Essays environmental protection
Essays environmental protection
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…"Localization of effects" suggests a primary need to redistribute energy-associated externalities, not merely to reduce their magnitude. This indeed is the main lesson of environmental damage from coal mining. There exists in nature unused capacity to absorb ecological affronts of all sorts, if only wastes can be carried to areas whose "sinks" have not been used up, rather than being permitted to overwhelm ecosystems near points of discharge. This is true of earth waste from mines. It is also true of urban air pollution. It is true too of thermal pollution, which would disappear if waste heat could be dissipated directly to its ultimate and infinite sink, outer space.
The needed redistribution can be accomplished in two ways: pecuniarily, by internalizing the costs of fuel production and conversion (including repair of environmental damage) so energy consumers bear the full burden, rather than persons who happen to be in the locale of the problem; and ecologically, by exercising better control over rates of effluent discharge and over the couplings between actually and potentially affected ecosystems, so full benefit can be taken of nature's assimilative capacities.
Since adequate coupling could disperse excess effluents to less burdened ecosystems, many costs of environmental quality should be seen as costs of transporting "resources out of place," either back to their original locations (as in backfilling mines to prevent subsidence, or in regrading soil for strip mine reclamation) or to points where natural assimilation becomes possible (as in dispersing spilled oil to facilitate natural biodegradation, or in redistributing silt by moving it downriver).Nature itself furnishes the model for a system of dispersive coupling mechanisms—ecology's network of transport media such as blowing wind, flowing water, or even moving animals. But high waste levels can over-tax the ability of these media to cleanse the receiving ecosystem. The response then is to extend nature's pattern by improving the artificial transport media which are already used to keep fuels in place—the nation's complex of rails, pipes, containers, and wires for moving energy as the "energy order." The energy order has long been used to couple productive sectors of the man-made energy economy to consuming sectors: coal mines to power stations via unitized trains, gas wells to home burners via pipelines, and so forth. The physical apparatus for transporting fuel may also be developed for the complementary function of controlling fuel-associates wastes…
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