CyberDodo and Pollution (1-57)
In response, let us start with point b) of the paragraph devoted to the cost of producing nuclear energy.
Is it more profitable to build a nuclear plant or spend the same budget on renewable energy while fighting against waste? In addition to this question, how can we determine the cost of nuclear risk and the management of its waste in the millennia? Because a single incident can change our lives forever ... (Ask the survivors of Chernobyl for their opinion).
The vast majority of environmentalists argue (As do many scientists) that it is more relevant, more effective and safer to reduce our energy needs by optimising our lifestyles, housing, consumption and transport rather than choosing huge financial investments required for the design, construction, management and decommissioning of a nuclear power plant.
Not to mention that nuclear power generation is not flexible and that at each peak demand, it is still necessary to use extra power using fossil fuels (generally heating oil or coal). The argument of non-CO2 emission by the use of nuclear power is therefore minimised.
In other words, the cleanest energy is the one we do not consume!
How do we face the challenge of "clean" industrial production?
Firstly, by including it in a global reflection that begins with the identification of actual needs, various ways of reacting to our respective environmental footprints, as well as whether or not it is possible to minimise energy requirements and pollution and recycle waste products.
But the basis of any "clean" industry is of course that its methods of production do not pollute! Specifically, that operation should not dump anything dangerous in the environment and must be at a cost acceptable to the consumer. But how can this cost be defined?
It is a very interesting question, because should we not include all costs related to the life cycle of any product in the calculation of its cost? Its development and manufacturing (which all industries carry out) but also its collection and recycling, or its impact on nature. Take the example of plastic bags which not only require oil, energy and water for their manufacturing (which therefore issue greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to global warming) but can pollute for hundreds of years if they are not biodegradable.
Fair prices are needed to motivate "clean’’ industrial production.
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Are there any "clean" factories?
It all depends on the field, because it's easy to understand that a milk bottling plant can be a cleaner factory than one that produces corrosive chemicals and/or contamination. However, the goal of reducing / eliminating pollution is even more important where the waste is hazardous.
Because the advances in technology that we have already referred to in this case file can now reconcile "industrial processes" and “respect for the environment”, it’s all a matter of will, often “assisted” by regulations which must be sufficiently precise and binding.
Wealthy countries must lead by example and refuse to "outsource" their production that causes the most pollution in disadvantaged areas where legal requirements are much less restrictive and therefore less costly.
As a framework for us to follow, in 1998, the American chemist Paul Anastas set out an edict consisting of 12 principles that modern chemistry must follow in order to deserve the adjective "green"; here is the CyberDodo-based "universal" version of these principles:
- Why invest money to dispose of waste when it is better to avoid producing?
- Products must be designed so that they degrade into substances that are harmless to the environment
- When designing and developing products, use the least toxic substances available to man and the environment, as well as the most effective
- Energy needed for industry affects the economy and the environment; the minimum possible should be used
- Whenever possible, renewable raw materials should be used by industry
- All production processes must be monitored and analysed in real time in order to avoid dangerous consequences for man and the environment
What if all industries were to decide to apply them?
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To many observers, the words "Industries" and "Pollution" are inextricably linked with the idea that any industrialised production is responsible for the dumping of emissions in the environment.
In support of this belief, they mention the damage that has been caused to the environment at an increasing pace since the beginning of the industrial era (the eighteenth century). In fact, there is no doubt that technology has advanced more and more, thus pollution has increased, with consequences that have tended to be irreversible since the second half of the last century.
To understand how this acceleration has come about and how this human influence has continued to grow, just look at the Co2 emission curve (carbon dioxide, particularly gas produced by burning fossil fuels).
This curve is at a terrifying exponential rate, since it is completely clear that no exponential growth is possible in the long term, particularly where pollution is concerned. "Pollution" refers to several elements and is crucial. However, this chart only shows CO2 emissions, as the subject of this case file is the impact of industry on the wider environment.
Which industries cause the most pollution?
We can pinpoint mainly two of them: the chemicals industry and energy production.
1) Industrial production of energy
As we have seen, the industrial era began in the eighteenth century and demanded more and more energy to cope with its growth, which was boosted by advances in technology and the growing world population. How could this energy be produced? Man has used coal, oil and gas, which has resulted in pollution of the air, water and soil.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the first types of air pollution were visible in the skies of major cities, this was ‘thanks’ to coal, which was soon joined by petrol, which in turn has also contaminated the water and soil. However, it seems that petrol cannot be used industrially without unfortunately serious ecological disasters occurring on a regular basis (See also the CyberDodo case file on the subject of petrol).
What about nuclear power?
Proponents of nuclear energy have a major argument; it does not produce CO2 and does not contribute to global warming. According to them, it would therefore be "the" preferred solution to ensure a sustainable supply of energy while fighting against global warming.
We do not need to go into details on the construction and life of a nuclear plant, which produces significant volumes of CO2, contrary to the incomplete view of how its reactor or reactors operate; however, it is sufficient to note two aspects which greatly reduce the so-called "benefits" of nuclear energy:
a) Waste = No person has the right to bequeath to future generations the responsibility for managing waste that will remain deadly for thousands, even millions, of years. Who could justify that in order to ensure our current comfort, we are endangering future generations that have not asked us for anything?
b) Budget = see the second page of this case file.
Chemical industries are responsible for pollution which is as diverse as the millions of substances produced or processed by them. Indeed, there are few areas of human genius on which the "progress" of science has had no impact.
For many, certainly ... but perhaps for even more, the answer is negative. Man has manipulated, modified and created products the safety of which no one can guarantee, since the pace of development far exceeds the analytical capacity of the authorities nominally in charge of their approval. Thus in the environment, particularly where our waste is concerned, we find substances whose long-term effects are, at best, unknown or potentially lethal.
This is not the only problem with the chemical industry since the operation of production units causes unacceptable discharges of a large proportion of them (Liquid effluents in rivers and seas; factory smoke containing gas greenhouse gases and other pollutants into the atmosphere, soils, heavy metals, etc..).
In summary, the whole biosphere is contaminated and has been partly destroyed by factories disposing of waste both upstream and downstream. We dump millions of tonnes of substances on the environment of which we do not even know the true impact in the short, medium and long term.
Industries have a heavy and major responsibility in this pollution, but would it be possible for them to operate otherwise?