Citizen science is critical to future environmental improvement.

Image by Terrie Schweitzer | flickr.com

Image by Terrie Schweitzer | flickr.com

Economic growth and sustainability is without a doubt a global priority.  For many, access to vital resources has improved over time.  (Doubtful?  Watch one of Hans and Ola Rosling’s spectacular TED talks on this very issue).  But the question remains: Can we say the same about environmental sustainability on a global scale?  And if so, to what degree? 

 More utilities are required to support our growing population. This requires more advanced technology. Improved technology can improve education, health care, and other social necessities.  Continuously advancing technology results in decreasing costs of technological tools and their resulting products.  For instance, consider the cost of 1 gigabyte of data in 1980 ($6,328,125) versus 2013 ($5.50).  These decreasing costs further result in an increased accessibility to technology from a monetary perspective. Technology is particularly advantageous for non-urban purposes we might not often consider.  For example, the ‘CyberTracker’ is a handheld device designed to help illiterate individuals track animals and illegal traffickers by allowing the user to click on buttons with easily recognizable symbols, such as a rhinoceros or a tree.  Even binoculars, which may not be considered advanced technology in our lives, are used to observe distant wildlife.  Websites dedicated to specific topics, such as eBird and eWater, encourage citizens from all over the world to participate in nature-based projects and monitor ecosystems.

Not only does technology contribute to the success of these projects, but it also allows people to share their viewpoints via the online community. As a result, not only are the participants connected with each other on a global scale, but their contribution also allows organizations to reach their specific goals, such as preventing or delaying organizations from proceeding with projects that may negatively impact the environment (i.e., oil and gas developments).  For example, 108,000 citizens signed an online petition through Care2.com, resulting in the cancellation of an African safari hunting trip.  

Lastly, educational games, primarily geared towards children, allow today’s youth to engage in enjoyable activities while also gaining substantial knowledge of the environment and the issues surrounding this topic. Such technologies have the potential to become a major part of future planning for environmental progression.

Citizens who are highly interested in global issues and would like to contribute to improving the state of the environment are those who will most likely participate in citizen science projects. These are typically younger generations who have used more advanced technology throughout their lifetimes.  Social media is a great way to become involved in the online discussion. Online community platforms are increasingly recognized and established by young professionals. This is a great trend improving into the future to allow more voices to be heard from people all around the world.