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Reith Lectures 2010 - lecture two: Surviving the Century

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick 08:20, Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Rees 600

The second of this year's Reith Lectures, 'Surviving the Century', is now over. You can replay our live chat here in the this blog post. Do so while listening to the lecture itself. Many listeners joined in with the conversation about the lecture and its themes, here in the live chat, on Twitter (using the hashtag #Reith) and in email. Get the Reith lectures podcast here - you can download the lectures to listen to on your computer or MP3 player. It's free and you can keep them forever.

Now we'd like you to tell us what you thought of the lecture and its themes but also of the live chat itself - did it add anything to the experience for you? And if so, should we try this with other Radio 4 programmes - and which ones? Click 'comments' and leave yours. We'll be doing this again for the third lecture, next Tuesday 15 June at the same time (0900). In the meantime, we'll continue to scan the #Reith hashtag on Twitter and remember the Radio 4 Facebook page is also a good place for discussion of our programmes and web sites.

Steve Bowbrick is editor of the Radio 4 blog

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Can science save the Earth?

    Save or destroy. Could go either way really.

  • Comment number 2.

    If we need to use science to save the earth and save life, we have done something very wrong.

    As humans, we are born with intuition. For so long, we have gone against it, for so long we have been making huge errors in an attempt to create the 'perfect' situation.

    We try to use our intelligence to make things better but our intelligence often fails us, as there is a massive difference between intelligence and intuition, i.e. doing what is right.

    Life is simple complicated by people. Look at a tree. It survives for century after century because it takes only what it needs.

    Man seems to want more. Always looking for something 'better'.

  • Comment number 3.

    Science can only help in the aftermath. The real problem is the number of people on this planet demanding resources - and the perpetual growth in that figure.

    Reduce the population - or, at least, reverse the growth for a significant period - and we won't need science to continually squeeze more output per hectare of land or more efficiency out of engines.

    The greater the imbalance between demand and availability, the more inhumane and violent the process of reblancing will be

  • Comment number 4.

    Very little work has been done on reuse. Imagine if instead of melting down scrap steel construction beams (which uses vast amounts of energy) you could simply remove the beams and reuse them. We need a lego society where as many components as possible in as many sectors as possible are designed to be reusable.
    This approach would save huge amounts of energy and materials.

  • Comment number 5.

    You can't slash funding for 'blue sky' science and then expect a beleaguered and impoverished scientific community to come up with the goods. All the 'talent' has deserted the sinking ship years ago because they want job security for than 2 years and to enjoy luxuries such as eating.

  • Comment number 6.

    Space is he answer. A whole universe of resources out there. Get building!

  • Comment number 7.

    Clearly the private and academic sector is where the best science is done and real solutions to alternative energy requirements will come from. Indeed even now the developments coming out of the private sector are numerous, innovative and very practical. Two problems with this route though are that it the overall solution will be arrived at over time and employ numerous technologies all the while that government puts obstacles in the way of implementation. Government involvment tends to go for the overpriced super jumbo "silver bullet" approach which crowds out all other solutions. Of course, the more money that goes into a project the more money and time will be required to arrive at the solution - even if becomes clear the solution may not even exist based on present day technologies. How long have been people been talking about and governments investing in Fusion? Are these huge inefficient wind farms the solution?

  • Comment number 8.

    Only a scientific approach can help us both identify the problems we face as a global society and find solutions that have long term benefit.

    But, this approach must be accompanied by objective, rational thinking by all stakeholders in national governments and international bodies.

    Politicians must let go of short term sectional interests and think out of their comfort zones. They have to allow their scientific advisors the freedom to act and collaborate internationally without political pressure. They must avoid knee-jerk responses to tabloid scare stories and look at the hard evidence. If hard evidence does not exist then the precautionary principle must be applied. This is simple common sense.

    Those who think science is the problem are wrong. It is the desire for relentless economic growth and pursuit of selfish national interest that are the principal causes of our current problems. New knowledge revealed by scientific research can yield technologies which make the problem worse or those that can make it better. The science itself is 'neutral'. The choice of which direction we go in is up to all of us in our own ways.

    Everyone can contribute - use a bit less energy, walk more, recycle more, replace brown and white goods less often, buy much more locally produced food, don't buy bottled water etc. But we can also do more by learning about the problems we face and becoming more active policitally in requiring our representatives to engage more effectively in the debate.


  • Comment number 9.

    Probably not, in the long run, but it's got a damn sight better chance than anyone else.

    Science can only enhance how willing we are to save ourselves. Until we find the drive to save ourselves from ourselves, science will never find its time to shine.

  • Comment number 10.

    Science can stem the bleeding, that's for certain. But save it? Not without our co-operation on a responsible approach to population management.

  • Comment number 11.

    This week,there seemed more than a hint of blaming
    `Eco-freaks and Animal Rights`(normally the forced rhetoric of the drug industry)but it is important to remember that the early Royal Society collaborated with some of the worst regimes which ever existed.With the exception of Newton-who was a secret dissenter-they helped put back womens` rights,slave abolition,universal education and healthcare by centuries at:

    http://americanstalingrad.bravehost.com/HOLLYWOODRebeccaR-.htm

    Wrecking womens` rights at its emergence in particular may have led to us facing over-population and the heat-death of the planet now.
    Is a little more modesty and less blaming of others overdue from the Royal Society please?
    If we are forced to churn out drug industry rhetoric,we should just say so-everyone will understand

  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 13.

    Wherther we go or survive, the earth will continue and it will impose a limit on the number of humans being a parasite on it.

  • Comment number 14.

    One cheep and simple solution is to place solar panels on single garage roofs and generate Hydrogen, this Hydrogen is then used to power "Dual" fule cars, the car starts on petrol, switches to Hydrogen and when the tank is empty switches back to petorl.

    Studi9es carried out 10years ago in Bedford proved that a standard single garage roof will supply enough "Free" fule to account for 95% of the average cars milage.

    No Hydrogen network needed, with prototype costs 10 years ago of between 4 to 7 thousand depending on the car and orination for the garage.

    Pay back was 3-5years IF the goverment changes the road fuel tax rules, with current tax rules the payback is approx 15-20years due to the milage charge for each mile traveled on untaxed fuel. This tax was what eventually killed the trial!

  • Comment number 15.

    Time to organise a national competition for energy sources like they did for longitude in the old days.

  • Comment number 16.

    Earth is not under threat. In the bigger scheme of things the earth will shrug off the problem, humans. I take the gaia view. Earths temperature will inevitably increase, combatting the "infection"-(mankind) Collateral damage could well be other forms of life ,flora and fauna. But the earth will survive and life, in whatever form that takes, will continue. Ultimately the survival of mankind will be on our ability to colonise other planets and on our ability to adapt to an ever hostile earth. the irony is that probably earth could return to "normality" after several millennia, and man could return.

  • Comment number 17.

    The whole problem lies with how science and capitalism are interlinked. Instead of knowledge being used to benefit the planet and her inhabitants it is always used for profit even if this is to her detriment. DDT and CFC usage is a prime example of profit through science to the detriment of all life. Science will never be our saviour as long as it is used for financial gain.

    Here we are on a Planet which can provide for all yet she is at risk of overheating through fossil fuel technologies, which were hijacked by the greedy and now have us dependant. Yet we all know wave, solar, wind and all other sustainable forms of energy are being held back until the fossil fuels are gone and the profit made but what if the coal, gas and oil have been locked away to lubricate the earths plates as they sub duct?

    The profiteers only think of now but we should all be thinking of the future and how to benefit our next generations and until science works for the betterment of all it is the cause and will never be the cure.


  • Comment number 18.

    It's largely the application of science through technology that has created the mess for humanity on this planet.

    Until people realise that the ecology/Nature is a system (a collection of functionally interrelated components) nothing will go right.

    "Man" thinks he controls things. But he doesn't. He tinkers around and the ecology simply adjusts to a new level. That level is becoming increasingly hostile to supporting humanity.

    The planet will be ok. It'll be here until the sun goes bang. Humanity is unlikely to be there when that happens. I'm pretty certain that the ecology will find a solution to the problem of humanity sooner than scientists.

    We haven't even got our heads around population control yet - in a world with a climate so variable that no one can guarantee a yield of crops.

    We worry about where oil is coming from; now, water. But has anyone bothered to wonder whether, as the world defoliates, there'll be enough oxygen?

  • Comment number 19.

    The lectures are thoughtful and sensible, giving a rounded picture and arguments that are easy to follow.

    It remains to be seen whether we can act on it, but the population explosion worldwide does not give much cause for optimism - and, as we have seen in China, the consequences of a one-child policy have yet to be measured fully.

  • Comment number 20.

    The one and only thing that will save our planet is population control.

    I don't want to see my great, great grandchildren living in a high rise box, with no countryside to visit, a planet running out of all resources, mass starvation, or alternately packets of scientifically produces food. Just looking at the figures concerning the UK's population is enough to scare the living daylights out of me. What ever happened to responsible government. Unless we do something now, I see a future of anarchy, shortness of food and housing, and possible rioting in the streets. Does 'science' have an answer to that, I doubt it.

  • Comment number 21.

    Scientists created the opportuinity for reliance on oil......now, with peak oil looming we are in big, big trouble. The troubling thing is that all scientists and governments propose is wind power or so called "green energies" without addressing the problem of how reliant our society is on oil................petrol is a very minor problem when contrasted with entire petro-chemical industry.......why look for technology that will allow a car to run without oil when the car itself cannot be manufactured without oil.....or toothbrushes, computers, food flavourings, plastics, ad nauseum........we have reached the peak and from now on its a race against time to do something about it.......however wind and tide technology is a chocolate teapot

  • Comment number 22.

    It is science that has been steadily destroying this planet in the first place - aircraft, cars, factories, plastics etc - all down to science. They are the ones who should be held responsible and paying for this instead of trying to grab the limelight and blame the people.

  • Comment number 23.

    20. At 12:45pm on 08 Jun 2010, MizzJShaw wrote:
    The one and only thing that will save our planet is population control.
    Does 'science' have an answer to that, I doubt it.


    Everyone on the planet could live in the state of texas with a couple of acres of land each......we're not that overpopulated. We are under-resourced as a planet though but not in the west so im not sure why you're moaning really. Science does have an answer though and its steralisation...probably in your despair you would advocate that for some poor woman over in africa because of your detached reality but not for yourself.

  • Comment number 24.

    Given that it was the implentation of certain practices, chemicals, technologies etc all developed by science. I would certainly hope so!

    It is science that has gotten us into this mess in the first place.

    My suggestion would be that they pull their finger out and start working on a way to live more harmoniously with nature.

  • Comment number 25.

    There are too many of us. Science has helped too any of us survive (me included).

    How you deal with this - well, you can't. Not in an acceptable manner. With the dramatic decrease in the honey bee population, perhaps nature will sort it out herself. The true horror of that situation is probably beyond anything Hollywood can come up with.

  • Comment number 26.

    The biggest threat we face is population growth, that is what drives the need for ever more resources. Until people ar ready to accept that and take action, things are not likely to improve any.

  • Comment number 27.

    Science has put us in a position whereby we are questioning the future of the planet that we are gradually strangling!!! Bizarre!!
    Fortunately I am nearly 50 years of age and will see out the rest of my life on what is left of this wonderful planet without worry. I fear for future generations who will not be so fortunate. Not my problem.
    Once science/man has removed life from this slowly dying planet, Mother Nature will no doubt rejuvenate it with (hopefully) a more responsible species.

  • Comment number 28.

    No I don't! I think mankind, in his greed and stupidity has tipped the balance away from his ingenuity and creativity!. If we had learned how to work WITH nature rather than against it then we might have had a chance. I do think we might have a chance of saving the human race if we have the technology to inhabit space and/or other planets. But then the vicious cycle would probably start all-over again there!!...

  • Comment number 29.

    Population growth and resource depletion. The first one we can achieve if we want to, the second requires new ways of living and different goals. We can achieve both but we will not.

  • Comment number 30.


    The reality is "The Earth Needs Saving From The Humans"

    Over population and greed are the major problems with simple easy solutions, we do not really need science to come up with fixes.

  • Comment number 31.

    To anyone blaming "science" for the problems of the planet, I'm fairly sure scientists didn't force you to use the things they created. Stop blaming others and look inward.

  • Comment number 32.

    There are two options, yes or no!
    Option yes – human life continues in some form, perhaps only certain types allowed, perhaps in certain types of environments, perhaps not here! And not as we waste today.
    Option no – we die out!
    Religion has over 2000 years, no success so far!
    Politics, over 15,000 years, less success than juggling hedgehogs!

  • Comment number 33.

    Prayer or science - I know which one I would choose - and it's not the first one!
    I think people forget what benefits they have - if you want an illustration, just think of a world without electricity.

  • Comment number 34.

    Science will not save the Earth, only mankind can.

    Science can help, but not when that means the rich nations will survive and the poor will not.

    I regret the "Greed" culture, ever more apparent in India and China will be our downfall.

    Life will survive, it survived the last few Ice Ages, but in what form?

    Evolution may take us in a new direction altogether.

  • Comment number 35.

    Science makes anything possible, people are what is causing our global issues.
    Science invented the gun, but it is the person firing the gun that kills...

    To fix the problems we face we will need to stand together as a whole planet, side by side, and do what is neccessary. This however will not happen. Politics and greed will always stand in the way. In the case of oil, we could stop using it, but then another country would carry on using oil, use up the remaining supplies and then what was the point?...
    Human rights, as well intended as it is, may also contribute to the issues...

    Rural folk who oppose wind turbines because they ruin the view are a prime example for people standing in the way of science providing a solution... Wind turbines may not be the perfect solution but it is a step in the right direction at least... personal wind turbines would be much more useful but both the local councils and neighbours stop this from becoming a possibility... The fact that people have to be bribed to recycle in many cases too is another example.

    In summary, dont blame science, science is a tool for development and change, it is up to people to make the choices of changes and therefore our own outcome... I'd say blame the government but who puts the government into power? We are to blame, not science!

  • Comment number 36.

    Science will only save the planet if it is more profitable to do so than not saving it.

    So the profit motive, not science, will determine the future of the Earth.

  • Comment number 37.

    It will always be science - our modern interaction with our planet, whether on a tiny personal level or a massive corporate level is all about science. When we tend our garden it is science. When we harvest crops it is science, when we pollute it is science.

    The question makes science sound like it is separate to the earth and its existence - it isn't. Science is the understanding of our environment and the way it works and it is intrinsic to everything we do, whether we realise it or not, whether we are scientists or not.

    So, yes, it will be science that saves the planet - if we choose to use it for that purpose.

  • Comment number 38.

    Yes - why not? I am sure it could in an ideal world.
    But the damage mankind does to the earth is far outpacing any discoveries we make to counterbalance it, so the problem is - if we can discover enough "in-time" to save the earth?

  • Comment number 39.

    Science ... pro-longs lfe, increases life (IVF etc) ...

    and thus overpopulates ....

  • Comment number 40.

    The Earth doesn't need saving - it's fine.

    In the long run the Earth will make itself too inhospitable for human life and we will all die; there will probably be a long period of change and regeneration, then something or someone else will take our place.

    Meanwhile the Earth will still be fine.

  • Comment number 41.

    Science gave us the tools to save the Earth over 50 years ago, they're called contraceptives.

  • Comment number 42.

    No they can't.

    Science still cannot answer basic questions;

    1. Why are we here?
    2. Why do we grow old and die?
    3. How can all of this have happened by chance?

    Basic questions that need answers.

  • Comment number 43.

    Listening to science would solve a large number of issues, the problem is that so many people listen to religion first which is at best out of date thinking and at worse is completely wrong.

    Take the overpopulation of the planet we got to that point not by listening to science but religion, for example the catholic church discourages(or in some cases outright bans) the use of condoms! which are well know (to sane people) to help reduce disease and unwanted pregnancy. yet some book written about 1900 years ago by some men looking to control others is read today and yet more men looking to control people say that according to this book written by men that there bad mkay.

    One day we will find out planets atmosphere boiled off by our own sun(or many other nasty things that can render this rock uninhabitable) and only science has the ability to save us from this. so it really is the answer as long its done properly and not allowed to get watered down by small minded religion.

  • Comment number 44.

    22. At 12:58pm on 08 Jun 2010, Rinc3wind wrote:
    "It is science that has been steadily destroying this planet in the first place - aircraft, cars, factories, plastics etc - all down to science. They are the ones who should be held responsible and paying for this instead of trying to grab the limelight and blame the people"


    Well who are those things being manufactured for if it's not we 'the people'?
    Science might discover things and applied Science invent things but if there were no demand for the products then they wouldn't be produced
    Science is an intellectual pursuit, it isn't Science that wants to fly in Aeroplanes and drive Cars, it's us!
    We can't separate ouselves from Science and refer to Scientists as 'they are the ones' responsible as if the rest of us have no say in what happens
    Nor is Science destroying the Planet, it is we who are making it increasingly difficult for ourselves to survive in the long-run
    The Planet will continue to orbit the Sun and look after itself whatever we do to ourselves

  • Comment number 45.

    "I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a plague."

    The Matrix (1999) - How accurate!

  • Comment number 46.

    Science and business are the opposites of the same conundrum?

    We all want to believe that both science and business work together for the best outcome for the human species and create jobs, wealth and health for all species on earth?

    Unfortunately, our global business 'societies' are now so complex that the 'average' consumers of products that cause destruction in a distant country, have no idea of what they fund at 'clinical' or 'glamorous' point of purchase?

    For example, if a women or man purchases a fabulous gem-set ring, originating in Madagascar, from a beautiful store - how would they know of the destruction caused by that gem stone?

    The question is that a gem may be certificated as 'conflict free' but that gem is not 'destructive free'? The destruction of all habitats is relentless. You don't need to care about animals, wildlife or global warming. It doesn't matter what you believe - but do you care about yourself or your children? Do one thing - buy second-hand or used or antique jewellery. Just stop buying new that drives more mining that is totally not needed by you or the people forced to mine and live in poverty you finance?



  • Comment number 47.

    No amount of scientific fiddling will save either the Earth, its natural flora and fauna and human beings. We just can't go on increasing population to + 9 billion and consume resources ad infinitum: even with 'scientific' jiggery-pokery. The Earth is a finite planet with finite resources and especially finite energy.

    I strongly disagree with the assumptions underpinnning this Reith Lecture. Human beings are now a pestilence on the face of the Earth consuming and abusing Nature's resources. Political and military power will be increasingly employed to distribute food, water, energy etc. Democracy will fail because ordinary people only vote for ever-increasing but un-sustainable consumption. People will never vote for lower standards; particularly when they see the rich and privileged getting away with it.

    Only a severe reduction in rapacious consumption (i.e. 'standard of living') and population numbers will save the human-kind and the earth. The Reith lecturer is promoting a scientific cloud-cuckoo land and a genetically modified horror-story. Unbelievable ! And doesn't he find it odd that rich north Europe 'will' get its energy from African photo-voltaic cell farms when Africa itself will be on the brink of starvation, water depletion and fuel poverty. Instead of oil wars it's going to be sun and water wars !

  • Comment number 48.

    No.
    Science is a commercial endeavour and responds to human demand. At the moment humans are demanding too many of the things that are destroying the Earth.
    We already know the planet is not sustainable and its population is still growing. The first hurdle is therefore to achieve population reduction. Now, how many politicians do you know who support that idea?

  • Comment number 49.

    Yes it can. But we need scientists who can do more than earn funds for university departments. We need professors who are not appointed on their ability to get rid of colleagues whom the authorities want to see removed, and we need heads of departments who do not see it as their life's purpose to close down rival departments. Basically, we need scientists who are inquisitive, unafraid to ask questions, and all the other bits that usually fill up Reith lectures but appear no where in the scientific institutions.

  • Comment number 50.

    This is not about saving the earth. It's about saving the human race. But I guess they don't call it that because people aren't particularly bothered about saving others - or even themselves. Trees, animals, sure. The earth will survive anything mankind can do to it. And when we've killed ourselves off, it will flourish again - until the next race of creatures emerges and the whole self-destructive cycle will be repeated.

  • Comment number 51.

    35. At 2:44pm on 08 Jun 2010, i8myhamster wrote:
    Politics and greed will always stand in the way.


    You got it. Science will never have an answer for that mainly because it is funded by the greedy in the shape of corporatisation of the world.
    = = = = = = = =

    Rural folk who oppose wind turbines because they ruin the view are a prime example for people standing in the way of science providing a solution... Wind turbines may not be the perfect solution but it is a step in the right direction at least... personal wind turbines would be much more useful but both the local councils and neighbours stop this from becoming a possibility...

    But does it provide any kind of solution?

    You don't get energy for nothing. It's always derived from another source. Wind turbines take energy from the wind. Enough wind turbines will reduce a decent wind to a light breeze. As wind currents are a component of world climate you'll simply be provoking faster and, who knows, disastrous changes to our climate. Then we'll never know where to plant crops, etc.

    As long as capitalism is allowed free rein and corporatisation creeps across the world like a cancer, no one will be allowed to solve problems until it's too late - when a resource such as oxygen runs out, or Nature decides it's time for a cull. Humanity has had a long reign...so had the dinosaur.

  • Comment number 52.

    There has to be a vast redistribution of wealth from Rich to poor. By improving the living conditions and taking out of poverty the world's and our own poor, you reduce birth rates instantly. This means less mouths to feed and less demands on our scarce resources. Capitalism has to be forcibly reformed if neccessary otherwise it will destroy the planet. We must fight to save species, and plants etc because within them is many of our medicines and our harmony with Nature will ultimately decide if Mankind survives or not.

    However I do believe that Science can save us or destroy us. Too much science is directed at War and the military rather than finding new technologies, new energy sources and conservation. Finance War Capitalism will go down in history as a crime against humanity and the Planet Earth.

  • Comment number 53.

    Not many ripples from the Astronomer Royal. No mention of biogas, the most wasted energy resource of the 21st c. No mention of the power of GM companies to control world food supplies. No mention of the long term damage to soils - or rather the bugs and microbes which make them work - when regularly treated with glyphosate, an integral part of GM crop production. Prof Rees's opinions exactly concur with the Govt Scienctic officer Prof Beddington and Prof Stern over GM (for); nuclear (for); wind (for). Maybe the BBC should have found someone who is less 'establishment' in their thinking? Read my blog www.farmideas.blogspot.com

  • Comment number 54.

    The earth doesn't need saving.

    WE might need saving, but the earth doesn't give two hoots whether we stick around or not. All those chemicals and plastics we make are made from the earth. The earth is all still here, minus a few bits of hardware we've thrown into space.

    The earth will be here long after anything is left living on it...

  • Comment number 55.

    Can science save the planet? No, but my mum could.

  • Comment number 56.

    Science has the ability to save our planet and reverse some of the damage. This should not be the question. The technology already exists.

    Do we have the political will to save the planet? If not then science does not stand a chance.

  • Comment number 57.

    I know mankind finds this very hard to accept, but we are totally irrelevant when it comes down to it. Nothing we have done or could do will make any difference to the Earth in geological time. In a million or so years we will probably have died out and a few million years after that there will be next to no evidence that we ever existed, just some fossils here and there. The problem we are having here is that we tend to think in terms of hundreds or maybe thousands of years whereas the Earth operates in terms of tens of millions of years. We worry about things like temperature swings, and rising seas which are nothing when compared to what has naturally happened in the past and what will naturally happen again in the future.

    There can be no doubt that we are causing the climate to change, a little bit, but it will not matter one iota in the scheme of things. Ice ages come and go. Whole continents shift thousands of miles, mountain ranges rise and fall. Nothing we could ever do will change that and we just need to get some form of perceptive on this!

  • Comment number 58.

    It is supreme arrogance to believe that man is capable of saving the earth. Nature will determine what happens to this planet.

    Man is however supremely capable however of, at the very least, damaging large swathes of the earth, possibly much of the life on it, including human life.

    I put my faith in nature before man. Mankind's capacity and will to destroy is vastly greater than his capacity to preserve.

  • Comment number 59.

    Unfortunately science is far to elitist and unethical to save the planet. Most of the science being done is backed by capitalist multinationals that are only interested in one thing, if it makes a profit do it, regardless of the ethics. Lets get one thing absolutely clear, crystal clear, the Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth.
    Science is the new religion and with it comes the radicalised followers. Science has no answers, the answers have to come from the people, the decisions about science have to be democratic, science has to be regulated, which of course is a catch 22, capitalism is science at the moment and with that comes zero regulation.
    When I look at some of the scientists around I shudder, they are bonkers and quite happy to destroy the planet not save it.
    Thankfully the Earth will only tolerate so much, as a species we are density dependent and our time is up, we have reached our limit.

  • Comment number 60.

    'Science' doesn't have a magic wand.

  • Comment number 61.

    What is needed is the right to introduce technology without government intervention. The technology is there for us to severe our need for oil, and has been for fifty years or more, but it has been bought up, hidden away and made illegal to manufacture. just ask some of the USA inventors and others around the globe.

  • Comment number 62.

    Science itself can do both wonderful and terrible things. It all depends who has their finger on the button...

  • Comment number 63.

    So all the loony scientists will cure the problem will they?
    From nutty geo-engineers to Climate Change computer modelists.
    The only things that will ease the rise in climatatic temperature is; stop exponential population growth, stop exponential manurfacturing to substain it, and stop using fossil fuels. Flippin twits!! Cuger Brant.

  • Comment number 64.

    #3 said it.

    Population needs to be reduced somehow - perhaps by examining the so-called "right" to have children?

    What is a "right" and where is any such right enshrined?

  • Comment number 65.

    64. At 8:09pm on 08 Jun 2010, chris911t wrote:

    "Population needs to be reduced somehow - perhaps by examining the so-called "right" to have children?

    What is a "right" and where is any such right enshrined?"


    ----------------

    In fact, the question is, who has the right to stop them? - Who gave them that right and where is any such right enshined?

    Much as you may hate to admit it every single person on this world has as much right to be there as everyone else. Anyone that thinks otherwise is just quite simply deluded and history shows us that when such people gain power, they quickly become very, very dangerous men. There is a very thin line between forced birth control and genocide, Would you trust any politician not to cross it? - I know I wouldn't! - Who are we to play god anyway.

    Trust me, Earth is in no danger from mankind, however, the opposite may not be so true. Remember, the Earth works in geological time and our existence is totally irrelevant on that scale. Far more days have passed since the dinosaurs were extinct than there are people currently living on this planet! - I think we need to keep things in perspective here. Yes we are having an effect on the climate, but even the worst predictions are nothing to what has happened to the planet before and will no doubt happen again. Saving the planet is not necessary. Saving mankind, now that is another question and birth control is definitely not the answer! Man against nature - I know who my money is on.

  • Comment number 66.

    Every child bearing woman has the god given right to have children.
    No one has the right to IVF and then have an abortion because of cold feet. (80-per year in this country).
    There are those who argue that if one man was hung by mistake, then the death penalty was justifiably withdrawn.
    So should not by the same logic IVF be withdrawn?
    No one has a right to an abortion because of their contempt for life and lack of belief in the almighty either.
    The most precious thing in life is our children, their upbringing and future.
    If our interpretation of ‘sustainability’ means: I want, I need, I must have (artifacts) then we have no chance of stopping climate change.

    Now you work that little dilemma out.
    Cuger Brant.

  • Comment number 67.

    Science can save the Earth, but only if it's properly funded! Instead of giving millions of pounds to football players, try spending the money on people who matter, like engineers and scientists, and the world will become a better place!

    On the subject of population control, which some 'Have Your Sayers' above have veered towards, the maths is really simple and doesn't need a scientist to work out. We are already in deep trouble with our current population and must reduce it fast before either nature does so for us through disease or famine, or we reduce it ourselves through war!

  • Comment number 68.

    Re: post 17 by Stewart: "... but what if the coal, gas and oil have been locked away to lubricate the earths plates as they sub duct?"

    Don't be daft Stewart! Coal, gas and oil are nowhere near deep enough to lubricate the Earths plates! Anyway, what use would hydrocarbons be as lubricants at a rock-to-magma interface? Leave big thoughts to the scientists!

  • Comment number 69.

    I have every faith in science, but not in scientists.
    The two are not the same thing, although scientists like us to think they are.

  • Comment number 70.

    Of course science can help.
    Just look into the sky. The sun is a free and unlimited source of energy.
    The solar system's planets are just "down the road" and have more essential minerals and gases than we could ever want or use.
    There are trillions of planets like ours, in the universe.
    We have the brain power to develop and in essence, to live forever.
    Its just our short sightedness and human nature thats stopping us.
    I am sure other life forms, somewhere in the universe, have reached higher levels. Whether we do, is the intriguing question.

  • Comment number 71.

    I have placed my faith in science all my life and so far the planet is still supporting us.

    For the future - well there the doubts creep in. Even I can see that we are reproducing too fast, emitting too much and caring too little. If science can't come to the rescue then we have only God to look to.

    As an agnostic this puts me in a difficult position. To me religion creates more problems than it solves so I guess I will stick with science however misguided I am.

  • Comment number 72.

    Well who else is going to save the earth? Superman? :s

  • Comment number 73.

    No, science CANNOT save us.

    Neither can god (a redundant fairy tale).


    The intrinsic problem of humanity at the moment is the monetary system that seeks ongoing financial gain over sustainable solutions.

    I guarantee that in our current path people will be killing themselves over the last barrel of oil to sell to the last purchaser.


    Its a bold concept, but what we need to achieve is to do away with the selfish monetary system and build a system of altruism and fair trading based on what people really require.

    We also need to build sustainable systems to allow us the current quality of life.

    If we do not, we will all devolve into a violent, anarchistic society devoid of any compassion or altruism.


    A return to the dark ages; and the religious and the aristocrats pervertedly relish this concept.


    Good night, and good luck.

  • Comment number 74.

    "66. At 9:08pm on 08 Jun 2010, Bruce Grant wrote some sickening, insidious nonsense that went thus:

    Every child bearing woman has the god given right to have children.

    Unless she is not married, in which case she is a whore?


    No one has the right to IVF and then have an abortion because of cold feet. (80-per year in this country).

    Are you writing the rules now?


    There are those who argue that if one man was hung by mistake, then the death penalty was justifiably withdrawn.
    So should not by the same logic IVF be withdrawn?

    Laughable analogy!


    No one has a right to an abortion because of their contempt for life and lack of belief in the almighty either.

    And you don't have the right to force your belief in "the almighty" on them either.


    The most precious thing in life is our children, their upbringing and future.

    Unless god wants to punish them for innocently eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge or kill them all in a flood or have them killed by a bear or because they insulted their parents?


    If our interpretation of ‘sustainability’ means: I want, I need, I must have (artifacts) then we have no chance of stopping climate change.

    Well, maybe its your preordained "end times"?


    Now you work that little dilemma out.

    Perhaps you should

    Cuger Brant.
    (probably never read his bible!)

  • Comment number 75.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 76.

    I see a fair number of Gaia enthusiasts here and I don't see anyone arguing that saving the planet is a giant left wing conspiracy designed to rob tax payers. So where are all of you when people are under siege from Climate change deniers for daring to claim that pumping large quantities of Co2 into the atmosphere at the same time as destroying massive areas of the worlds rainforest, is a bad idea?
    Michael Mann, who produced the (in)famous Hockey stick graph is being sued for fraud for his work, Now I don't think the Hockey stick is particularly great bit of science but I don't think he deserves to be sued and bankrupted for it either. Phil Jones from CRU has also been threatened with legal action for his research, I'm not his greatest fan either but even so, sued because they don‘t like his science, really.
    Many scientists of my acquaintance, regardless of their view on climate science, believe that human beings have been poor stewards of this planet and that over population is a major issue. They are also concerned by the energy gap (inability of predicted supply to match future demand). Few are keen on sticking their head above the parapet, however, since at best they're liable to be acclaimed as “loony left” and more likely these days accused of conspiracy and heresy by evangelical Climate change denialists or even misrepresented as being against the climate change consensus because they didn't put it at the top of their list of concearns. Only those of the stature of Martin Rees have a degree of immunity from witch hunts.
    Scientists need to be allowed to do and talk about their work without fear of persecution and a recognition that peer-reviewed publications carry more weight than some internet blog, that and more money, of course.
    The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico shows the problems of relying on an ever decreasing resource for our energy needs, not just in terms of environmental damage caused by pipelines situated at depths greater than our current ability to conduct repairs but in the potential economic damage from the increased energy prices needed to fund ever more difficult extraction and environmental cleanups.
    Science can provide alternative energy sources from fusion to wave power but it’s clear that energy production will need to be more varied and widely distributed in the future, the idea that energy is produced elsewhere and not in my backyard will have to go, if you don’t like wind farms then find another way that your community can produce power. Science can also produce means of mitigating Co2 emissions.
    I don’t see the current population of the earth as being disastrous but I do see the rate of increase of population as being disastrous. In a democracy, you can’t force people not to have children but you can make it socially unacceptable to increase the long term population, that is to have more than two children per couple or one per single parent.

    Science increases our knowledge of the natural world, it's applications provide you with the means to both destroy and save the world and scientists can advise you of the advantages and dangers. The choice as to which, if any, of the applications of science you use is, ultimately, your choice.

  • Comment number 77.

    #73. At 01:08am on 09 Jun 2010, Some other person with a comment wrote:
    “The intrinsic problem of humanity at the moment is the monetary system that seeks ongoing financial gain over sustainable solutions.

    I guarantee that in our current path people will be killing themselves over the last barrel of oil to sell to the last purchaser.


    Its a bold concept, but what we need to achieve is to do away with the selfish monetary system and build a system of altruism and fair trading based on what people really require.

    We also need to build sustainable systems to allow us the current quality of life.

    If we do not, we will all devolve into a violent, anarchistic society devoid of any compassion or altruism.


    A return to the dark ages; and the religious and the aristocrats pervertedly relish this concept.”

    Lovely idea in theory.

    I’m actually in favour of the idea of phasing out the monetary system, call me a Star Trek nerd if you wish but the idea of a society where money is no long the main motivation in people’s lives does have an appeal.

    The trouble is the idea assumes that money is the sole cause of people’s selfish motivations. I would surmise that no matter what system we have in place they’ll always be people who’ll strive to have more then the next person and that actually human beings are very selfish by nature. I’m not saying of course that we shouldn’t try to encourage altruism or that everyone is simply out for themselves but I can see a large minority (or possibly a majority) who will strongly take advantage of a system like that. The problem, I think, is one of psychology.

    Scrapping the monetary system cannot be done overnight and scrapping it alone will not get the results that you want in my view. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work towards it of course and I think science could potentially play a major role.

  • Comment number 78.

    The first near-zero CO2 plan was invented by Kadir-Buxton in 1987 and has been willfully ignored by politicians ever since. They would rather the market did the job for them rather than have the central planning necessary for such a large task.

  • Comment number 79.

    We could try to harness the hot air that continues to pour forth from Nu-Labor.

  • Comment number 80.

    whilst we have politically motivated distortions in scientific research there is no point.

    climate change where the politicians demand "proof" that CO2 is the cause and publically funded scientists ignore time honoured scientific method to provide the "proof" based on assumptions wnhch have so far failed to live up to scrutiny or the assumed effects have failed to occur as predicted. The only prediction here that has been 100% is that the "solutions" would be more tax and the main sources of man made CO2 would be unchanged it shipping and air travel (god help us if we had to stop importing cheap goods from China et al)

    GM where governments have decided GM foods are required and have loaded committees charged with evaluating the science with pro gm members


    only when proper debate, where both sides can produce and challenge the evidence without repercussion can science have a hope of realising the problems and formulating solutions where possible

    if todays methodology were applied in the past Einstein would have been ignored because the "peer reviewed" establishment has determined that Newton's laws were infallable

  • Comment number 81.

    No because its doomed to die, its called evolution

  • Comment number 82.

    Mmm, to James we caould also harness the rubbish that comes of the LibCon pact couldnt we.

  • Comment number 83.

    The population issue is the key. Advances in science have meant that we live longer, and fewer of us perish before our time from disease. At the same time it is arguable that fewer large scale wars have decimated populations and thus the perfect population storm has occurred.

    It could be that our age will be retrospectively seen as a golden interval, in which disease and large-scale war were minimised leaving populations to grow massively and guzzle resources unsustainably. However, it seems very likely that this golden age will - at some stage - end in large scale wars over dwindling resources, thus leading to premature death for large numbers of the human population of the planet. When exactly that will happen is, of course, the $64000 question. Some say soon, some say it's 100 years away.

    To avoid such an outcome it is the job of governments to do all in their power to reduce populations (very hard to do in countries where overt coercion is not an option). It is the job of science to find ways to make better use of existing resources (principally energy and water), and also to find new sources of these vital ingredients to life. I, personally, trust that commercially motivated scientific research is the best way to progress the scientific side of this, but I have grave doubts about governments ability or willingness to limit population on the scale needed.

    In the west, we seem to be heading down the road of cultural influence - i.e. it's not "cool" to have more than a couple of kids. This is reflected everywhere in popular culture and in social commentary, but it's nowhere near enough, and far more heavy handed policies will probably only be resorted to when it's too late.

    Alan T

  • Comment number 84.

    Science has allowed 3.4 billion people to live on this planet. It will enable up to 7 billion to eat. The ecological damage at a population of 7 billion will be immmense, whatever we do about climate change. The living conditions will be highly artificial at the top end of possible population. We wouldnt enjoy living in it. Food will have to be GM and we will all live in mega cities. Now just because science can develop the technology to support this level of breeding is not a reason for us to do it. It is the same with all the other possible applications of science, the choice of how it is used is ours. Personally I dont see much of a future based on our behaviour in the past. The twentieth centurary was a time of blissful ignorance when their appeared no limit to growth, to prosperity and to the advancement of humanity. If we dont change our ways its going to end unpleasantly with or without science.

  • Comment number 85.

    Does the earth need 'saving' at all?

    If so, saving from what or for what?

    Science is about understanding what is going on. So it certainly has a part to play in the quest to living in greater harmony with this planet (or indeed any other we may go to in the future).

    The objective of any 'environmentalist' needs to be, however, to find economic and practical ways to both live sustainably AND maintain (if not improve) livestyles, which science is good at - but not the blatent rip-offs of more expensive and less convenient degradations in standards of living that most 'eco-warrior' types like to spout about. But as most of them are not scientists, they are perhaps as irrelevant to this discussion as they are to real life.

  • Comment number 86.

    Dear dear dear.
    First the same old confusion: You mean technology not science!
    Science is just knowledge! With some of it you develop technologies.
    Technologies are not necessarily developed because they are needed:
    do we need to engineer sterile varieties of grains for instance ?

    But technologies whatever they do often need energy to be operated and deliver what they meant to deliver.

    Second: The earth is not in deanger, a certain human type of civilisation may become seriously challenged in the coming decades.
    We know what to do: Change radically our ways of lifes and the economy that supports it.
    Will we do it ? I doubt it, technology or not.

  • Comment number 87.

    17. At 12:18pm on 08 Jun 2010, Stewart wrote:
    The whole problem lies with how science and capitalism are interlinked.

    Couldn't agree more with this. I have a friend who has a PHD from Oxford University in Molecular Biology and whilst working for academic insitutions was analysing cells to help prevent/cure skin cancer with the potential to use the treatments on other cell based diseases. The money was awful though so he left for a job with one of the big commercial laboratories. Needless to say market forces means he was forced to abandon his research into cancer and is now helping rich 60 year old women look like 20year olds because there's more money and return of investment in that.

    Scientific advances won't "save" the world they will just mean we learn how to exploit the resources we have left more.

  • Comment number 88.

    The "new" sources of energy are all there - solar, wind, wave, nuclear etc. What we need is a way to efficiently and safely harness them, and in order to do that we need scientists and engineers.

    Otherwise, it's back to furs and spears.

  • Comment number 89.

    'Saving the Earth' is a meaningless statement. The Earth will exist until such time as the sun becomes a red giant and expands to engulf the third lump of rock in it's solar system or the earth collides with an, as yet unknown, large non terrestrial object. We know that because science has worked it out. Pure science is neutral, applied science can be used for good or evil, as the history of the 20th century teaches us.


    I think what we are looking at is 'keeping the earth fit for human habitation' which is slightly different.
    There is some reason to believe that the best time to have been human and living on earth, in the purest sense of the joy of living, was in the few millennia before the start of the age of farming, at time when people had little idea of the mechanics or processes that form the natural world but at the same time had a greater knowledge of how to use and work with those processes to live wonderfully carefree and satisfying lives than more than 99% of the world's population has today.

    To that extent you could argue that science, and farming is the application of science, has not been of long term benefit. The problem is that we are where we are in human history and the application of scientific principles is probably our only chance of survival in anything like our present state. As a scientist who also studies the human condition that makes me slightly sad.

  • Comment number 90.

    Ideological politics & big business prevented scientists from talking about the capacities that every nation needed to manage.

    We are very late in the day to tackle these problems, but better late than never.

    The best science are indeed needed to tackle our urgent problems, and the politicians can now claim they are the saviours of the planet from the self destruction they created.

    Yeap, drag in the scientists to tackle the problems, pay them miserably to do what they like doing, then kick them out and start taking the credits bonanza.

  • Comment number 91.

    I believe that all science is the slow revelation of The Creator's wonderful design in whose hands and on whose patronage all mankind depends. Whenever man's stupid pride and greed gets in the way then we seem to reap our own earthly punishments - war, famine, pollution, etc.
    Other "Acts of God" such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanos are all there to remind us of who is really in charge of mankind's destiny. As the saying goes; "It's not rocket science"!

  • Comment number 92.

    "Can science save the Earth?" (BBC).
    The knowledge of Science is essential. It is part of Man's natural instinct towards advancement. Without this instinct we would face total chaos and rapid extinction. It is Science's tenet to seek, understand and thereby, possibly improve our existence. The only danger that Science faces, is the abuse of Scientific knowledge for non-humanitarian reasons.

    "Should we try this with other Radio 4 programmes?" (BBC).
    The Reith Lectures have always been the 'golden-chalice' of the BBC. To find such a programme amongst our 'haywire' populist Media today - is a rare thing. The BBC would do well to expand it's format generally. I think eveyone would benefit by looking further than 'Soaps'. It may fill the yawning-chasm between School education and the reality of responsible adulthood.

    BBC: I think it would be a good idea to have inter-school challenges on Radio. Not only would it give Schools the impetus towards excellence in Education, but it would also allow the public to judge the Education-system as a whole.

  • Comment number 93.

    I find it rather naive to say any policy by anyone will save the earth, the earth endures all mankinds efforts at whatever man does, and survives.

    The earth will be here billions of years after mankind is extinct, it will go through natural cycles of heating up and cooling down, there will be continental collisions and volcanic outflows that we will never be able to do one iota about,

    Why is anyone or group so arrogant as to think they can save the earth - save it from what?

  • Comment number 94.

    The world today doesn't want saving, it wants money.

    There is a relevant lecture on T.E.D's website:
    http://www.ted.com/talks/bjorn_lomborg_sets_global_priorities.html

    It seems no-one wants to offer solutions to these problems unless there's big profits for doing so.

    Nikola Tesla's Wardenclyffe Tower project is another example of lust for profits dullen's mankinds shiniest achievements.

    Space Industries, the most prolific producers of new technologies, year after year see budget cuts.

    Algae-based renewable energy systems are continuously overlooked as a future supplier of biofuels, because it can be grown and processed in a home environment for next to nothing.




    The world will have problems while the people are not energy independent.

    The people will not be energy independent while corporations run governments behind the scenes.


  • Comment number 95.

    Yes, science can save the earth.

    The only trouble is that it needs to take a step back sometimes and do things because it should, rather than because it can.

    There have been some recent developments over the creation of an atificial organism, which has obviously started debate around ethics. This is what I mean. There are many things in the world we need to be looking at right now, be it climate change or sorting out waste, so do we really need something like an artificial organism ? Yes, it may eventually lead to something good but, history tells us that developments like this inevitably lead to less favourable options.

    Don't get me wrong, I am a real follower of science but, questions have to be asked sometimes. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has cost an astronomical amount of money and for what exactly ? Yes, there have been some exciting discoveries that have come out of it although nothing really that has affected the majority of the earths population. Oh and please no-one mention the World Wide Web that came out of CERN as I am sure that it would have started from somewhere else anyway.


  • Comment number 96.

    I have said earlier in this thread that science can save the human world if there is political will.

    There is a perfect example today of political will saving natural habitat. Today the government said it would recategorise gardens as being green field sites. This has locally significant, but also widespread, effects on habitats for flora and fauna. Gardens are a very important resource for many of our species and an aesthetic and health resource for humans.

    At the end of our garden is a good-sized piece of dead land left over in the centre of our crescent. For a long time now the two owners have tried to get planning permission to build a small estate there. The recent recession has only temporarily reduced their incentive. The land has many beautiful trees and, along with adjoining gardens, is home to 4 varieties of tits, wrens thrushes, sparrows, gold finches, wood peckers, jays, 2 varieties of bat, hedgehogs, frogs, bumble bees, toads, newts, grass snakes and the odd adder. The view from our garden is virtually rural or park-like. No other house can be seen in the summer months.

    All this is only 5 minutes walk from the centre of Coventry.

    This decision has been taken with the urban environment in mind. It is environmentally aware people making good decisions based upon scientific understanding of the natural and human environment. It also happens to be one of the few decisions taken by the Coalition that I agree with.

    This decision is isolated, but is a possible benefit of having LibDems in a coalition. Governments across the world need to be making or allowing environmentally aware decisions involving natural habitats, use of energy and pollution. The science is undisputed, the economic and political will is the key.

  • Comment number 97.

    If I understand the Gaia Hypothesis correctly, the Earth's biosphere is a self-regulating system which will reset itself to a state of equilibrium. This means the human race faces almost complete annihilation through the population crash which will take place as climate change reduces food crops, water resources, sea level increase.
    One is reminded of the sci-fi story where the Pentagon asked a future seer what the most powerful weapon system would be in a 100 years time and the answer was the flint tipped spear.

  • Comment number 98.

    I'm not the first to say that there's no need to worry about the planet. It will survive us whatever we do.

    We will be able to resolve many problems, depending on the level of our necessity, using existing technology. It is often just the political or financial will that is required to reach a solution. In future vast costs, both financial and human, will be incurred and the world's population will necessarily reduce as we reach the limits of resources. But some, probably the wealthier and more powerful, will survive.

    But technology is not Science. Technology exploits what we know and Science adds to it. Despite the perception, Science, as opposed to Technology, is less efficient now than it has ever been. It now consumes billions and employs millions who are mainly concerned will advancing their careers at the cost of their curiosity and integrity. Rees' own area of cosmology is a case in point. It is now the province of increasingly esoteric mathematics and speculation. It stopped being science when it made theory senior to observation and it has given us nothing useful for a hundred years. Someone outside the field really should take a look at it.

    Those who try to criticise it are labelled 'cranks' and unqualified to comment. This is rather like a priesthood and Rees demonstrated in his lecture how he and his peers use ridicule to disarm their enemies.

    There may well be solutions to all problems we face but I doubt we'll find them as long as consensus rules science and money, allocated via peer review, decides what questions it is allowed to ask.

    By ceasing to look and turning their attention to preserving their flawed explanations of the cosmos, Rees and his colleagues are betraying us all.

    Maybe Science could solve our problems but it won't unless we subject it to the scrutiny it desperately needs.

  • Comment number 99.

    95. At 10:52am on 09 Jun 2010, mostly_harmless wrote:
    Don't get me wrong, I am a real follower of science but, questions have to be asked sometimes. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has cost an astronomical amount of money and for what exactly ?
    -----------------------------------------------------------

    It's spent on 7TeV particle collisions.

    It is there for future research and understanding of subatomic particles. With this knowledge we hope to advance our understanding of the subatomic.
    This goes hand in hand with our understand of the super-vast, and we will be simultaenously be looking to discover what is Dark Matter, what is Dark Energy, is there a Higgs Boson?

    When we have answers to these questions, we'll be able to construct a grand unified theory of everything. Equations that work on subatomic scales as well as galatic scales.

    Using that, we'll be able to create lots of more phyiscs predictions which will herald a new era of science. Like when Einstein postulated that e=mc^2. That equation predicted fission/fusion energies. From it, we got nuclear power stations, nuclear weapons, understanding of the basic engine of a star, etc.

    Isn't a Grand Theory of Everything worth a few billion?

  • Comment number 100.

    Can science save the Earth? Sort of.

    Greater dependency is on governments and politicians to provide funding and better regulation for long term sustainability. Government's need to get a grip of big business which continue to develop scientific advances which can benefit sustainable development and then withold them until a suitable price can be agreed. Whilst big businesses continue to dictate who lives and who dies in the interest of profit there is no hope. There also needs to be better regulation of scientific development so that the findings and methodology are transparent, and scientific advancement is not only made for the securing of further funding or to support the policies and views of lobby groups who provide the funding. If science is to work it has to be objective and free from political interference. Government's need to provide better funding to 3rd world countries as a greater living standard provides a longer life expectency and lower infant mortality which in return reduces the requirement for large families in countries like India and China. The results of this may not be seen for generations however. Global agreement MUST be reached on the future of sustainable development, and in particular the US has to (and I can't stress that enough) be strong enough to withstand the pressure of lobby groups and republicans who continue to either disbelieve the requirement for action or who place economic and business priorities higher on the agenda. Finally we need to move away from a fatalistic approach to science. I don't know whether or not climate change is man-made but quite frankly it's irrelevant. What I keep hearing however is that we are "at a turning point" or the "point of no return", when in reality this is simply the secular equivalent of the bible-believers who since the middle ages went and sat on mountain tops waiting for the ascention because they believed the end is nigh. It's not. We need to act but in a measured considered way which holds minimal risk but in order for science to work, so must government.

 

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