How bad can it be?

How bad can it be?

Volume 3 Issue 1 News & Resources | January 2010

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad

School of Electrical & Electronic Eng
Universiti Sains Malaysia
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The issue of the sustainability of life on earth is now at stake. The traumatic and fatalistic end of the world depicted in films and scenarios enacted by different groups have finally attracted the attention of the decision makers. The just concluded Copenhagen meet was the latest in a series of discussion and more discussions on the right actions that need to be taken to stem the unstoppable tide of destructions initiated by non-others but us, human beings. And, now, we are feeling the grunts of our own doings. But what goes around comes around.

This importance of the stability of the environment, i.e. the ecological system, is actually mirrored in so many smaller systems. The human body homeostasis system ensured that our body can adapt to changes that can happen internally or externally, i.e. to maintain certain level of stability in the normal tolerance of a human body. Of course, up to a certain extent, before the system goes haywire. This happens when the limits of the stable system have been breached, i.e. when the changes are no longer normal, or so rapid that the system just cannot cope anymore. And, this behaviour is certainly reflected in the much bigger system. This reminds me so much of the fractal theory in the natural world.

The GAIA theory or mother earth theory was propounded by scientist some time back. This theory basically expounded on the inherent capability of GAIA or mother earth in ensuring the stability of the ecological system. Somehow, any damage done to environment will be compensated by some similar or non-similar effects to the inhabitants, including human or non-human. And, nowadays, so many weird and interesting things are happening in our environment. The heating up of the climate seems to affect not just the physical world, but it seems to influence the normal cycle of life on earth. The increase of average global temperature has led to so many changes in other spheres of human and non-human activities. And as we have always known, in order to change the outcome of any kind of cycle or system, you just need a small alteration to one of the influencing parameters. Today, we are talking not just about small parameter changes, but major ones. May God help all of us!

So, what can we do to stem the seemingly unstoppable tides? Or is it already too late to do anything? Actually, the defeatist behaviour is all too easy, and will always be the default position. It is never too late to do something, and it has never been too late to start. An optimistic thinking is more in-sync with the nature of the modern civilisations. We can help to change the dire situations. The change must start with us, the individual and the communities. In the way we live our life, and being conscious on the effect we are putting to our surrounding. For example, checking on our carbon foot-print may be a good start. One thing will lead to the other. The change must starts somewhere and why not with us.

Engineering-led research has always been inspired by problems, and the need to improve the quality of living of the masses. In fact, civilisations for centuries have benefited from the inventiveness and creativeness of engineers, in one form or the other. But, of course, the engineering fraternity has also contributed to the development of devices which brought about the utmost destruction is a single deployment. Surely, all of us remember Hiroshima and Nagasaki. To be fair, physicists are also the culprits in this particular example. What I am trying to convey is that, we surely can ‘engineer’ our way out of this problem. No matter how difficult it may seem to us now. What other option do we have other than striving and trying our best in these desperate times?

The oceans are the ultimate indicator of earth health, i.e. it indicates how the earth is being affected by the accelerated change of temperature. Sudden temperature change, including its sudden variations, in the oceans will affect the water flows and circulations, salinity level and, certainly, the behaviour of its biota, benthic or not. We must make efforts to measure and monitor the changes. Sensing tools are needed, and engineers, like us, will get them done. Research into sensing tools and the platform to take the sensors to the depth of the oceans are getting more intricate. This is because the sensing capability must be able to measure/sense a complete picture of the situations, rather than bits and pieces of the actual conditions. This requires a more novel and integrated approach. Global problem require a more holistic solution.

This is not a good start for the New Year, but reality is the truth. And, as we all know, truth will liberate. Happy New Year, and, may it truly liberates us all.

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