The Collapse of Science due to Environmental Issues -3
Good faith in scientific rigorousness in the minds of scientists and engineers collapsed through the series of environmental problems from DDT to hormones. Scholars began speaking about what society agrees upon instead of what they believe in. This is the consequence of the pollution movements. Two cases have been selected and are described below.
The first case is the concept of a “recycling society” and its realization. Since modernization began to occur, universities and the industry in Japan made an effort to develop new technologies, believing that the improvement of efficiency in industry would lead towards a more advantageous position in international business, resulting in the happiness of the Japanese people. All items and purposes in daily life had been focused on this principle since the Meiji Revolution. The effort was a great success and Japan became one of the richest countries in the world as well as being the only country in Asia, Africa and South America that has been independent during the 19th and 20th centuries.
However, just after 1989 when the Japanese economy collapsed, this guiding principle suddenly vanished. The production rate and the amount of retail sales decreased and environmental problems became widely recognized simultaneously. Being pressed to act under a new paradigm, the Japanese government and people as well as almost all scholars wanted to construct a “recycling society” to sustain the current life style.
The entire amount of the materials consumed in Japanese society is about 200 million tons a year. Half of them are used for infrastructure such as harbors, coasts, fields, mountains, valley facilities and bridges, roads, highways, public facilities and huge buildings.
The remaining approximately 100 million tons of materials are fed into the Japanese industry, which manufactures 50 million tons of products. The ratio of the amount of the products to that of the raw materials they use is about 0.5. Therefore, half of the raw materials become products and the rest is disposed of. Japan’s ratio is the largest in the world.
Then, the 50 million tons of products are fed into Japanese homes and small offices. The products are used there and finally, about 22 million tons are discarded as solid wastes. The official amount of the waste from the home and the office is reported to be about 5 million tons. Moreover, 5 million tons is much smaller compared to the entire amount of materials which the Japanese people consume per year (200 million tons). Nevertheless, citizens who had never seen the industrial materials were astonished by the huge amount of waste because it was much larger than what they treat everyday.
The recycling movement started from several misapprehensions. One of them is that the absolute amount of materials that can be recycled is much smaller compared to the entire amount of materials. So, even if the all waste can be recycled, only 5 % of the entirety is recovered.
The second is that the additional materials and energy that are required to recycle these wastes is calculated to be 70 million tons 1,2). As it is larger than the amount of the waste itself, the deficit of the recycling work is about 50 million tons.
In reality, 90% or more of the materials which were gathered, classified into over 20 kinds of wastes and recovered though the “recycling system in Nagoya City” were incinerated because nobody wanted to reuse the secondhand goods or materials. Recycling is not realistic but will be continued under the pretext of improving the environment because the illusion that has once been constructed cannot be easily erased.
The concept of “recovery by recycling” inherently does not agree with several scientific laws such as the second law in thermodynamics 3), materials deterioration and the principle of resource 4).
Imported petroleum, coal, natural gas and uranium used as energy sources are about 500 million tons (equivalent petroleum ton) 5). The materials such as refined iron ore, copper ore, foods and other imported goods include higher energy compared to those that were in the earth’s crust of the Japanese islands. It is calculated to be 150 million equivalent tons. In other words, Japanese society consumes 650 million equivalent tons a year, which completely vanishes after one year. Nothing is left to recycle. The consumption of energy is proportional to the consumed amount of reduced materials mentioned above.
Therefore, the introduction of the recycling system for the purpose of improving the Japanese environment is unrealistic and the concept is contradictory to the scientific structure which has been built up by numerous scholars for as long as three hundred years.
The second is the misapprehension regarding “climate change” caused by carbon dioxide. Five examples will be explained.
1) A Newspaper (2004/12/28) reported that “The sea level will rise if the ice of the arctic sea melts”. Of course, Archimedes discovered the buoyancy principle 2400 years ago. The level of water does not change even if ice melts.
2) Another Newspaper (2000/10/14) reported that “CO2 is not generated through energy acquisition by a hydrogen fuel cell”. Of course, CO2 is emitted in the process of producing the hydrogen from hydrogen sources for the fuel cell. As the hydrogen factory is operating on Earth, the amount of CO2 is the same as that of direct combustion.
3) A candidate who wanted to enter the graduate school at An University (2004/11/4)) said at his entrance examination that “Hydrogen is a clean energy and the source is found in abundance on Earth”. Of course, “gaseous” hydrogen is an energy source and it scarcely exists on Earth.
4) JR, the largest railroad company in Japan, showed on the illuminated news display in the Shinkansen (bullet train) for about one year during 2003 that “The CO2 emission of the Shinkansen is 10% of that of an airplane from Tokyo to Osaka”. Of course, a huge amount of fuel and materials were used to construct and maintain the very long Shinkansen rail from Tokyo to Osaka. Meanwhile, although the airplane does not need rails, energy is needed to work against the Earth’s gravity. The total amount of CO2 emitted by both is approximately the same.
5) A Forestry Research Institute displayed on their Home Page in 2002 that “Forests absorb CO2”. Of course, forests absorb CO2 and emit the same amount of CO2.
These examples shown above are the tip of the iceberg. Because the mass media, government and professionals elaborate on these many mistakes, they are in circulation in the current Japanese society. They speak about the mistakes even though they are aware of the principles, the scientific laws, the facts and the truth. Instead of placing value on their social roles, they choose to take the chance of making money or obtaining fame. This is the biggest problem that we scientists face now. People who have no knowledge of science and engineering believe not the facts or the truth but the illusion of what they hope for.
I am writing a scientific reader for children. The editor does not agree with what I write because the content is not the same as the things that have already been reported on TV and in the newspapers. He said that the knowledge in children’s minds is the same as what mass media report, so whether or not the knowledge is correct or wrong is besides the question. For example, he said that even if it goes against Archimedes’s law, “the water surface rises by melting ice” is what he wants me to write, and he continued, “I know many scholars who will write the same things as the newspapers even if you won’t.”
1) C. J. King, Separation Processes, Tata Mcgraw Hill, 1972.
2) Kunihiko Takeda, Journal of the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers, vol.104、No.995、p.664-669 (2001) (Written in Japanese.)
3) E. Fermi, “Thermodynamics”, Dover Publications, 1937.
4) B. J. Skinner, “Earth Resources”, Prentice-Hall Inc., New Jersey, 1986.
5) From the Statistical Table provided by the Japanese government.
Kunihiko TAKEDA - Nagoya University