The Motives of Scientists

Jefferson Hopewell ch092442 at student.uq.edu.au
Tue Oct 10 18:41:50 EST 1995


jmc at Steam.stanford.edu (John McCarthy) writes:

>What's this garbage about "appalling rate"?  You wouldn't get away
>with saying that the sun is using hydrogen at an appalling rate.  What
>makes you think you can talk about the human future in such a sloppy
>way and make sense.  It can only be that you spend your time in an
>environment that requires precision in talking about astronomy but
>allows sloppiness in talking about human affairs - provided only that
>the sentiment expressed is ok.

>To get concrete, name two resources that are being used at a rate that
>can neither be sustained nor replaced.

OK, here's my shot at naming two resources that are being used at a rate 
that can neither be sustained nor replaced.

1)  Fossil Fuels
	Coal, oil and natural gas reserves are finite and took millions of
years to form. They will be essentially exhausted at some time in the near
future (estimates vary).

2)  Arable Land
	Being depleted by unsustainable agriculture practises 
	ie. Mismanaged irrigation schemes leading to salt build-up
	    Loss of topsoil (especially in semi-arid regions)
 	    Monocultures that require excessive external inputs
	    Land redevelopment
 
Any other resources?  What about fresh water?  Where I live, supplies of
potable water become alarmingly low recently as a result of increased
demand due to population growth. Overfishing? It can take decades to
recover fish stocks. 

Me?  I'm concerned about environmental degradation.  I'm also a scientist
and I enjoy living in a technological society.  Science and the scientists
who practise it are not the only or IMHO the primary cause of the sort of
problems I mentioned above.  Rather they result from people thinking only
in the short-term, from greed, or just plain carelessness. 

Jeff

.sigs are for sisses......



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