Abstracts from the 2007 Meeting of American Scientific Affiliation and Christians in Science
Water: The Defining Crisis for the Developing
Kenell J Touryan
We have heard by now that water will be the oil of the 21st century, especially for most developing countries. Unlike fossil fuels that can be replaced by renewable technologies, water has no substitute.1 Fresh water constitutes only about 2.5% of the total volume of water on Earth, and two-thirds of this fresh water is locked in glaciers and icecaps. Just 0.77% of all water is held in aquifers, lakes, rivers, etc.2 Irrigation accounts for the lion’s share (70%) of the world’s consumption.
Today, 26 countries are considered water-scarce and by 2050 this number could reach 55 countries. As major rivers dwindle to a trickle farmers (and cities) pump water from underground aquifers, seriously over tapping these resources.
In this presentation, we will take a brief look at the global crisis and then turn our attention to the Middle East, a region where water shortage has become critical: Israel, Jordan and the West Bank. Brackish water is seeping into aquifers in these three countries. In 1999, USAID and USDOE funded a collaborative effort among engineers in the region to install mobile desalination units in several villages in Jordan and the West Bank using US and Israeli technologies adapted to village requirements.3 The project was managed by the author.
Small scale reverse osmosis (RO) desalination units were assembled and installed in two villages to provide fresh water from existing wells that had become brackish (over 3000 ppm solids content). The small village of Qatar (100 families) 40km north of Aqaba in Jordan was the first location to see the installation of a small RO unit. Locals were trained to operate and maintain the mobile RO desalination unit.4
Two other objectives were met in this project: (1) It helped Jordanians and West Bankers learn to reverse engineer such units and manufacture them in their respective countries, and (2) It helped develop cooperation and goodwill among traditionally antagonistic parties. One could not help but experience first hand our Lord’s exhortation in Matt. 5:9: “Blessed are the peace makers …” The author’s hope is that more such projects be funded in conflict-torn areas of the world to address the critical need for both fresh water and reconciliation among traditional adversaries.
1Sandra L. Postel, Science 313 (25 August 2006): 1046–7; and Peter H. Gleick, Science 302 (28 November 2003): 1524–7.
2I. A. Shiklomanov in Water in Crisis: A Guide to the World’s Freshwater Resources (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 13–24.
3K. J. Touryan and Allan Hoffman, “Small Scale Desalination of Brackish Water,” presented at AAAS Annual Meeting, 16 February 2005.
4K. J. Touryan, Malek Kabariti, Rafi Semiat, Fadle Kawash, “Solar Powered Desalination and Pumping Unit for Brackish Water,” Final Report to USAID/USDOE, August 2006.
Bioenergy: A Fuel for All Seasons, Paul M Means & Noelle Means Allison
Global warming is a significant and sometimes daunting problem that faces our generation. We are challenged to both reduce our energy usage and find new, non-fossil, renewable sources for that energy. While conservation is an important element of the solution, major changes in the sources we use for energy are also necessary. As scientists and engineers, we are uniquely equipped to investigate, design, and implement measures to ameliorate the impact that the human population has on the Earth’s climate. As Christians, we are called to be active stewards of God’s creation rather than passive passengers in time and space. It is while wearing these two “hats,” that we examine the supply aspect of the energy/conservation relationship.
Options abound for alternative energy forms: solar, wind, hydro, tidal power, wave power, biofuels. New solutions appear in the popular press with, at times, bewildering frequency. Although each of these technologies has its place, this paper will focus on the possibilities presented by bioenergy. Bioenergy (sometimes termed biomass energy) is derived from sources such as wood, corn, sugarcane, rapeseed, switchgrass and sorghum. Bioenergy is a transportable, storable, and renewable fuel. A wide range of conversion technologies can be used with biomass energy. There are many attractive applications for its use in both developed and developing economies. Bioenergy is highly versatile; different forms of bioenergy can be used for heating, generating electricity, and as transportation fuel. As Christians, we see an additional benefit to the use of bioenergy in that its generation and use tends to promote the distribution of wealth (in the form of jobs and income), in particular to rural areas. Finally, in many cases bioenergy can be implemented and utilized with a low outlay of financial capital. For these reasons, we believe bioenergy is an essential part of the solution to global warming.
Building Bridges to a Better Future: “Bridging the Gap—Africa”, William Jordan
Co-authors: Harmon Parker, Bill Jordan, Jenna Eppink, Scott Hemmen, Ryan McGee, Matt Eberhardt www.BridgingTheGapAfrica.org
In 1869 a 475-foot suspension bridge was built across the Brazos River in Waco, Texas. It was the longest bridge west of the Mississippi at the time. This first major bridge across the Brazos River allowed ranchers south of the Brazos River to be able to get their cattle to market in
Ft. Worth, Texas, dramatically improving the economic opportunities in a large region of Texas. In the developed world, bridges are ubiquitous today and largely taken for granted. However, in the developing world, bridges are few and far between, leaving people who live far from a bridge disenfranchised from markets, schools, and medical care.
BridgingTheGapAfrica (BTG) was founded by Harmon Parker in 1996. Bridging the Gap, Inc. is dedicated to saving lives and improving the quality of life for marginalized communities across sub-Saharan Africa by constructing pedestrian footbridges to overcome the dangers posed by impassable rivers and ravines that threaten their safety, limit their access to education and healthcare, and restrict economic opportunity.
In 2005, BTG invited the engineering program at Baylor University to partner with BTG Africa to provide engineering services, analyzing the suspended pedestrian bridge design that is currently being used for rivers up to 180 feet wide and to help design a new pedestrian suspension bridge that can be built economically and safely across rivers that are up to 500 feet wide.
Today BTG Africa gets many more requests for bridges than it can supply. In this presentation, we will highlight the process of selection, the involvement of villagers in planning, financing and constructing the bridge, and how this can be done as part of a holistic Christian ministry to people in great need. We will also share the new pedestrian suspension bridge design that has been developed at Baylor to facilitate safety, ease of construction in remote locations without the benefit of heavy equipment and using building materials available in the country, and at the lowest possible cost. Finally, we will quantify for several villages the tangible benefits of their pedestrian bridge and provide a cost/benefit analysis to show how a small investment in such infrastructure can pay huge dividends to the people who use the bridge.
Science and Appropriate Technology for the Developing
World: Science Aiding Agriculture:
What Approach Works? David Unander
I teach principles of sustainable agriculture in many settings, and will review, with examples, recent successful approaches that use science to increase food yields.
One facet of the “image of God” in humanity is creativity, freshly expressed in each culture and time. Since we are finite, sinful and easily fooled, these creative ideas also need careful testing.
(1) Agricultural archeology can suggest forgotten or neglected approaches from extinct cultures. Two examples attracting attention are tierra prieta in the Amazon Basin and rainwater harvesting from the ancient Middle East.
(2) Pre-agrichemical Western agriculture is rich in accumulated knowledge overlooked in
recent generations. Extensive published research on optimizing crop rotations is one example.
(3) All globalized crops and techniques originated in one place and culture, and diffused, often having the greatest impact far from their origin. Recent experience suggests others await promotion: Andean root crops and Moringa will be used as examples.
(4) Contemporary ecological research teaches us how living things typically function in a given place: “sustainability” is working with and not against the normal ecosystem functioning. Examples of mutualism in healthy soil and Nutrient Quality Access in the humid tropics will be presented.
(5) Promoting and testing innovation and collaboration among both “insiders” and “outsiders” is the exciting challenge. Examples will be discussed, time permitting.
Use and Misuse of Science to Feed and Empower
the Poor, John Hodges
Much of the earth’s biodiversity was specifically given by God as food: plants and trees bearing seeds and fruit, green plants for humanity and animals, and later animals for food. The Genesis mandate to humanity to care for the earth and to facilitate ongoing reproduction of bio-resources clearly indicates that ensuring food supply is a God-given task.
In recent centuries, science has contributed successfully to Western food production so avoiding Malthus’ prediction. Today the exploding population of the poor in developing countries poses a new challenge on how to use science to provision the whole world. Development experience shows that the only equitable, long-term solution is to “empower the poor”—enabling them to care for and use their bio-resources for food and better quality of life. This is a biblical model. In support, science is needed at the grass roots level—from the “bottom-up.” The opposite is happening. Scientific capital is being used to seek “top-down” magic bullets within the paradigm of biotechnology on a large-scale and global free trade. Cutting-edge research for agriculture and food is largely directed by commercial interests. There is little evidence to date that this simplistic model for feeding the world is actually empowering the poor; and it is likely to prove counter-productive. Fundamental genetic changes in food species by gene-transfer technology are linked with the global use of patents. This duet, driven only by economic values and legal enforcement, is contrary to the mandate to care for the divine gift of biodiversity to all humanity. Lacking biblical values, the model is an affront to the Giver.
This paper reviews alternative, biblically-based ways of harnessing science to empower the poor.
Tsunami Relief and Coastal Fishing Communities:
The Science and Appropriate Technology Supporting the Sustainable Use of
Resources, Robert D Sluka
The December 26, 2004 tsunami significantly affected coastal fishing communities in South and Southeast Asia. Much of the coastline impacted by the tsunami was bordered by coral reefs or mangrove ecosystems. Prior to the tsunami, most of these coastal areas were significantly impacted by anthropogenic factors. This decreases the amount of food available for local fishing communities and reduces economic potential. Thus, long-term relief and development for these fishing communities must not only take into account the tsunami-impact, but the ecology of these habitats and the environmental impact by coastal communities throughout this region. How well do relief and development agencies understand the scientific and environmental issues which affect the tsunami-impacted coastal fishing communities? Is long-term development considering how to best manage marine resources so that fishing communities can continue to fish into the future? What did we learn about doing relief and development in these coastal communities that we should apply to future disasters among coastal fishing villages? What appropriate technology is available for restoration of these marine habitats?
This talk will address these issues by evaluating tsunami relief and development projects in light of known biblical stewardship and marine conservation science principles in order to determine the lessons that need to be applied to the next disaster. Case studies from the literature will illustrate the important principles, including an examination of the author’s tsunami-related work in India and his research on tropical marine conservation in the Caribbean Sea and Indian Ocean.
Service for Today … Servant-leaders for Tomorrow: Practical Strategies
for Christian Stewardship in Academic Engagement, David Vader
God’s call to stewardship challenges the Christian scholar to generosity in sharing the resources of our academic disciplines, particularly with those most marginalized by the weight of sin in the world. Resistance to such generosity continues in practice, however, from higher education’s long commitment to scientific rationalism. For more than a decade, educators and students in the Collaboratory for Strategic Partnerships and Applied Research at Messiah College have developed strategies that enable stewardship. We bring scholars from the liberal and applied disciplines together and, in partnership with off-campus organizations and communities, seek deep understanding and sustainable solutions to pressing needs through applications in the mathematical and information sciences, engineering, and business. Our goal is to fulfill biblical mandates to foster justice, empower the poor, reconcile adversaries, and care for the earth, in the context of academic engagement.
Learning in the Collaboratory supports and builds on quality classroom instruction. Projects enable students to engage classroom fundamentals in an authentic client-provider environment, and the Collaboratory is run by student leaders and the educators who mentor them. We serve others today, while discipling women and men to live lives of service, leadership and reconciliation.
This talk will cover the operational structure and strategies of the Collaboratory; modes of collaboration with organizations like World Vision and SIM; Christian discipleship in the Collaboratory; funding streams and strategies; an Integrated Projects Curriculum (IPC) to incorporate Collaboratory programming within the Bachelor of Science in Engineering curriculum at Messiah College; and technology projects in energy, water access, transportation, communications, and disability services.
Learning Engineering and Science While Serving
the Poor, William C Oakes
Service-Learning is a pedagogy that integrates academic learning with service to the undeserved people of our society. It has been shown to enhance learning and motivation within the classroom as well as broadening students’ views of themselves, their profession and their connection with societal needs. In the United States, there has been an explosion of service-learning activities within colleges and universities and also the pre-college levels. While service-learning follows biblical values and has the potential to show students how to integrate their faith and their future profession, the secular community has been in front leading the service-learning movement.
Engineering, technology and science have enormous potential to reduce suffering and improve the quality of life in our local and global communities, yet these fields have lagged behind others in integrating service-learning into their curricula. For Christian faculty, service-learning provides an opportunity to integrate biblical values into our classrooms whether we teach at Christian or state/secular institutions.
This paper will examine how students can learn and be transformed in a locally-based long-term service-learning program. The EPICS Program founded at Purdue University in 1995 will be used as an illustration. EPICS is a design program where multi disciplinary teams work with local not for profit organizations to design, develop and build solutions to the needs of the local community. This paper will present the experience at Purdue: how the EPICS model has been disseminated to other institutions and how the broader implications and opportunities for this type of learning experience can transform students, faculty and communities.
A Global Poverty Center — Integrating Appropriate Technology, Social
Entrepreneurship, and Missions at Baylor University, Walter L Bradley
Jesus commands us to serve the poor in his name (Matthew 25) and indicates that more will be expected in this regard of those to whom much has been given (Luke 12). The response of the Church to this command in the 20th century has often been one of charity rather than empowerment. A new Center has been proposed at Baylor (hopefully to be approved by March 2007) that will address the needs of the poor, especially in developing parts of the world, with appropriate technology and social entrepreneurship as an integral part of a more holistic approach to missions.
The goal is to identify abundant, renewable resources in developing parts of the world that can be processed into value-added products in the rural villages to create jobs and provide basic resources often not currently available in these villages such as electricity, clean water, medical care, decent housing and jobs. Small, bottom-up approaches facilitated in partnership with Christians in these rural villages will provide sustainable economic development that will significantly enhance their quality of life and bless the community with a gospel that seeks to meet the spiritual and physical needs of the community.
The Engineering School, the Business School, and Truett Seminary at Baylor University will be equal partners in this Global Poverty Center. This presentation will outline the overall strategy and illustrate what it might look like using coconuts as the abundant renewable resource.
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