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Subject: The Environment
SUBJECT:
The environment
For all its short-term material benefits, technology has often violently destroyed the human habitat. But technology can also help to protect and improve the environment, by monitoring pollutants, providing renewable energy and reusable products. The Science Museum has a fine collection of monitoring equipment including a Geiger counter made by Hans Geiger and a electron capture detector (used to detect chlorofluorocarbons) constructed by James Lovelock. Modern chemical analysis is so powerful that the detection of chemicals in the environment no longer necessarily implies a high risk to the public’s health or to wildlife. There is, however, no consensus on what level of risk is acceptable or what precautions are needed to protect society. As individuals we may want to save the environment, but, we have to overcome together any overarching economic, political and technological systems that may hinder us from making the big and lasting changes required.
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Modern technology can make hidden dangers – radioactivity, pesticides and the destruction of the ozone layer – evident. Is knowledge power or do we prefer not to know? Why do we find it hard to deal with small risks of huge dangers?  > more
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The quality of our air, water and food matters to us, and we all want to do our bit to save the planet. We can all try to do the little things, reducing waste and energy use and buying things that can be recycled. But our efforts will only be worthwhile if the proper economic, technological and political systems exist. Before we can live sustainable lives, the framework for sustainable development has to be in place.  > more
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Michael Fish’s ‘it’s not a hurricane’ forecast of 1987 has become legendary, but duff weather forecasts are no joke. Inaccurate forecasting costs the British economy billions of pounds a year. Why is it so hard to predict the weather more than a day or two ahead? Does the problem lie with the Meteorological Office, the language that Michael Fish and his colleague use, or is the weather inherently difficult to predict?  > more
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The harsh reality of the mining life created a culture that emphasised self-reliance, team spirit and mutual strength. With the collapse of deep-coal mining in Britain coal culture is now in decline and may even disappear.  > more
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While governments and citizens once believed science had the answer, in recent decades people have reflected on its limitations and started to question decisions made on the basis of scientific methods. Now governments find that people are no longer willing to accept ‘scientific’ answers to policy issues.  > more
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The landscape of Britain is criss-crossed by railways. For many people this is the one of the most positive benefits of the transport revolution. They believe that the locomotive is ‘greener’ than the car, the ‘permanent way’ more aesthetically pleasing than the motorway, and that railway architecture enhances our towns. The railways, however, have not always received such a good press, and even today many question their impact on the world around us.  > more
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Old cultures and new technologies collide in a global economy where both people and ideas cross oceans. The result has often been immensely fruitful as well as stressful.
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