2010: The year pollution control retook the center stage from climate change
I was unsure whether I should post this on my research blog or on my personal one, but as I am thinking and reflecting on what 2010 brought to me, I must point out to a recent story that indicates Canadians rank the BP oil spill as the top news item of 2010. But I couldn’t help but feel somewhat vindicated (even though it saddens me enormously and I’m still outraged at the fact that the spill occurred). For the past 10 years of my life, I have spent countless hours trying to understand the behavior of individuals, firms and governments in hopes to help them design mechanisms to reduce and control pollution. Also, for the past 10 years, I have eschewed studying the politics of climate change policy. I read about it and keep my finger on the pulse of the literature, but I firmly believe that we have other pressing problems that are more immediate than climate change.
My intention of learning ways of minimizing the negative environmental impact of pollutants in water is what first brought me to an undergraduate in chemical engineering and then to a doctorate in environmental studies. While I now research more the politics and policy making of environmental pollution that the actual engineering, I’m reasonably knowledgeable in both fields. So, I do champion, research and analyze policies around water management, pollution prevention and waste minimization. Yes, I do, and proudly so.
I have been witness to a surge in interest around the topic of climate change in the past decade, and I have remained focused in the environmental problems that have interested me from the beginning. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon, I’ve kept looking at ways to improve water governance and bring wastewater to the forefront of the academic social science discourse. And while I may be an outsider, I’m glad that climate change politics is not my major research focus.
The BP oil spill, while completely despicable from a corporate social responsibility perspective and horrifying in terms of the ecological impacts it had, served to remind people that we, humans, are WAY more incompetent at protecting our environment than we give ourselves credit for. That we need to shift our energy consumption paradigms as much as we need to learn better ways to save water. That we are WAY further from the reality of a cleaner environment than we think. And that pollution is still a very grave, imperious and important environmental problem that we must never forget, even if climate change is now much more of a popular topic.
Because we only have ONE planet.