Science: there's two sides of the coin.

Photo by svenwerk |

There has been a debate going on for years (nay, decades) that has become quite significant within environmental discussions and is worth revisiting: How can we effectively manage our resources? And to what degree should we rely on science and technology to aid us in preserving the environment?


From growing up in an age where technology was thought of as revolutionary and integral to development, I wasn’t really aware of how innovation could have negative impacts. After doing more research and thinking more about the subject, it’s rather clear that there’s no simple answer to our problems.


On one side of the coin, science helps us understand a lot of the world that we didn’t know beforehand.  We’ve discovered things that were once unimaginable, and we are able to conduct policies and direct management in a way that can be effective.


But when the scientific revolution was beginning to reveal mass amounts of knowledge about our biomes and ecosystems, metaphors existed which said that we are taking mother nature and shaking her until she reveals all of her secrets.  And within this, we can see issues.


I’d strongly argue that science and technology has pushed us to manipulating more than we need to. We’ve figured out that plastics are extremely durable – to the point where we now can’t get rid of them. We’ve discovered where we can collect oil and now, we are at a point where climate change is an issue and once we run out of oil, our automotive industry and infrastructure will be in peril.


Science has also taken a huge lead in what we judge to be trustworthy information. We sometimes forget the meaning and importance of traditional knowledge and personal observations. For example, I was out in the field doing work on fish, and a colleague told me that more fish could be caught after rainfall. We didn’t use a scholarly journal article to figure this out – it was simply something we’ve noticed from working in the field. And it’s something we should think about more often.


On the other hand, we simply couldn’t understand what we do without science and the technology that accompanies it. Would we even know what kinds of damage we’ve done without it?


And so, the question comes to you. Where does science play a role in the grand scheme of management and environmental policy? How much can we rely on technology, and to what degree should we implement policy in the absence of sound scientific information? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.


We are at a place in time where these questions are of the utmost importance. Let’s think about this as we move ahead and plan for a greener, better future.