Are we treating symptoms, not the cause?
As much as I love new technologies, the question “Are these new technologies making a big impact on the long-term wellbeing of our lives and the environment?” keeps coming up. I’m aware that I’m not an engineer or a scientist, and I don’t know everything about technology. But when I see why the technology has been developed and how we are trying to use it, it seems that those solutions can only work temporarily in a limited area. That means we need to keep searching for new solutions all the time. We are in a rat race because we aren’t treating the cause of the problems piling up in front of us.
So, what is the cause?
Have a look at one of many environmental issues, water crisis…
EU-funded SafeWaterAfrica can save a lot of lives by cleaning the water pumped from underground in remote rural areas in Africa. The water treatment system units are self-sufficient and operated by solar energy. They are low-cost, flexible, and mobile. However, this technology can only be helpful while there is underground water available. While we can help some people in Africa with this solution for a while, we really need to tackle the cause, global warming is causing underground water to disappear. Issues with water are not only in Africa. Europe, America, the Middle East, and many parts of Asia are witnessing the drying rivers and lakes.
I watched the video, World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2022, and saw a little expression of confusion or disappointment on Elizabeth’s face. (This is my personal opinion.) She kept emphasizing that it is a human issue, the way we treat water or any other natural resources we can access. And we need a human solution.
We have been busy with carrier development, entertainment, and a better lifestyle. We might have forgotten how vital natural resources are in our life since technology made accessing them so easy. We don't realize the value of resources that nature took billions of years to make. Obviously, we are extracting more than nature can regenerate itself, we are contaminating more than nature can clean itself. I think she was telling us that we really need to review and change the way we treat the environment we live in right now before it becomes too late.
Technologies are great, but we still cannot skip…
Re-learn what nature does. I saw a primary school kid telling an educator, “We can get meat from supermarkets, and we don’t need to kill animals.” They watched a documentary on YouTube about sustainability… The kid just showed that information from textbooks and screens may be not enough for children to understand the reality. In our daily life in developed countries, there are not many opportunities to see, touch, and feel respect for all the natural resources we consume. And the disconnection from the reality that we don't experience may be the cause. All of us as a consumer should understand how nature makes the resources, how we process them, and how we dispose of them. I believe when you understand the value of the material and people’s work, you will have more respect and appreciation. Because think about this, there are people who throw a half-finished water bottle on the beach while there are people picking them up and taking them to a recycle bin. The reason behind the different actions is not about how much money you paid for the bottle of water. It is how you understand the value of water and plastic bottles, and the impact on the environment.
Acknowledge and accept the fact that we need to change a lot. It is not easy for all of us to lose things we currently have. For many of us, it is not necessary to have a car. But we would buy an electric car as a solution to reduce our carbon footprint instead of totally giving up a car. We all know that not having a car is the best option for our own health and the environment. Recyclable or recycled bottle makes us feel better when we buy a fizzy soft drink. The best solution for the well-being of us and the environment is “not to have fizzy soft drinks packed in a plastic bottle”. Or totally discard soft drinks altogether.
Accept that we all need to be involved. Some individuals using bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic ones will not save the planet. It is just not effective enough. You may demand more actions from the government and businesses. But think this way… If enough of us are committed to making a change, for example having only 7 sets of clothes in our wardrobe instead of buying a new one every week, fashion businesses will stop producing more because their production cost will be higher than the profit. Then, the government will notice that encouraging purchasing behavior is not effective to boost the economy anymore. People in businesses are a consumer, and policymakers are a consumer as well.
It is not about switching one material to another. The real solutions are inside us, willingness to understand nature and live with it, respect for what we have, and accept the fact that we are all in this together.
Do you have any idea to tackle the underlying causes? Love to hear your ideas.