Environment and sustainability are terms that occasionally pop up in the news, and rightly so, since a majority of scientists will agree that they’ll play key roles in determining the future of society and the planet as a whole. The fact that it’s being talked about at all is a success in itself, very rarely does a scientific issue –even in all its misrepresented glory – find a way into popular culture with such fervour. And, as a postgraduate student starting out in the field, the publicity is particularly good for me because it means I can use these buzzwords to delay the inevitable boredom that will ensue when I start talking about my research.
Now, on the subject of using buzzwords to garner interest, I should come clean, I’m not going to go into depth about my thoughts on the climate change conspiracy. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s the idea that scientists are (for some reason) being bribed by big corporations to falsify claims of global warming—I’d be particularly outraged if this were true, it would mean I’m being severely underpaid. I will talk about the reality of the situation though, it’s the fact that there really isn’t much interaction between corporate leaders and scientists. And that, for me, deserves a bigger outrage.
In my circle of postgraduate and early career scientists, this opinion is an unpopular one. The general feeling is that scientific research is an intellectual pursuit, not a profit-driver. Though I wholeheartedly back this sentiment I feel there’s more to it than that. It’s no surprise that the world’s economy is driven by oil. Renewable energy, apart from the ever-controversial nuclear power, isn’t particularly viable at the moment, switching abruptly has the potential to result in a depression and jobs could be lost in variety of different ways. Having said that, the current strategy of acting like the oil isn’t going to run out isn’t exactly great; neither is pretending that drilling deep into the ground won’t have huge environmental impacts; and it doesn’t really help to tell ourselves that this strange trend of rising temperature and CO2 levels, which coincidently began around the time of industrialisation, is a natural process (and therefore, somehow not a problem). Clearly something has to change.
”There’s an idea that scientists are being bribed by big corporations to falsify claims of global warming—I’d be particularly outraged if this were true, it would mean I’m being severely underpaid..”
We know there’s only so far companies will go to make their practices more eco-friendly before they risk upsetting their shareholders and taking hits to their profits. Whilst I think encouraging them to try is a step in the right direction, I don’t think that this is enough alone. You might wonder if there is any other way to tackle the biggest challenges of the 21st century whilst also protecting us financially. Fortunately, the answer is yes! It is called the green economy, a market that is driven by addressing environmental problems, moving us towards a more sustainable future whilst creating jobs and stimulating economic growth. It is this idea that lies at the core of EnvEast’s drive for students to incorporate elements of enterprise and innovation into their training programme. And it makes a lot of sense, scientists in the field are more than qualified to understand the environmental issues we’re faced with and, after being introduced to business principles, they’ll be in a great position to help find viable solutions. So really we shouldn’t give the conspiracy theorists too hard a time, they’re actually on to something here, maybe scientists and businesses should be working together to tackle climate change after all.
”You might wonder if there is any other way to tackle the biggest challenges of the 21st century whilst also protecting us financially. Fortunately, the answer is yes!”
I entered into this line of research primarily because I wanted to be involved with addressing environmental issues, in whatever small way I could, but time and time again I’ve been faced with a stark realisation that my research probably won’t go further than a few academics skim reading an abstract. However, as president of the E3i club —the student-led faction of EnvEast’s innovation incentive, I’ve come to see the potential that the green economy has for invigorating the climate change battle. Perhaps, through getting more involved with this cause, I’ll actually get to contribute something positive to society.
”I’ve come to see the potential that the green economy has for invigorating the climate change battle”
Eco-innovation isn’t a new idea, the true potential for a green economy was already witnessed in the 1980’s when the world came together to deal with the problem of the hole in the ozone layer. I recently worked with the animators at Curveball Media to develop an animation promoting EnvEast’s principles through this environmental and societal success story. I hope, after reading this, you might feel encouraged to take on board the great ideas from these climate conspiracy theorists and create a meaningful and positive contribution to society.