General Paper Sample Essay

The essay below is from a Science student and hopefully it will prove to you that you don't necessarily have to be an Arts/Humanities student with exceptional flair with the language to score well for GP. Might also not put you off so easily as you appreciate the more "scientific" approach to writing the essay rather than the relatively flamboyant ones we normally get to see in KS Bull.

Cheers.

Is technology the best answer to environmental destruction?

It is clearer today, more than ever, that Man’s short-sighted actions in the pursuit of material wealth is causing the destruction of the environment. There is a growing international consensus among scientists that human activity is a direct cause of global warming and Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” brought this to the forefront of public consciousness. Meanwhile, huge swathes of rainforest in the Amazon are destroyed each day to be used as cattle grazing pastures. Given the undeniable fact that human activity is responsible for environmental destruction, it is then not surprising that the best answer to environmental destruction is not the development of new technology to patch up the problem, but instead a fundamental change in mindset and attitudes globally which would address the root of the problem.

It must be acknowledged that technology can indeed help to address the problem of environmental destruction. This is especially evident in situations where it is impractical to stop human activity. For example, it would be impossible to stop all forms of transport as people would face severe restrictions in where they could go. Thus, in this case, technology could help tremendously, like through the introduction of hydrogen-fuelled cars which only produce water as a waste product and do not emit carbon dioxide. Also, better technology has helped refineries to refine crude oil while releasing less harmful byproducts into the environment. The development of unleaded petrol also reduced the amount of pollutants emitted into the environment by cars. All of these examples go to show that technology can and indeed, already has, helped to reduce environmental destruction.

However, technology may not be the best answer to environmental destruction as there are situations in which it is useless. An example close to home is the proposed development of Chek Jawa, a section of coast on Pulau Ubin with a rich marine biodiversity, by the government. Had the government decided to go ahead with its plans, no amount of technology could have saved the biodiversity in the area from the bulldozers and construction cranes. Thus, it is clear that technology cannot be the best answer as it is unable to negate the effects of habitat destruction. Instead, what is more pertinent in this situation is the attitude towards conservation of such important habitats. In the Chek Jawa situation, the government demonstrated an applaudable mindset towards environmental conservation as it halted development plans and even gazette the area as a protected area. It is clear that human attitudes were what saved Chek Jawa from destruction, not technology.

Furthermore, technology is limited in its impact as it is only effective when used properly and regularly. For example, although electric cars that are less harmful to the environment than conventional cars have been developed, the usage rate of such cars in not high due to their relatively higher price. If, for whatever reason, superior technology is not implemented, then it is effectively useless. In short, the effectiveness of technology is dependent on society’s attitude towards it, and technology that helps reduce environmental destruction will only be implemented if society feels the need for environmental conservation.

Another problem with using technology as the answer to environmental destruction is that, more often than not, cavalier attitudes towards environmental conservation as demonstrated by excessive consumption and extravagant wastage can negate any benefits brought about by technology. For example, proponents of the recently-developed biodegradable “plastic bag” hail it as the answer to the problem of non-biodegradable petroleum-based plastic bags. However, should people take the biodegradable nature of the new “plastic bag” as carte blanche to use and waste as many as they desire, they could be contributing to even more environmental destruction. This is mainly because more energy is required to produce these extra bags, thereby creating more carbon dioxide and waste through the production and incineration process as compared to the impact of conventional plastic bags. Through this, it is clear that the ultimate answer is not technology, but the changing of society’s attitudes.

Proponents of the superiority of technology may argue that with sufficiently advanced and large-scale technology, humans need not alter their attitudes at all. They may point to ongoing projects which attempt to find a way to dump Mankind’s waste into space or pump the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into huge underground caverns to reduce global warming. However, such initiatives tend to be large-scale and extravagantly expensive, taking up valuable scarce resources which could be used for the betterment of society or even to feed the hungry. Furthermore, according to Occam’s razor, the simplest solution to a problem is often the best one. It would be resource-wasting and foolish to pursue such grand initiatives to solve a problem which can be solved so simply – by a small change in behavioural attitudes.

Although cynics might argue that it is much harder to change human attitudes, current events point to the contrary. They show that people, once educated about the impact of their actions on the destruction of the environment, tend to act in a way to reduce that impact. For example, the number of couples who serve shark fin soup at their weddings here in has steadily declined over the years, due to increasing awareness that the shark fin trade is endangering the shark population. Also, statistics collected in conjunction with the “Bring Your Own Bag” campaign, which was recently launched in , has shown that more people are starting to eschew the one-time use of plastic bags in favour of reusable ones. This is attributed to increased awareness of the environmental destruction caused by plastic bags. Thus we can see that people do change their actions and attitudes when educated about the negative impacts of their actions.

Moreover, there need not be a drastic change in attitudes and actions to solve the problem of environmental destruction. Saving the environment need not require everyone to stop all air travel or stop all activities non-essential to survival. As is often seen, all that is required is a small change in behavior, such as using turning up the temperature on the air-conditioner or printing documents double-sided. For example, if everyone switched off their computers when not in use instead of leaving them to idle, 45 million less metric tons of carbon dioxide would be emitted per year. Thus, even small individual actions can lead to a great impact is done collectively.

It is for this reason that a change in people’s attitudes towards conservation is a superior answer to environmental destruction compared to technology. It is far more likely to succeed and requires less of the Earth’s scarce resources.

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