Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sustainable development

Sustainable development is a new term that grew out of the conservation/environmental movement of the 1970's. While the conservation/environmental movement asked questions about preserving the Earth's resources, sustainable development includes questions about how human decisions affect the Earth's environment.
At this moment, sustainable development means different things to different people/groups. The most widely held definition is that of the Brundtland Commission Report of 1987 which stated we must " meet the needs fo the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". In other words, when people make decisions about how to use the Earth's resources such as forests , water, minerals, gems, wildlife, etc., they must take into account not only how much of these resources they are using, what processess they used to get these resources., and who has access to these resources.




Fresh water is a precious resource. Without proper drinking water, diseases such as cholera, dysentery and infectious hepatitis can develop and wipe out entire populations of people. People's access to fresh water sources is a key issue to the world's sustainability. One scientist who is working toward the goal of sustainable development, particularly in developing countries is Ashok Gadgil. Because he has witnessed the massive health problems due to the lack of fresh water supplies in his own home country of India, he worked on a solution to the problem and eventually invented the UV waterworks machine. Gadgil took what he knew about the destructive ability of UV light on living things and applied it in a positive way. UV light naturally destroys germs, viruses, and other pathogens by disrupting the organisms' DNA and thus their ability to reproduce. Standard fluorescent lamp technology can be used as a disinfecting system. Currently, water is boiled to eliminate unwanted germs. To boil water in rural areas of developing countries, it is customary to use wood as fuel. This increases air pollution as well as deforestation. With this new disinfecting machine, Gadgil found that it takes 40,000 times less primary energy than boiling water over a cook stove. He developed this machine to be inexpensive to make and operate making it accessible to developing countries where clean fresh water is hard to find.


 Energy, in its various forms, is very critical to continuing many of life's activities. One of the key issues facing the world is maintaining our supplies of energy resources for future generations. With the current rate of consumption, our energy resources will be depleted in the not too distant future. One scientist, Mark Levine, who is head of the Energy Analysis Program (EAP), is investigating global energy and environmental issues which is one of five components of the EAP.When asked how his department is contributing to sustainable development, Levine discussed four significant projects: promoting energy efficiency in China, energy efficiency in the industrial world, climate change impact, and creating a non-profit sustainable development institute at the Presidio, called the Presidio Pacific Center.
According to Levine, because China has the largest population in the world, the direction it takes in energy conservation will have a huge impact on the world at-large. For instance, Levine's department is trying to create a standard for energy-efficient refrigerators in China. Recall that refrigerators consume the most energy in households. If you imagine China, with its massive population how much energy is being consumed on a daily basis. Also, Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which come from lost coolants from air conditioners and refrigerators are a greenhouse gas contributing to global climate change.
Another project that Levine is pursuing is the development of the Presidio Pacific Center which would assist in training third world technicians in energy efficient technology. Levine believes that developed countries such as the United States have an obligation to lend their acquired technological knowledge to developing countries. Developing countries will flourish if they choose to use their technology in a sustainable manner.


Bioremediation is a new treatment technology to clean up contaminated environments through the use of microorganisms. The natural predatory characteristics of the organisms are utilized to either destroy or change hazardous contaminants to a less harmful form. This technology has proven to recover contaminated sites in a more cost effective manner with less risks to humans than conventional methods.Two cleaning methods have been used--in situ treatment methods degrade or change contaminants in place while ex situclean-up methods require the contaminants to be removed from the site to be clean-up somewhere else.
Examples of toxic wastes that have been cleaned-up through bioremediation are oil, sewage, pesticides, and agricultural chemicals.
One laboratory which researches bioremediation is the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the Center for Environmental Biotechnology. This laboratory is relatively new and participates in two different areas.
One area is to facilitate and coordinate interdisciplinary projects for six divisions and 70 scientists at LBNL. These interdisciplinary teams share their expertise to further the success of the projects. Imagine dealing with all the different problems associated with environmental pollution. Developing clean-up methods requires the attention and expertise of a variety of different scientists. For example in a toxic waste spill, a geologist would know the effects of pollution on the soil whereas a biologist would be able to assess the human risks associated with a particular pollutant.
The second area is to research microorganisms and bioremediation. Researchers are interested in the behavior of microorganisms in various polluted environments. They are researching how a microorganism has the capability of surviving in a polluted environment as well as how it uses the pollutant as a nutrient.

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