Evo Morales, an Indigenous Bolivian who has served as President of Bolivia since 2006, is quoted as saying, “Sooner or later, we will have to recognize that the Earth has rights, too, to live without pollution. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans.” Mr. Morales is right! We cannot continue to abuse Mother Earth without dire consequences.
According to The Watchers, a daily news service that relays information on global events, world evolution and transformation, there are many environmental catastrophes taking place on our planet. Here are some that I noted.
A state of emergency was declared over a large natural gas leak pouring high quantities of methane and other gases into a Los Angeles neighbourhood on January 6, 2016. Numerous residents reported health issues and thousands of people have been forced to evacuate the area. The leak of natural gas was first observed October 23, 2015, and is now the largest natural gas leak ever reported.
A flow of toxic mining waste, which spilled into a main river in the city of Mariana, Brazil on November 5, 2015 has traveled at least 500 km (310 miles) through the Rio Doce since the event. The disaster has been proclaimed as the country’s worst environmental catastrophe in history. At least 11 people were confirmed dead, 15 went missing and hundreds of homes were devastated.
Bellandur Lake, the largest lake in the city of Bangalore, India, is extremely polluted by a high amount of ammonia and phosphate. From the air, the 36 km (22 miles) wide lake visually appears as if snow is covering a mountain. In reality what looks like snow is a large, white foam covering the water surface, an unnatural phenomenon resulting from extremely toxic, untreated, chemical accumulations. The froth has risen to a height of one meter.
A dam at a waste pond on Mount Polley Mine of British Columbia, Canada, full of toxic heavy metals burst on August 4, 2014, releasing 10 million cubic meters of wastewater and 5 million cubic meters of toxic slurry into Hazeltine Creek, Quesnel Lake and Polley Lake. Mining experts warn that the incident is the largest mining disaster in Canadian history, possibly even globally.
There are many, many more environmental catastrophes listed on the Watchers website, and I haven’t even mentioned the biggest one facing the planet, that is, climate change. Now it would be easy to get down and discouraged when reading this kind information, but as they say, “every cloud has a silver lining”. I still believe that the human spirit is strong and that we can correct our wrongs, even when it comes to the environment. So what is the silver lining you may wonder?
The silver lining is that we now have a tremendous opportunity to develop new technologies, which in turn would create new industries and jobs as well as benefit our planet environmentally. So what might these technologies look like? The Greenbiz website lists 9 technologies to clean up the planet. The livescience site lists 10 emerging environmental technologies. Some that caught my attention are:
We now have technologies to prevent CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Some of these makes the CO2 into something else that can be sold as products. Skyonic Corporation is building a commercial CO2 capture plant scheduled to begin operating this year which is expected to reduce 300,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year through a combination of direct capture from a cement plant and the making of commercial products, such as baking soda. This is a technology that could help to curb global warming.
Nuclear reactors are becoming safer. The technology for nuclear power has become so efficient that they now use the byproducts of conventional nuclear power production as fuel. The travel wave reactors, backed by Bill Gates, look to use depleted uranium to generate electricity, rather than leaving it to be stored or used in other applications, such as ammunition. This technology makes nuclear power plants much safer and solves the problem of nuclear waste. This could very well be an alternative to the polluting coal burning power plants.
The United Nations have predicted that water supply shortages will affect billions of people by the middle of this century. Desalination, the removing the salt and minerals out of seawater, is one way to provide potable water in parts of the world where supplies are limited but it is expensive and uses a lot of energy. Scientists are working toward better processes where inexpensive fuels can heat and evaporate the water before running it through membranes with microscopic pores to increase efficiency. That gives hope for new fresh water sources as much of our fresh water supply in the form of glaciers is melting and ending up in our oceans.
Hydrogen fuel cell usage has been touted as a pollution-free alternative to using fossil fuels. These cells make water by combining hydrogen and oxygen and in the process they generate electricity. Most recently, scientists have come up with ways to power laptops and small devices with fuel cells, and some car companies are promising that soon we’ll be seeing cars that emit nothing but clean water. That is great news for our environment.
OTEC technologies convert the thermal energy contained in the oceans and turn it into electricity by using the temperature difference between the water’s surface, which is heated, and the cold of the ocean’s bottom. This difference in temperature can operate turbines that can drive generators. This would be a clean source of electricity therefore helping to reduce climate change by eliminating coal burning power plants.
Bioremediation uses microbes and plants to clean up contamination. Examples include the cleanup of nitrates in contaminated water with the help of microbes, and using plants to uptake arsenic from contaminated soil. There is an urgent need to clean up many of the contaminated sites on our planet such as the Deloro mine, a 202-hectare site that lies 65 kilometres east of Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.
I recently watched Disney’s movie, Tomorrowland. This movie delivers a message of hope for humanity. It is a call to use our human mental abilities and imagination to make changes that can repair the environmental damage that we humans have created. Just reading about some of the many new technologies being developed gives me hope for our planet. We humans are masters at screwing things up, such as our environment, but we are resilient and savvy enough to fix our mistakes. It just takes public awareness through education, a political will, and economic motivation. New technologies create new industries and new jobs. We can fix our environmental problems and still have a thriving economy. Keeping things at the status quo is not an option.
There is a Cree Prophecy that says, “When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.” It’s time we put our health and our planet’s welfare ahead of profits. Our survival as a species depends upon it.