Water and Air…The “New” Environmental Concerns

April 1, 2009 at 10:35 pm 4 comments


By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC 
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

The world has accepted the concept of sustainability.  That is: the need to be socially conscious, environmentally sensitive and aware. Go green, green recruiting, green design, green buildings, green initiatives, save green, green living, green products…green, green, green.  We have been saturated but, I hope, NOT desensitized.  Corporations went through branding programs and corporate logos turned green. It is reported that approximately 300,000 green trademarks were filed with the U.S. patent office in 2007.  These are all good things.  The concept of sustainability is sound, based in logic and implemented with reason.

Last year, advertising and trend watching firm JWT predicted that we will see blue replacing green as the color of environmentalism and social consciousness.  They suggest that the  “blue is the new green” concept signals a fundamental shift in the environmental movement.  I am not sure why it is a color shift…other than maybe a marketing technique. Even the Earth Day Network website has “gone blue.”  Are the new environmental concerns focusing on sky and sea –  water and air?  Are these really new concerns? Water and air quality have been in the foreground of civil and environmental engineering  projects for the 20 years I have been involved with our business.  

What do you think? 

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Entry filed under: Civil Engineering Issues, Environmental Engineering issues, Environmental Issues.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. hintonhumancapital  |  April 10, 2009 at 3:07 am

    Carol,

    The issue with water is not new. It is the marketing behind the cause that is new. People are finally paying attention.

    Reply
  • 2. mark  |  April 8, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    In general, i would agree that sustainability practices are on the rise. And that, on the face of it, that is a good thing.

    However, one should maintain a fair amount of concern with this subject. 300,000 Trademarks amounts to an unwieldy pile of flotsam that is a clear indication of “greenwashing”. There have been articles published (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1840562,00.html) about it and news casts (http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/10/27/eco.carbonquestions2/index.html) about it. But, basically, there are relatively few trademarks, copyrights, seals, logos, or any other branding that actually involve any oversight or regulations of any sort. Most, in substance, are totally meaningless.

    TerraChoice conducted a study in 2007. The survey teams identified 1,753 environmental claims made by a total of 1,018 different products. All but one of the products made false or misleading claims about their environmental friendliness or practices. That’s 99% greenwashing.
    Read more: http://www.terrachoice.com

    Also – A web-2 user supported site to track and rate corporate greenwashing: http://www.greenwashingindex.com/

    I would also further John’s comments above with my personal view that, when it comes to the private sector, corporations are only concerned with their bottom line. Corporations don’t care about the law, or public opinion, or morality, or stewardship, or you. They only care about these things so far as it affects their profits, and by proxy, their share holders. That’s it. They are only obligated to do or not do anything if it makes them money.

    As for water and air, in some respects, your correct. The environmental movement has roots dating back to the 1950’s and began with concern for air and water pollution. However, with greater understanding has come the realization of greater complexities. Particularly with regard to water, concerns have gone far beyond shore based pollution. Water pollution is still a very real concern. There is currently a area floating debris in the north pacific, nicknamed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, that is estimated to be twice the size of Texas. And its not alone. There are others in other oceans. There are deadzones caused by agricultural fertilizers in bodies of water all over the world. the largest is in the Gulf o Mexico. Waters are polluted with pharmaceuticals, mercury, and perchlorate (rocket fuel component), as well. Stemming from global warming, tourism, and bottom trawling, coral reefs (the rain forests of the ocean) around the world are dying. Wild fisheries are being fished to collapse. Fish farms are overloaded with antibiotics and organic pollutants. Many rivers are dammed and or drained for energy and agricultural uses, disrupting ecosystmes. Most years, the Rio Grande doesn’t even reach the ocean any longer. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 1.7 billion people still lack access to clean water. 2.3 Billion people suffer from water–borne diseases each year. While the demand for water is on the rise, the supply is shrinking. Global policies from institutions such as the World Bank have left little room for local decisions and instead forced privatization of water on poor countries.
    Food and Water Water has some great information on water issues: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water The Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, and GreenPeace also maintain great programs on this.

    It’s important to remember that the Earth’s surface is approximately 70% water. Of that, only about 2.5% is fresh water. And only about 1/3 of that is available for drinking water and irrigation. It’s also important to note that climate change is causing the oceans to rise and weather to destabilize, affecting communities around the world. Some areas are seeing increased flooding while others, droughts. Nearly every dessert on Earth is growing. Environmental concerns regarding water, for very critical reasons, is accelerating to be the number one focus of the environmental movement.

    As for branding green versus blue, my thought is that blue is simply the next logical color choice in an effort to refresh the environmental movement. People quickly burnout on topics. As sustainability gains more traction and get more coverage in the media, people grow tired of hearing about it. Thus, the concepts need to be repackaged to progress the cause.

    Reply
  • 3. Brian Scott  |  April 4, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    I think it is a good idea to get the population to focus more on air and water. These are fundamental to our existence and we can actually make immediate improvements for individuals without expending much needed capital funds. Personally, I would love to be able to convince people, especially Americans, to focus their uneducated (one sided information) fear on such a long term possibility which will probably reduce our overall quality of life severely and place their attention on much more real short term environmental dangers. I feel it is dangerous to implement knee jerk reactions to our energy needs for only possibilities that could occur several hundred years in the future. As we become more “globally friendly” we are learning that we are not still making much more of a difference to the earth. Biofuels, battery powered cars, windmills, cap and trade, etc all have severe short term and long term environmental threats that the average American is not educated on. What will truly set our country above the rest of the world is what set us above the rest of the world initially – EFFICIENCY.

    Reply
  • 4. John Poole  |  April 1, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    The difference now is that it is finally financially advantageous for companies to build green and market themselves as an environmentally conscious entity. Maybe companies do have genuine concern for the earth’s well-being, but I have a funny feeling that their first priority is to make money.

    Reply

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