This web page describes a course in Green Science and Technology. A list of the course material available can be accessed by downloading the attachment labeled GrnSciTechChapSum.pdf located at the end of this document. The text of a sample unit, "Sustaining an Atmosphere for Life on Earth" and a PowerPoint presentation of this unit can be downloaded from the attachments GrnSciTchCh11.pdf and EST-11.PPT, respectively. Complete PowerPoint presentations for each of the 18 units are available and can be obtained by contacting Stanley Manahan at the following e-mail address: email@example.com
Throughout the brief period that humankind has populated Planet Earth, the species has faced challenges to its survival. Human ingenuity and science have been remarkably effective in facing these challenges. Diseases that once virtually wiped out entire populations have been conquered. Modern agriculture has enabled the support of a global population several times larger than would have been possible without it. Enough water has been coaxed from often scarce sources to support large human populations in arid regions. The growth of human population has slowed to an extent that the most dire predictions of runaway population growth from just a few decades ago have proven to be unduly pessimistic.
However, despite its remarkable powers of adaptation, humankind is on a collision course with the carrying capacity of Planet Earth which, in the extreme, raises questions of human survival on Earth, at least with anything like the standard of living that we have come to expect. Peak production levels of petroleum, a resource upon which modern economic systems are based have now been reached, and wrenching adjustments must occur as this resource dwindles over the next several decades. During the last 50 years, a mere moment in the life span of human existence on Earth, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased by 15%, well on their way to doubling from pre-industrial levels during the next century. The potential effects of this greenhouse warming gas on global climate and all that implies for Earth’s carrying capacity, are many and profound. Many other examples can be cited of trends that must change if we are to continue to exist comfortably on Earth.
So, the enormous challenge facing humankind can be summarized in one word: sustainability. The definition of sustainability is essentially self-evident; achieving it is a challenge of enormous proportions. In 1987 the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Bruntland Commission) defined sustainable development as “industrial progress that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The achievement of sustainable development is the central challenge facing the present generations and those that immediately follow. The need is urgent and time is short.
Environmental pollution has long been recognized as a problem and measures have been taken to alleviate it. Dating somewhat arbitrarily to the 1960s, various laws and regulations have been implemented to deal with environmental pollution. These have concentrated on a “command-and-control” approach mandating maximum amounts of pollutants that can be released to water, the atmosphere, and other parts of the environment. Measures taken to control pollution have largely been “end-of-pipe” measures that remove pollutants from exhaust gases or wastewater before they are released and that deal with solid wastes by burying them in a (hopefully) secure location.
In more recent times the limitations of “end-of-pipe” measures have become obvious and emphasis has shifted to pollution prevention. An even more sophisticated approach has been the evolution of green science, as exemplified by the green chemistry movement, and its engineering counterpart, green technology. Green science and green technology are designed to carry out science, engineering, manufacturing, and other areas of human endeavor in ways that are oriented toward minimal environmental and resource impact with the highest degree of sustainability.
Green Science and Technology: The Path to a Sustainable Future, is designed to provide a general overview of green science and technology and their essential role in ensuring sustainability and sustainable development. The material is designed to be useful for individuals who need to know the principles of green science and the technology based upon it.