Technology and the Environment (DirectTVScholarship)

This entry is much different from those I’ve written in the past. I have focused on maintaining or restoring the natural environment, the way it was prior to civil development. This is to maintain the balance of the earth, the circle of life, and to sustain water quality. What I haven’t mentioned is how advancements in technology can help us do this. There are many technology based tools I use to find the best possible ways to preserve nature while providing a life for the growing human population. As it turns out, tree hugging and talking to bugs can only get you so far.

I had a choice of a dissertation topic, a “perk” choosing a professor with no funding (he saw my vision and that was priceless), and from my experience in the field of land development/sustainable design and engineering, I knew that only through technology, can nature can be preserved. It sounds crazy, I know, but would you believe that a computer can actually turn into a prophetic environmental crystal ball? My research involves the use of three different hydrologic models. These aren’t your run of the mill excel platforms, these are Geographic Information System (GIS) based hydrological and hydraulic models that allow me to actually see into the future! This technologically advanced system can allow me to see what the effect of a new development will be on the ecosystem, on the water quality and quantity, where to put pervious pavement to be most effective, how big a bio-retention area should be, what size a pipe or a weir will work, and actually design a system to work with the existing land to have minimal impact on the natural environment. Through this I can see how fish, birds, plants, water, air, and humans will populate and live simultaneously in the same place. Pretty amazing, huh? I can actually create a natural environment through the use of technology. Am I saying it couldn’t be done without technology? No, it probably could, but the amount of equations and iterations of those equations the computer runs in an hour, would take a human years, longer than the amount of time the project has to be built, it would be subject to human error, and wouldn’t present the results in a visually descriptive and accurate way. No company or municipality would spend that kind of money on labor just to save the lives of a few fish, thus, technology gives us the power to do plan and grow with the environment instead of against it.

I didn’t stop there with the use of technology. I truly believe to the depths of my soul that the fate of the environment lies in education. Most people simply do not know the environmental repercussions of their actions, and in addition, they don’t know a healthier, better way. In a study I conducted, 82% of people in areas without combined sewer systems either didn’t know where stormwater went after it entered into a manhole, or believed that it went to a wastewater treatment facility. All of those people were pretty surprised when I told them that the trash they throw out the window or the chemicals they put on their lawn, wind up being the lake or river habitat. My point is, that the more information people have, the more likely they will be to make better choices, to always recycle, to use less packaging, to use all natural cleaning products and use less fertilizer and water. People take action when there family, money, or they themselves will be adversely affected… so there would be a lot more people taking action if they knew the harmful impacts irresponsible environmental practices have on all three. This is where technology comes in. The best way to inform a large amount of people is through the internet, therefore, I made this website and connected it to a new twitter page, and my existing facebook page. Again, I am using technology to sustain the natural environment, as strange as that still sounds as I say it out loud.

I have no doubt that I will continue to use technology in my future career plans, especially if I accomplish my dream of making environmental documentaries based on my work. I can only hope that the advances in environmental engineering made through technology, will supersede the environmental impact of the increased energy use. Hopefully, the promotion of energy wise products will make an impact in that area.

Now the question is, are we too dependent on technology… I don’t have a good answer to that question. When I see young kids glued to the TV or game console instead of being outside, learning and playing, I think “whoa, this has got to stop or we’re going to have a future population of incarcerated Grand Theft Auto pros”. On the other hand, I see a large population not as dependent on technology, some don’t even know how to use a computer, and I think “wow, there needs to be more technology incorporated in grade school”. I think with everything, moderation is the key. Use technology as a tool for learning and growing, not as a crutch or dependency where you cannot function without it. See the world around you, and let technology make that world better!


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