Uncertainty, complete disbelief, and total denial are a few of the reasons people don’t believe in or acknowledge the global sustainability problem. I think it’s been made clear by the media that enough of the North American population has gone beyond this point and realized that something should be, and can be done to protect our Earth. But what’s not clear is the best way to go about it.
I find myself wanting to make a difference, to do my part in looking after Mother Nature while adjusting and maintaining my current lifestyle. But this becomes a challenge when I feel guilty for every purchase I make, every meal I eat, and every shower I take. I’m doing my best to take baby steps and encouraging others to do the same, but I’ve been contemplating the most efficient and/or effective way to help in the long run.
This brings me back to a course I took last year about preventative engineering. Could this be what saves us? I know it is sometimes difficult to foresee problems that will be faced by society, but I also know that half of our environmental problems are economically driven; situations where it’s simply too expensive right now to care.
Naturally, I will use wastewater treatment as my example: It’s pretty obvious that dumping untreated water and surface runoff into lakes will perhaps cause ecological problems in surrounding areas. Yet, we continue to pollute, then worry about cleaning it later. So now, years later, this water (the same water we use as an intake for drinking) has to be thoroughly cleaned by expensive, energy guzzling treatment plants before humans can safely consume it. Lakes and wetlands have become so destroyed by human activity that multi-million dollar Remedial Action Plans have been implemented across Canada to clean up our mess, yet, had things been thought out completely, these situations could have easily been prevented.
The cost of cleaning up a destroyed lake, of cleaning our mess 40 years later, could potentially be far less than it would have been to use that money ahead of time towards efforts that prevent all the chemicals, pesticides, and other forms of pollution from ever entering our water systems. Although water is my forte, I’m sure scientists and engineers could have cooperated to prevent other sustainability issues and I have faith that, if the idea of prevention gets enough recognition in our economic world, they can do so in the future.