agricultural lands. Now science is sounding the alarm that the future wellbeing of mankind is at risk. It predicts a future when humans would have no resources to survive and the world would be heading towards global energy crisis. The solution to the problem has become more fundamental. Now it is important to develop sustainable clean-energy technology and look for, to control climate change, achieve food security, reduce disaster risks, realize sustainable industrialization and solve the problems of poverty and unemployment. No doubt the research is needed to discover a new cure for cancer, new devices to harness energy, create better engineering/construction options but all that should be in harmony with environmental sustainable goals.

The sun is undoubtedly the greatest sustainable energy source for earth and it is seen a solution to the problems of pollution, global warming and power shortage. The scientific data shows that there is enough solar energy available to fulfill all our energy requirements and that of other life on earth for now and forever. The solar energy is free but its conversion use is expensive. It has become difficult to produce highly efficient solar technology, the efficiency of installed PV panels worldwide have a performance of 15% or lower. There are daunting challenges and more research needs to be done developing new materials that absorb sunlight more efficiently. The future appears bright as new research in nanotechnology, biotechnology and new concepts like bio-solar cells, organic solar cells, energy harvesting trees, smart materials, are coming up which may offer a less expensive and more flexible ways  to exploit  solar energy. Quantum-dot solar cells are considered future timeline technology with a potential to increase the efficiency further. It is quite sure that future of transportation will be electric and self-driving vehicles based on these solar cells. Then solar plants have to be installed on rooftops so that photosynthesis and the growth of plant and animal life on land are not hampered. 

Garbage and waste disposal is a major issue in our cities and towns. The unscientific and indiscriminate disposal of garbage, problem of landfills, septic systems and underground tanks is polluting our lakes and rivers, contaminating groundwater. The environmental problem arising out from this is posing a threat to the whole society. How can people allow any agency to establish a garbage dumping site in their vicinity? The only option remains that municipal bodies have to use the latest scientific mechanism to recycle the domestic waste. Today many countries in the world see garbage not a problem but an opportunity to create energy as well as employment and they see waste as gold and misplace resource. Sweden is a country which has highest rate of recycling and have lot of waste to energy plants, importing garbage from Norway to convert it into energy. Eco-friendly toilet concept has come up that saves water and doesn’t contaminate ground water. Commercially viable and environment friendly construction techniques like earth architecture can be taken up using only mud, stones and other locally available eco-friendly materials for building purpose. Green building concept soaks up CO2, producing clean oxygen can mitigate the environmental impacts. 

 

Getting back to nature is something we all must aspire, as it is always better than artificial. It is very important to re-evaluate our lifestyle and food habits and transform ourselves in a way that allows us to meet our basic needs ourselves. We need to improvise procedures and more innovations are needed to shift ourselves from the present. The things can start right from our homes. We cannot survive without plastics but we should learn how to reduce the use of plastic and find eco-friendly alternatives to avoid it. An increase in walking/cycling for short journeys could significantly reduce traffic congestion which will reduce emissions, improving air quality and our health. The vegetables available in the market are generally grown with harmful chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, antibiotics and growth hormone. We can develop a self-sustainable farm, grow vegetables in our kitchen gardens with just water, soil and sunshine through organic farming. We can develop our own livestock by introducing native breed of cattle to boost economy and create job opportunities.  The more natural our life and products become, the safer and healthier it is for us and for the environment.

Building a sustainable future is not primarily about science, technology and innovation but it needs a radical thinking of how we use technology and develop innovations within an increasingly complex society. It requires fundamental changes in our attitude and behavior and the progress in this direction depends on education and public awareness. We can learn to harness the technology only when we are familiar with the basics of scientific concepts like conservation, energy efficiency, reduce-reuse-recycle, water harvesting, organic farming, rooftop gardening and understand various technologies on solar, thermal, photovoltaic, wind, rain, geothermal, biomass etc. It is not a big deal to learn these things today.  But we need to explore ideas and discover new ways viable to our society. We can build a knowledge based society which will have a significant impact on our lives to foster economic growth and environmental sustainability.

Dr Mohmad Amin Malik is Associate Professor Higher Education Deptt, J&K