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Thursday, September 20, 2012.docx

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Natural Science
NATS 1840
Carol Bigwood

Science, Technology and the Environment (SC NATS 1840A) – Thursday, September 20, 2012 READINGS CHAPTER 28, 26, 19.1+19.5, READINGS ON MOODLE (M.HOCKING) Example: Neo-Malthusians  Human population is too high already;  Present resource use & growth is unsustainable  Pollution should be prevented rather than remedied  Best technology is small and decentralized  Thomas Malthus predicted (~1800) that mass starvation would soon occur.  Paul Erlich made a similar prediction in ‘The population bomb’ (1968);  Eco-centric Example: Cornucopians  Ability of earth to support growth is unlimited;  Economic growth yields technological advances, less pollution, &improved human welfare  Population growth supports economic growth  Consequences of pollution can be managed as needed;  Large, centralized technological solutions  Earth as the horn of plenty  Julian Simon (1932-1998) described human ingenuity as “The ultimate Resource” (1981)  Anthropocentric Cornucopians vs. Neo-Malthusians Debate ongoing since 1970s between ‘doomers’ and ‘optimists’  Both sides are somewhat extreme viewpoints in the environmental debate;  Neo-Malthusians have tended to make strong predictions which turn out to be wrong. Simon made a bet with Erlich on the price of commodities in 1980s – Simon won;  Cornucopians appeal to induction to claim all will be well and that environmental problems are exaggerated.  Difficult to accept the claims of unlimited resources given that the earth is a finite system. But also difficult to accept that we are on a path to destruction and that over 70% of the human population should go. What is your own worldview? Wide spectrum of views and philosophies.  Most will disagree with at least some of the ideas at either extreme  Worldviews should be founded upon some knowledge of the fundamental issues  New information available on a regular basis, so outlook should be flexible. Risk: The possibility of suffering harm or loss. Everyday risks -> instinct. When instinct is insufficient, rely on experience and best estimates to assess risk objectively.  Scientific evidence and plausible assumptions use to eliminate the probability of harm. Risk = probability = likelihood of an outcome Probability (an example): Consider a tree with four apples on it two of which are ripe. Pick two apples with eyes closed. Q: What is t
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