PerspectiveBridge – Conservation and Development

Roads to riches or ruin?

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Science  27 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6362, pp. 442-444
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao0312

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  • RE: Energy analysis methodology needed in EIA and SEA

    Using energy analysis to evaluate thousands of proposed projects generated by various nation states could help move society towards a sustainable condition. However, there is no proven methodology currently in use to calculate the “net energy” on any given infrastructure project and its alternatives. Some potential tools to evaluate a project's net energy range from Life Cycle Assessment to Emergy analysis to Exergy analysis to Energy Returned on Energy Invested analysis, but each has its own idiosyncrasies and none have been adopted as standard policy by the international community. If we "devise cost-effective scenarios that vigorously benefit humanity while lessening impacts on our natural environment" we will come up short of both objectives unless we include energy requirements and conservation potential in the decision making process.

    Looked at from a second law of thermodynamics perspective, there are no ecologically sound technological solutions to our environmental problems. There are quasi-solutions, some of which have a basis in technology, that are more ecologically sound because they use less technological energy more efficiently.

    Energy analysis should not be the sole deciding factor in selecting environmentally sustainable alternatives. However, it should be a mandatory part of the calculus of decision making for taking sustainable actions. All life, but especially human life with its advanced science and technology, creates env...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • The earth's best health may be different from the ideal ecosystem

    William F. Laurance et al. wrote an article entitled "Roads to riches or ruin?" (1). However, we have had a big problem where we don't know how to measure earth's health. There is an interesting article by Carolyn Wilke, entitled "Measuring earth's health" (2). She introduced a set of metrics for the earth's health from the paper of Will Steffen et al. (3). Will Steffen et al. proposed the empirical model based on the planetary boundary (PB) framework for measuring earth's health (3). They assume that three of the PBs (climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, and ocean acidification) remain essentially unchanged from the earlier analysis (3). However, since the conclusion is not deduced by the rigorous syllogism (facts) but by empirical model/data, scientifically we are not sure whether their mathematical model is correct or not. In addition, we are not sure whether all assumptions in the model are necessary and sufficient, and are completely satisfied or not (3). An ecosystem is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment (things like air, water and mineral soil), interacting as a system. The ideal ecosystem may be different from the earth's best health. Scientists must define what is the ideal ecosystem and show the relationship between the ideal ecosystem and earth's health including how to measure it because all technical terms used in their math...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • Roads and measurement of regional economy
    • Shino Iwami, Project Researcher, University of Jyväskylä

    William F. Laurance and Irene Burgués Arrea give an interesting hint to measure prosperity and decline of nations and regions (1).
    NASA provides a photo about lighting at night (2), and it implies economic activity. Comparing between road maps and lighting areas, unnecessary roads and excess roads will be found. If the number of roads is small for much lighting, there will be places to improve the road. It should be judged relatively in the country, since the situation of energy supply are different from country to country.
    At the same time, regarding shortage of maintenance in (1), there is an issue about creaky roads connecting to several marginal settlements. Despite lack of resources, residents require to provide services to the last one. Thus, evidences based on regional economy are necessary for deciding the priority of infrastructure maintenance including roads. Some regions use RFID and sensing for automations of road maintenance (3, 4).
    Currently, drone delivery is developed to carry goods without human resources (5). When it is applied to our real society, the role of roads may shrink in small-scale transportation. Robots that walk on rough lands also does not need roads (6). There are air medical services for emergency treatment (7) and telemedicine for mild symptoms (8). They have a potential to prevent natural destruction by road construction and to be introduced without roads for small settlements.
    References:
    1. W. F. Laurance,...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.