If we assume environmental problems are not overstated, I believe that we should seek solutions mainly through changes in the way we utilize global resources. To start, many believe in environmental technology saving the environment because of its potential, and how it has simplified and improved our lives in these past few years. I disagree because how much of these environmental technologies actually go into solving our ecological problems?
Electric transport, solar power, renewable energy, and more are among those we are well associated with when one brings up the term “environmental technology.” Sure, they are great but they are expensive. Let’s take electric cars as an example. They have low maintenance but are expensive to buy, manufacturing these cars only creates more emissions, and their batteries require rare metals so what’s it all for? It’s just a step forward but slower. Furthermore, if electric cars are supposed to combat carbon emissions, but it produces emissions themselves too, then is it as progressive as we want it to be?
A lot of these environmental technologies have the aim to conserve and reduce the consumption of resources but how much reducing is going to help the environment if we aren’t recycling and reusing? Let’s identify our main ecological problems. We have pollution, global warming, waste disposal, ocean acidification, deforestation, and public health. Now that we have this in mind, let’s identify the causes of these problems.
Pollution - combustion of fossil fuels and coal Global warming - emissions of greenhouse gases Waste disposal - waste produced and dumped in oceans
Ocean acidification - increase in carbon dioxide causes ocean acidity to rise
Deforestation - loss of trees for industrial projects
Public health - lack of clean water and pollutants in the air
Now that we have our problems, what are our possible solutions? We have our six fundamental resources being water, air, natural resources, rare earth elements, phosphorus, and coal. The main issue is the utilization of fossil fuels (considered a natural resource) which produces more emissions of greenhouse gases that increase our earth’s temperature and ocean’s acidity because we are burning them, and not caring for the product.
Let’s focus on fossil fuels since it’s both a natural resource and a leading environmental issue. The first thing we could do is to save resources like coal, oil, etc., and utilize more natural gases. Switching completely to renewable sources is near impossible because as we speak, fossil fuels are only clambering their way to the top in the market. Utilizing natural gases will buy us time to develop our renewable resources to be better, greater, and safer. When burnt, natural gases emit about half as much carbon dioxide, compared to coal. Due to it being a gas, it can lead to unprecedented leakages which is why companies must consistently check their pipes and walls where leaks are most likely to occur.
Despite this, we are still questioning how we are going to deal with the carbon dioxide that is produced. There is a solution that Stanford has identified known as carbon capture and sequestration. The idea is to capture carbon dioxide and store it underground in ‘deep geological formations’, to permanently sequester (hide away) carbon dioxide. Others are also exploring utilizing carbon dioxide to make recycled plastic.
Another way to use our fossil fuels is to run them using a system like a firebox, referring to the chamber of a steam engine or boiler in which the fuel is burnt. There are to be two units: a capturing unit and a separating unit. When the fuel is burnt from the reservoir, the carbon dioxide would head upwards and reach the separating unit where it separates the oil and the carbon dioxide, and this carbon dioxide is recycled and moves to the capturing unit where it transports it back into the reservoir.
Moving on, let’s focus on water. The thing about water is that it normally goes to waste which is why we must utilize it in a way that is self-sustaining. Another way we could cope with fossil fuels is by using water to generate energy. We could always heat water into steam to spin the turbines but due to the high heat capacity of the water, it would take a lot of energy to vaporize it. However, it isn’t just an idea if we use a supercritical turbine. Supercritical fluids have both liquid and gas properties so we just need to heat it up to a certain temperature and pressure for the compound to turn. After, we don’t have to worry about vaporizing it too greatly because ‘no water is turning into steam and wasting energy.’
There are a plethora of ways in conserving water well. A common difficulty is the waste of water that results from irrigation but if we were to implement a drip irrigation system that delivers water directly to a plant’s roots with timers that can be used to schedule watering. With a drip irrigation system, you can always just turn it off on cooler or rainy days to reduce water loss compared to spray watering systems.
To conclude, the main thing that we can withdraw from this article is the fact that there is a lot of ways we can utilize our global resources in healthier and more eco-friendly ways but that is not to say we should completely ditch the notion of using environmental technologies. It is simply to say that we should be seeking solutions through utilizing our resources differently with the means of being able to develop our technologies further. When it comes to prioritizing and saving our environment, there is no right or wrong way and it would be better to combine both ideas together such as converting carbon dioxide into fuel using nanoparticles. There are so many ways and so many possibilities, it just depends on what we choose to do with it.