Looking to the future
Dr Yap Poh Sin, environmental epidemiologist and senior lecturer at International Medical University, explains that professionals who work within the fields of environmental health are important as they are concerned with protecting human health from harmful biological, physical and chemical exposures in the environment.
“Their research will be used by authorities to support policy decisions and enforce compliance with legislation that protect or improve the health of the public,” she says.
Prof Andy Chan, associate dean for research in the faculty of engineering at The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, agrees that despite the contributions of science, technology and engineering, the introduction of technologies has brought along some detrimental effects to mankind.
However, he adds that it is for this reason engineers need to make valuable contributions to sustainability while development continues to progress in all technological sectors.
“The concept of sustainability is now fully embedded in the discipline of engineering – to do all these things that we have been doing without creating a liability for the future.
“This is the role of current state engineers and environmental engineers and they are specifically trained to perform this role,” says Prof Chan. societies are estimated to use up to 40% more resources than needed every year.
The finding is all the more worrying as it is estimated that there will be twice as many megacities in the future with the world population projected to increase to 9.6 billion people by 2025.
“Particularly in growing cities, MANUFACTURING sustainable products involves high costs. But besides this barrier to the adoption of sustainable technologies and design, general development and wealth generation appear to take centre stage in the hearts of many – both individuals and businesses.
Universiti Kuala Lumpur programme manager Assoc Prof Dr Robert Thomas Bachmann says companies are often forced to meet high sales targets and firms listed in the stock market have to constantly satisfy their shareholders with high profits and market share to ensure continued investment.
“To increase sales and generate more income, products are often designed in such a way that are either out of fashion after some time or designed to fail after a certain period.
“The lifestyle the economy promotes seems to have a more technology and economic development play their part in finding a solution for sustainable strategies to reduce pollution, energy waste and natural resources, and reduce the disease burden of human health,” says Dr Yap.
The problem, however, does not stem purely from the existence of innovative technology materialistic focus,” he says.
“If society does not complain about pollution and if the prices for natural commodities remain low, sustainability is not a top priority.”
Between the issues of sustainability, resource demands and general development, the notion that these factors can grow hand- in- hand is, however, a possibility, according to Prof Andy Chan, associate dean for research in the faculty of engineering at The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus.
He believes societal priority is sometimes down to the cultural background and history of various nations.
Prof Chan raises the example of how China as a developing country currently prioritises development over sustainability while European countries are famed for putting sustainability
dy ed by s . w how rable product that uses eco friendly material that is easy to maintain and repair,” he says.
He explains that the major obstacle facing most companies, however, is the high costs involved in being an eco- conscious company.
“In regards to pollutants released during production, are companies willing to make the and natural conservation above any development – making it almost a cornerstone in all development efforts.
He believes that proper planning, vision and enforcement are needed to overcome this global problem.
According to Dr Yap Poh Sin, environmental epidemiologist and senior lecturer at International Medical University, “Achieving sustainable living will require change in industrial processes, in the type and amount of resources used, and in the products that are manufactured.
“Sustainability depends on the evolution of energy technologies, the efficient functioning of public infrastructure such as water and sewage systems, innovative biotechnology and an information technology revolution,” she says.
While civil and environmental
Prof Chan, Dr Yap and Assoc Prof Bachmann agree that education is vital in spreading sustainability awareness to the masses and represents the first step to global legislative reforms.
“We can highlight sustainability issues to governments via professional societies and engage in discussions with all stakeholders to jointly develop solutions.
“International collaboration between institutes of higher learning can also help to indirectly influence governments to train the next generation of engineers or enhance the knowledge and skills of existing workforce within governments and industries to develop holistic solutions that are economical, environmentally friendly and acceptable to society,” says Assoc Prof Bachmann. engineers carry the burden of introducing more feasible and environmentally friendly practices and products, the changes necessary for a healthier world remains the responsibility of all.
Assoc Prof Bachmann says, “If societies strive for a luxurious lifestyle as commonly showcased in Western countries, one planet is not enough.
“Efforts to stimulate the civil and environmental engineering sector must be driven by real demand.
“If society does not want to accept the pollution of air, water and land, and is willing to allocate a bigger portion of its household income towards sustainable products and services, politicians and policy makers will react – allowing civil and environmental engineers to play a more important role,” he says.