EDITORIAL: Science for sustainability

Today is World Science Day for Peace and Development. Most of us probably didn’t know that there was such a “day” but it does indeed exist, and it is is celebrated every November 10.  According to the the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),  World Science Day for Peace and Development “highlights the significant role of science in society and the need to engage the wider public in debates on emerging scientific issues. It also underlines the importance and relevance of science in our daily lives.”

If you are wondering why we have chosen to write on this topic, it is because we are strong believers in the application of science to better our world.  It is part of our mantra regarding education and the need for our schools to raise the bar when it comes to mathematics and the sciences. While we are strong supporters of the arts, as well, we have seen a slide in overall performance in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and that is worrying, because these are subject areas that will push our bit of paradise and the world towards sustainability.

Two of the UNESCO objectives for World Science Day for Peace and Development are to renew national and international commitment for the use of science for the benefit of societies and to draw attention to the challenges faced by science and raising support for the scientific endeavour. We believe that these are very important to the way that we look at science in our education system and weave science into our everyday consciousness. 

How often do we look at available science and find ways to incorporate it into our lives for the betterment of society? As an example of our lacklustre approach, we need only look at the half-hearted effort to transition our small islands towards renewable energy and reduce our demand for fossil fuels.  You hear about the Government’s big plans for commercial solar energy plants but, at the same time, the administration removes any real incentive for individuals and businesses to invest in the technologies. The long term view towards a more self-sufficient energy model with renewable energy technologies is stymied by the short-term policies aimed at appeasing the financial goals of APUA in meeting their obligations; which include meeting the payroll of an overstaffed organisation.  

Sunshine is one of the few natural resources available to us. It is probably second only to our human resources, yet we allow it to be wasted every day instead of empowering the people to harvest it as an energy source. Yes, the government provides concessions for the importation of equipment but that is only one aspect of what could be considered a long-term inclusive policy. The major hurdle for adoption is the APUA interconnection regime. In short, APUA buys the energy you produce at less than half of what it turns around and sells back to you. That is not a pathway to sustainability or the economic powerhouse we keep hearing about.

Imagine if 25 percent of households were incentivised to invest in solar (with no cost to the Government Treasury). Add that to the Government’s goal of 20 percent and almost half of our power consumption could be supplied by renewable energy in a short period of time. That will have the domino effect. It will lead to the adoption of energy efficient appliances, electric cars, and all manner of devices that would be able to take advantage of the sunlight and the wind that God provides for us everyday. Remove 50 percent of the demand on the grid and we will probably save around 15 to 20 percent of our overall fossil fuel demands. That means more money staying and circulating in the country. There is that domino effect again. All leading to sustainability.  

The theme for this year’s World Science Day for Peace and Development is “Science, a Human Right”, and it is crafted in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The theme recalls that “everyone has a right to participate in and benefit from science” and those rights, as with our other rights, should not be impinged in any way, and certainly not by government policies. 

Warren Buffett, considered by many, maybe most, to be the greatest investor of all time, has a simple approach to investing. His strategy is focused on long-term investing; minimising risk to generate wealth over the long term; not generating short-term profits. When we look at our approach to the application of science, especially in the areas of renewable energy and fossil fuels, we seem to be focusing on the short-term. In 20, 40 or 50 years, we have no doubt that hindsight will reveal that the smart investment was in renewable energies. Let us not wait to find out.

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