[2011 Essay Contest Top Essays] Science: The Key to a Stable Future
[2011 Essay Contest Top Essays] Science: The Key to a Stable Future
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  • 승인 2011.05.18 20:42
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According to a recent United Nations report, the world population will not stop growing at 9 billion, but it will continue and perhaps reach 10.1 billion by 2100. Already the world is crowded with more than 6 billion people. Imagining a world with a population 1.5 times that of today is daunting. With such an exponentially increasing population, could the world finally fall into chaos (whereby it is plagued by hunger, disease and war) as asserted by Thomas Robert Malthus in the 18th Century in his “Essay on the Principle of Population”? My answer is a definite no. The advances in agricultural engineering and the advent of the Industrial Revolution proved his theory wrong before, therefore I am confident that we will be able to make great strides in science in the future that enables us to solve three great challenges, the energy crisis, food shortage, and pioneering a new Earth in the universe, and prove Malthus wrong once again.

Population growth will inevitably mean more energy consumption, which can be a problem since our planet has finite resources and the burning of fossil fuels contaminates the environment. As a result of economic development in countries such as China and India, the two most populous countries in the world, the dramatic increase in their use of energy along with environmental pollution has already given us a taste for what would come if we don’t make a significant change in how we consume energy. Thus, a clean renewable energy system, which can replace the existing fossil fuel based energy structure, must be developed. In particular, the most promising clean renewable energy source is hydrogen. Hydrogen creates an enormous amount of energy when combusted, but its byproduct is only water. Thus, hydrogen is the perfect solution for a new energy system in the future because it is able to produce an enormous amount of energy without any pollutants. But a major problem with commercializing hydrogen as an alternative energy source is that it first needs to be stabilized before it can be used as energy, but the technology that can make a mass quantity of stabilized hydrogen still needs to be developed.

There are signs of hope, however. Scientists are blazing a trail in the study of photocatalysts. These materials can split water into hydrogen and oxygen by using solar energy. If they succeed in creating highly efficient photocatalytic materials, hydrogen can be mass-produced from water by sunlight. Then, human society will finally have a flawless self-recycling energy system in which hydrogen is made from the decomposition of water, then it is combusted to produce energy and water, and after that, the byproduct water is used to create hydrogen again. When this system is realized, environmental issues such as the green house effect and pollution, which are caused by the excessive use of fossil fuels, will be automatically solved.

Once the energy crisis, the most pressing issue, is solved, we will have to solve the issue of food shortage. Even if current agricultural technology improves, there will be a limit to how much agricultural goods can be produced within a specific amount of arable land. In other words, there will be a point in time when we won’t be able to feed all 10.1 billion people by only farming. So in order to feed all these people in the future, we will have to develop artificially made nutrition pills, with which people replace one or two meals a day. Just thinking about having to take in tasteless artificially created carbohydrates, fat and proteins might make one lose one’s appetite, but the only way to solve our food shortage would be to decrease our intake of food made with land-grown agricultural goods, and increase our consumption of artificially made nutrients.

In the future, human beings will have to rely on biotechnology and chemical engineering to solve such food shortage issues. As a matter of fact, today there are already numerous people who take in artificially created vitamins for their health, and many young men are paying large sums of money for high quality artificially made proteins in order to maximize their workout effect and to develop their muscles in a short period of time. I also drank liquid mixed with artificially made proteins several times at the advice of my friends, but I remember it did not taste so good. But in the future, there will come a time when not only men who want to have big muscles but all the people around the world will have to drink in such tasteless protein mixes. In addition, currently biochemists are making an effort to develop a way to mass cultivate microorganisms which decompose waste and produce ethanol. If such way is discovered, then humans will be able to create mass amounts of ethanol from waste using these microorganisms, and this can be used to synthesize artificial carbohydrates and fats our human body needs.

Even after energy crisis and food shortage issues are solved, in the end, humans will explore much further into space, and more frequently than now in order to find new resources necessary to lead a comfortable life, as well as to find new areas of study to satisfy human’s curiosity. When this exploration continues, we probably will eventually find an Earth-like planet outside our solar system, and plant the seeds of our civilization in the new found land. With the discovery of the second Earth-like planet, the third Earth-like planet, and so on, I don’t think a population of 20 billion or even 100 billion will pose us a problem. In other words, Malthus’ principle will be dead.

 In conclusion, there is no better way than the development of science for the human society to continue to prosper in the future, regardless of the size of population. I also believe that Postechians will make a huge contribution in the development of science and technologies our future human societies will need. Indeed, science is the key to a stable future.

First place winner, Jo Won Jun / CE ‘04