Sustainable energy systems
Energy is the primary sources of all human developmental activities. It grows food, gives clean water, builds homes and moves people. A human economy based on fossil fuels as the sources of energy can never be sustainable. They are proving environmentally very costly, destructive to human health and the environment at both ends of the production and as well as consumption cycles. Human sustainability on earth is intertwined with the sustainable and commercial use of all non-polluting and renewable sources of energy in the universe-solar, wind, oceanic, and geothermal energy and perhaps hydrogen fuel projected as the ‘fuel of the future’ for civilisation and as an environmentally benign and cheaper alternative to fossil fuels.
Sustainable Industrial System
Industries are a necessary evil. Modern human society has been developed on account of widespread industrialisation, triggered by the industrial revolution of the 18th century. Nevertheless, this is proving to be a mixed blessing for mankind. Industries need to embark on cleaner production systems by reducing their dependence on the use of toxic chemicals in industrial operation and processing and fossil fuels as the source of energy.
Industries should be designed to have inbuilt systems of pollution control, waste reduction and recycling and powered by natural gas and, eventually by hydrogen fuel. Industries should maximise the use of recyclable materials (as an alternative to the virgin and primary raw materials whose procurement from the earth’s crust entails heavy environmental damage) as industrial raw material as far as practicable.
Sustainable Homes and Habitats for Mankind
Cities are becoming the main dwelling place for mankind all over the world. They are centres of global finance, industry, culture, and communications, exchange of information, learning and production. Cities are our common future and there is no road back to the pre-industrial society. The challenge is how to organise large urban areas in such a way that allows efficient use of energy and resources, safe management of waste, sustainable housing development, job opportunities, commerce and trade, mobility and leisure.
Sustainable Transport System and Mobility for Mankind
Mobility is the basic character of life and in the modern world; human beings have become more mobile to fulfil their needs and aspirations. The fossil fuel (petrol and diesel) powered automobiles are doing great damage to the environment and society. They are a major source of air pollution and formation of urban smog in the cities with grave consequences to the health of urban dwellers. However, due to recent technological changes, mainly catalytic converters and lead-free petrol and the introduction of auto gases (CNG and LPG), significant reductions in airborne lead and emission of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen have been achieved. Reduction in body and wheel weights and formation of aerodynamic bodies through technological changes in modern cars has also contributed to fuel efficiency and sustainability. The biggest technological feat will be the commercialization of hydrogen-powered vehicles and solar-powered zero pollution vehicles, and those run by rapidly chargeable electric batteries. They will become highly sustainable means of transport.
Public transport systems (buses, trains, metros and trams) are also much more sustainable. They consume much less fuel and emit much fewer pollutants per passenger transported.
Safe and Sustainable Food Production System
The high-tech chemical and monoculture agriculture promoted by the use of high yielding varieties (HYVs) of crops and agro-chemicals heralded the green revolution in the 1950s and 1960s. It dramatically increased food production all over the world but also caused immense damage to human health and the environment (soil, air, water and biodiversity). There is evidence that a plateau has been reached in global efforts to increase the area under cultivation and enhance yield per hectare through agrochemicals. Due to monoculture farming practices with HYV crops, there has been continued the genetic erosion of our main food crops-wheat, maize and rice- which feed and sustain civilisation.
We have to embark on a second green revolution for sustainable agriculture, which requires a judicious combination of some new technological inputs with the traditional wisdom of farming communities, with biological inputs as the driving force and chemical inputs only as a helping hand. Civilisation has to seek more sustainable methods of food production and also depend on non-conventional foods, more nutritive, and with short harvest cycles.
Sustainable Land Use System
Land management is vital to sustainable development. The land is a finite resource, especially arable land, and is used for all developmental activities-industry, housing, recreation and food production. While degraded lands can be regenerated through bioremediation and afforestation technologies, the arable lands must never be used for any purpose other than agriculture and livestock development.
Land management is vital to sustainable development. The land is a finite source, especially arable land, and is used for all developmental activities-industry, housing, recreation, and food production. Thus, forestry must be given the largest piece of cake since plants are the lifeline of the planet, Earth.
Sustainable Forestry Development
Forests are a renewable resource if used in a sustainable manner. They are treasure houses of several genetic resources. Agroforestry, by integrating food crops with leguminous trees, has great potential. The nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the root nodules of legumes help in improving soil fertility and rehabilitating degraded forestlands. Trees grown from tissue culture can quickly reforest large areas of denuded lands and can be engineered with useful commercial qualities. But only polyculture forestry with mixed species of fast and normal growing trees providing food, fibre, timber and fuelwood can be really sustainable.
Cultivation and sustainable harvesting of medicinal plants and wild food plants from forests are emerging as a great economic activity all over the world. But the greatest socio-economic and environmental benefits will come from the reduction of global warming by the planted trees as they would work as a ‘carbon sink’ to absorb and sequester tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In Australia, over a million native trees have been planted which involves 17 mixed species. When fully grown they will have absorbed more than 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. They would also help tackle salinity, improve water quality and provide essential habitat for endangered species.