The Price of Fire

The Application of Modern Technology to the Improvement of Man's Environment

by Robert M. Salter, P. T. Van Dyke

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Methods of applying the "Promethean fire" of technology to solve environmental problems. Less technology is not the answer; it could offer only preindustrial squalor and misery. Technological applications include monitoring and abatement. The former comprises both environmental sensing and computer modeling. RAND's contributions include computer modeling of climate dynamics on a global scale; simulation of tidal movements and dissolved waste constituents in bays and estuaries; and pseudocolor image enhancement of aerial photographs. Abatement technology is illustrated by such applications as RAND's proposed very-high-speed transport system, an underground, electromagnetically suspended and driven train which also provides tunnels for underground utilities; laser initiated fusion to provide for clean electrical power; adaptive processing of wastes into resources; replacing newsprint by electronic displays; and optimizing industrial production — all with consideration for aesthetics and socioeconomic impacts. Whether man's conflicting interests and parochialism will permit effective planning and management is the question. (Modified from a talk at the IV International Conference on Science and Society in Yugoslavia, July 1971.)

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