- 05 December, 2016: “Every day we hear of environmental problems that are threatening life on this planet and the key to addressing these challenges is education”.
This was the master block of a lecture made on 01 December 2016 at the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre by Professor Geraldine Richmond, Presidential Chair in Science and Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oregon, U.S.A. She was the Guest Speaker for a Science Popularisation lecture on ‘Scientific Challenges and Future Opportunities for Solving Global Environmental Problems’ organised by the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy.
Prof. Richmond underlined that a major challenge is addressing the need for alternative and renewable energy resources and the key to developing new energy resources lies in the combination of chemistry, physics and biosciences as a whole. There is also a need to have adequate resources to manage big data – data sets that are so large or complex that traditional data processing applications are inadequate to deal with them. Challenges in this field include analysis, capture, data curation, search, sharing, storage, transfer, visualization, querying, updating and information privacy.
She added that another challenge is the issue of carbon dioxide, which is a major contributor to global warming. Some of the solutions to get rid of carbon dioxide, which cannot be totally absorbed by nature, is to freeze it for easy storage or burry it in the ground.
Air and water treatment are also important areas where innovation must be brought, said Prof. Richmond. Monitoring and reduction of air pollution and water purification must be done efficiently and require innovative technologies. Though the technology for water purification already exists, the challenge consists in making it cheaper and more accessible, she stressed.
Furthermore, she observed, more advanced knowledge is needed in order to have environmentally responsible forms of agriculture, multipronged approaches to health issues and understand dietary issues.
Addressing all these challenges and environmental problems requires new technological solutions and a work-force that sees these challenges as an opportunity for innovation and discovery, Geraldine Richmond stressed.
The educational system in most countries, added Prof. Richmond, needs to be adapted to train students to do the interdisciplinary work for finding new solutions as the disciplines – science subjects, geology and health, among others – are dissociated from each other. According to her, science teaching must be rendered more interesting at an early educational stage so that more youngsters do not drop science subjects before tertiary level. The emerging areas of chemistry, physics and the biosciences that show promise will then be dealt with efficiently, she concluded.
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