Closing Address

pp. 231-232 in Traditional Technology for Environmental Conservation and Sustainable Development in the Asian-Pacific Region

Proceedings of the UNESCO - University of Tsukuba International Seminar on Traditional Technology for Environmental Conservation and Sustainable Development in the Asian-Pacific Region, held in Tsukuba Science City, Japan, 11-14 December, 1995.

Editors: Kozo Ishizuka, D. Sc. , Shigeru Hisajima, D. Sc. , Darryl R.J. Macer, Ph.D.


Copyright 1996 Masters Program in Environmental Sciences, University of Tsukuba. Commercial rights are reserved, but this book may be reproduced for limited educational purposes. Published by the Master's Program in Environmental Science and Master's Program in Biosystem Studies, University of Tsukuba, 1996.

Y. Nannichi
Institute of Materials Science, University of Tsukuba, Japan
Honorable guests, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, it is my highest honor to be given a chance to talk to you on this occasion at the closing of this first joint United Nations-University of Tsukuba International Seminar on the "Traditional Technology for Environmental Conservation and Sustainable Development in Asian-Pacific Region."

In this region is expected a remarkable development in the years to come. At the same time we have to avoid the errors which quite often come with the development. The title of the symposium may imply that the traditional technology is proven safe to employ, whereas new technology is yet to be guaranteed and could be unsafe. I can tell you a story from my stand point.

Semiconductor industry emerged in the mid-20th century. It was in the beginning taken as safe technology, since it was free from nuisance such as noise or vibration, and consumed relatively a small quantity of energy and materials. In order to obtain always better results, we used any of available chemicals in the manufacturing process.

However, in the following few decades of unprecedented growth, it began to reveal the unsafe side, gradually. The use of the chemicals, such as chloro-carbons and chloro-fluoro-carbons are now prohibitive. The former is now regarded as one of the cancer stimulants, and the latter to cause the ozone-hole in the atmosphere which enhances eventually skin cancer.

But in the beginning, those innocent people little doubted these effect ever to come out. It showed up only after a certain period of time elapsed, and the production scale grew huge. Once it became clear, elimination of hazardous chemicals is schemed and executed. It is the fate of new technology before accepted to make some minor errors. In other words, it has been granted that the failure is a necessity for technological progress.

Let's turn our eyes on the favorable side of the new technology. Thanks to the developed instrumentation, I mean, the data taken with semiconductor-electronics-based technology revealed that a very very tiny amount of certain substances are responsible for the effect, and then we could find the effective means to suppress the phenomenon.

It might have taken years or decades before the effect was attributed to a certain cause or causes, but once the cause-effect relation is established, in other words, once our target is defined, new technologies are the one to be relied upon. By increasing the sensitivity and precision of the measuring technique, we could remarkably reduce the time lag between the cause and the result. Thus the effective remedy can be established quickly.

Admitting that a new technology could be erroneous sometimes, but it also can offer a solution. The problem is whether the error is bearable of not ?

Towards the end of this century, the size of some systems became so gigantic: A collapse of a dam in a mountain area may claim hundreds of thousand human lives, or melt down of an atomic plant causes panic among hundreds of millions. These are intolerable disasters. Human beings are now capable of inflicting upon ourselves, intentionally or unintentionally, with such a huge violent power which used to be only in the hand of Nature.

A manageable size of errors may be acceptable, but we can no longer afford to learn from a full size errors. So the problem now is how we could prevent the hazard from growing to an intolerable disaster.

Sometimes, even a traditional technology is no longer immune in this respect. It is caused by the explosion in number or density, The increase in the number or density may cause a change in the nature of the problem.

To give an example, automobile technology started in the previous century. It is an old established technology. The increase in the number or the density of the automobiles made us realize the hazard caused by the convenient machine after so many decades of honeymoon. These days, in so many cities world-wide, not only the polluted atmosphere but also the jammed highways are the inflictions we suffer.

Can this headache be solved by improving only the automobile technology ? The answer is absolutely NO. Even the most optimistic would answer in negative. It is no longer a matter of automobile technology only, but is more of a matter of civil engineering, in the sense, where to construct and connect roads, a matter of psychology to ease irritation of drivers and passengers in order to prevent accidents or, in the worse case of murdering, a matter of politics how to discourage people to drive possibly with higher taxation, or even to prohibit to drive, etc., etc. . . I am saying here, that only multi-disciplinary approach can find the solution to the complicated problems of the modern age.

Explosion of population brings a similar situation in the realm of food production or biological resource production. I do not believe technical improvements in that specific field only can single handedly solve these hard problems we are to face.

Well, this is nothing new; every body knows it. Throughout this symposium, the important points are already clear. The next step is to deliberately consider from multi-points of view so as not to make big mistakes in the future.

In conclusion, I claim with your kindest agreement that this UNESCO - University of Tsukuba international symposium was timely, successful, and very meaningful in raising the problem. Then I propose that we should have symposia successively in a series in the future, gradually widening our scope.


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