Written by Bill Leedham, P. Geo., CESA
As it is the start of the new decade, I’ve dust off my crystal ball and make a few bold predictions for the decade(s) to come.
Sustainability and the ‘Green’ Economy
We have already seen emerging technologies and new industries geared towards sustainability. In a world where finite resources are dwindling, and with increasing pressure for renewable sources of energy, it’s easy to foresee further consumer demands for a more “green” economy. Hopefully this results in more than just advertising buzzwords, but rather a planned and sincere approach to waste reduction, sustainable resource management, and true ‘cradle-to-grave’ responsibility from manufacturer to end consumer for all products.
New Problems and New Opportunities
The last decade saw an increasing awareness of emerging contaminants such as micro-plastics, PFOS and PFOA. Similar to past generations experiences with their own ‘new’ contaminants such as asbestos and UFFI; I am sure we will encounter as-yet undiscovered sources of contamination. Whether such pollutants will be associated with cobalt mining for lithium battery production, cannabis waste from commercial growers or by-products from cellular agriculture; it’s how we deal with these new pollutants that may set us apart from past pollution legacies – or not. Developing technical solutions to these new problems will also create unique opportunities for the environmental consulting, remediation and waste management industries.
While we will no doubt experience new environmental contamination issues in the future, we must not forget about the existing pollution problems and the legacies they create. As our population grows, we will continue to create more waste and run out of conventional landfill space – which will require an increase in recycling, re-use, waste reduction and diversion, and alternative methods of waste disposal. Plastic pollution in our waterways is a massive problem that must be solved before there are more plastics than fish in the oceans. Reclamation of abandoned ‘orphan’ oil wells, out-of-service mines, and eventual cleanup of depleted oils sands production facilities and shale-oil fracking sites should be planned for and financed today, so they don’t bankrupt our children and grandchildren.
Environmental Activism and Increasing Political Divides
The rise of environmental activists like Greta Thunberg seems to go hand in hand with the increasing divides between the political right and left, and the growing gap between the very wealthy and the very poor. Unfortunately, I think these gaps may widen further unless we can find a reasonable compromise that all sides can accept. In my opinion such balance would represent real sustainability, but I’m not sure that is achievable in this age of hyper-sensitivity and social media-driven ‘fake’ news from all sides. Regardless of your political persuasion or economic strata; I think we all can (and should) agree that common goals like pollution prevention, waste reduction, clean air, safe water, habitat protection, species biodiversity, are all worthy and necessary endeavours. The sooner we stop arguing and start listening to each other, the sooner we can solve some of these problems and promote and maintain a healthy environment and a truly sustainable economy.
About the Author
Bill is the Head Instructor and Course Developer for the Associated Environmental Site Assessors of Canada (www.aesac.ca); and the founder and President of Down 2 Earth Environmental Services Inc. You can contact Bill at [email protected]