Natural resources and their bearing on the future of mankind
The random exploitation of natural deposits, both collectively and individually, for reasons best known to each citizen, has deeply affected the ecological balances. People around this planet now know for sure that its natural resources are exhaustible and are being exhausted at a very fast rate. It is therefore, our moral duty to preserve the energy resources available to us, as citizen of this planet Earth. Scholars around the world, have been researching and thoroughly investigating this very important issue – namely the preservation of energy resources naturally or artificially, and have made valuable contributions in solving this menace. Tremendous efforts on this subject have been put in via seminars, workshops, summer - winter school, discussions, debates, conferences. A huge amount of money has been spent all over the world, and a good number of write-ups in the international journals and magazines have been featured on the subject. Through this article we feel it necessary, to reflect our thoughts, views and opinions: To learn to think in a new way, a task set by Einstein and Russell several decades ago, is becoming particularly necessary these days.
Many countries are experiencing extremely great difficulties with regard totheir energy resources, primarily in obtaining oil, a major energy source. The world of today is inconceivable without oil and petroleum products. Present forecasts show that the planet has only enough oil for the next few decades, unless something serious is done and concrete steps are taken to protect energy resources. Gasoline, diesel fuels are not the only subject to be focused on as normally people think. Indeed, petroleum found a place in the modern world in a wide variety and unexpected domains in the present world. We all know that crude oil contains different hydrocarbons to a large extent, and with the availability of technology, a large number of refined products ranging from plastics to pharmaceuticals have found a place in the daily life of man.
|Our planet does not give man grounds to threaten its ability to sustain life and development.|
One of the most important uses of petroleum is in the production of ammonia to be used as the nitrogen source in agricultural fertilizers. In the early 20th century, Fritz Haber invented a process that allowed for industrial scale production of ammonia. Prior to that, ammonia for fertilizer came only from manure and other biological processes. Agriculture also depends on the use of pesticides to ensure consistent, healthy crop yields. Almost all pesticides are produced from oil. In essence, from running farm machinery to fertilizing plants, agriculture is one of the largest users of petroleum based products. The industry that uses petroleum to produce other chemicals is referred to as the petrochemical industry. It is estimated that industrialized nations currently consume petrochemical products at a rate of three and a half gallons of oil per day. This means that, excluding fuel oil, modern life results in each citizen of an industrial nation using over 1,200 gallons of oil per year. Some of the unexpected products made from or containing petroleum are plastics, pharmaceuticals, tires, dyes, detergents and many others: ink, upholstery, CDs, vitamin capsules, denture adhesive, putty, guitar strings, heart valves, anesthetics, cortisone, toilet seats, crayons, pillows, artificial turf, deodorants, lipsticks, hair coloring and aspirin.
In the past, scientists with reliable data have forecast fairly accurately when our other energy resources will first be depleted. Gas will last for a few decades or a hundred years and coal for another few hundred years. How will mankind develop its industries when these energy resources first become seriously depleted and then completely exhausted? How can mankind be provided with food if, according to official statistics, at the present level of world population a few million people die of malnutrition each year? This dramatic situation is not without a solution. It all depends on every citizen of the world, who is responsible for the well being of mankind, to campaign, educate and to show the right path to follow in the struggle of our very existence.
The current advances in science, particularly in physics, biology and chemistry give us every ground to say that we can solve our food and energy problems once and for all. It has been reported that the scientific community has carefully studied the long - term possibilities for mankind with respect to energy primarily through nuclear power engineering. Data clearly show that mankind will be able to provide itself with the energy it needs for life and progress. The periods which we are dealing with in this respect and which we regard as feasible run to thousands of years. They are based on statistical calculations which can open up truly boundless horizons.
The haphazard way of exploiting mineral deposits in certain parts of the globe poses a serious threat to the existence of mankind in future. But with the possibility of unlimited power, mankind will be able to exploit natural resources very differently from the way it did before. This includes exploiting very deep ores and using many artificial materials, which scientist and technologist have designed. Unfortunately, in certain parts of the world e.g. North Eastern parts of India - Meghalaya, where large deposits of natural resources, such as coal, limestone, uranium etc. have been found, proper scientific method for its extraction has never been done. This in itself is a serious threat to the existence of mankind. Coal mining has been the major source of income for people in these areas and random mining is most extensively practiced in all the districts of Meghalaya. As a result of this, the original lush green landscape has been converted to barren tracts. Large scale denudation of forest cover, scarcity of water, pollution of air, water and soil, and degradation of agricultural lands are some of the conspicuous environmental implications of coal mining. The total deposit of coal in Jaintia Hills district of the state is approximately 40 million tones spreading over patches of different sizes. The mining activities in the district are controlled by individual owners of the land. Coal extraction in the state is done by a primitive mining method commonly known as ‘rat-hole’ mining.
Our planet does not give man grounds to threaten its ability to sustain life and development. We are convinced that an end to the senseless wasting of time, effort and resources and the conversion of the vast industrial, scientific and technological potential to peaceful uses will open up broad opportunities for the creation of material benefits and the improvement of the quality of life if and only if we are ready to use our minds in a very meaningful way. Understanding the need of the hour, it reminds us the famous teaching of Gautama Buddha: “We are what we think. All that we are, arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make our world. Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment”.
All of the present global questions can be settled by the joint efforts of mankind, by the joint work of all individuals in their own capacity, with the will to rebuild and revamp respecting the mind of the youth which constitute the majority of our population. The money needed to solve these questions could certainly be found, if mankind found the wisdom and strength to give up war as an instrument for settling issues. As writers of this article we feel it necessary to remind the readers, “We are living under the brightening shadow of a Nuclear War and increasing Terrorism. Hopes of a decent peaceful life on Earth are fast receding. Is there no way to avert the war and end violence other than leaving the fate of the mankind in the hands of a few politicians? There is a way to save this world build a civilization attain peace in spite of the tremendous advantages of science and technology, we are scared, anxious and despairing even do not know what to do ourselves…”- Dr. Radhakrishna.
In the circumstances in which we find ourselves, the Russell-Einstein manifesto takes on a new urgency: ‘There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge and wisdom. Shall, we instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal, as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity and forget the rest’.
In conclusion, to think and act in a new way is really necessary. We believed that the time is ripe for all concerned to individually or collectively act. It is only through cooperation among peoples with different social systems and levels of development and understanding that mutually acceptable solutions to all the problems facing the world population today can eventually be found. The writers think that the people and the scientific community should force their governments to proceed along this road, which is the only road worthy of man.