Environmental Studies – PHS 100A
Warner Pacific College
October 10, 2011
Our post-industrial world is reaping all of the benefit and damage that comes from western culture. We have developed a society that has used the resources of our environment to make human life both longer and more comfortable. The result of this is that, in the United States, we have a carbon footprint that is over four times greater than the world average. (Withgott Brennan, p.16, 2011) Moreover, all western, developed nations use a substantially greater amount of natural resources than the rest of the world. We have used industry to develop a culture that is spending natural resources faster than they can be replenished. Today, we can use the scientific method to figure out how we have put ourselves in this position and how we can have a better future.
In order for us to understand how our culture has developed and the proper steps it would take to change, we need to realize that this is an interdisciplinary issue. (Withgott Brennan, p.8, 2011) A realization needs to be made that it doesn’t only take an understanding of natural science to change our environment. It is a much more holistic study of natural science that also includes social, ethical, and political implications. An objective eye is the only way science and culture can grow. This is the purpose of the scientific method.
Perhaps if the ancient tribes of Easter Island realized all the facets of their own culture that were being decimated by destroying their environment they would have done things differently. (Withgott Brennan, pp.6-7, 2011) Their declining environment ultimately correlated to a poorer diet, disease, and ultimately tribal fighting. To go from a culture that had the ability to erect great monuments to one that was discovered living in caves is a stark warning to our western culture. If we ask the right questions and apply the scientific method, our culture may be able to survive; more importantly, the planet will be able to as well.
The sequence of inquiry involved in the scientific method is an excellent way to develop efficiency and understanding. By observing the current condition we can draw questions as to how the world works. We can make hypotheses about declining species, limited land, pollution, and the well-being of humanity that we can test through both manipulative and natural experiments (Withgott Brennan, p.11, 2011). The concern that I have for humanity is whether or not we will be able to apply the results of more constructive science before it is too late.
An example of this would be the green energy movement. Through both industry and ecology Portland General Electric is offering a 100% renewable energy option for electricity. (http://www.portlandgeneral.com/residential/renewable_energy/green_source.aspx, 2011) This came about as a result of the scientific method being applied in a way to come up with sustainable solutions to the finite and dirty technology of older, fossil fuel-based production. Westerners need to decide whether or not we are willing to embrace the science of sustainable power or continue to wallow in the selfishness of old technology and long-term damaging resources.
The true question is whether or not we want to change the consumptive western culture. By applying the well-reasoned steps of the scientific method we have been able to understand the world we live in more efficiently. Whether or not westerners want to make this change is another story. As we export our culture to the undeveloped world we increase the speed in which we deplete our finite natural resources. There are Cornucopian idealists that will choose to ignore the fact that the world is not getting bigger in the midst of an ever growing humanity. There are also Cassandras crowds of people that declare that the sky is falling. (Withgott Brennan, p.18, 2011). I believe that if we decide to have the value to preserve the earth we will find the ingenuity to protect it.
Withcott, J, Brennan S, (2011) Environment, The Science Behind the Stories pp.6-8, 11, 16, 18 Benjamin Cummings, Boston
(2011) Green Source, Retrieved from, http://www.portlandgeneral.com/residential/renewable_energy/green_source.aspx, October 10, 2011