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Oliver Reid Vega is an MSc student at Cranfield University, studying Advanced Mechanical Engineering. He is also a member of the AUG Student Panel 2022. In this blog post, Oliver warns of the danger of taking our environment for granted.

The environment is defined as “the air, water, and land in or on which people, animals, and plants live”. This statement places the environment as the most essential ground on which the planet has evolved over its lifetime. In spite of this, the environment has almost been neglected, as far as society has been concerned, throughout most of its history. But why? Simple. Humanity, by nature, has learnt to take it for granted. That’s because it’s always been there. By going back to the origins of mankind, one can trace the importance of the environment to us. From roaming in forests and living off the wilderness, to farming and using the environment for resources (still going on to this day), to finally being an aesthetic element, adding green to an urbanised world. If this trend were to continue, the environment’s importance would see a decrease to almost oblivion, only that we wouldn’t live to see it, as we’d be extinct, or on another planet in another galaxy. Taking nature and the environment we live in for granted could be the greatest mistake humanity will ever make, but I believe it can and will be prevented – it is our only choice.

Growing up in the Canary Islands, I developed a profound connection with my home. Spending my weekends in the sea, or up at Teide National Park, or most recently simply driving and enjoying the ride in roads which were built to blend in with the beautiful, untouched surroundings. I must admit, I was quite shocked when I first arrived in the UK to study at university. The roads crammed with traffic jams, the air stopped being pure, the bird’s chirping was for the fortunate. Don’t get me wrong – I fell in love with the endless fields and south-eastern coastal chalk cliffs, as well as the southwestern Cornish coasts and scenery, but one thing has been clear to me. The environment had not been a top priority in the development of what has become my new home. Of course, not all locations have followed this trend, but generally so. I have seen cities such as London or Milton Keynes, where nature is seen as a green space. The question I ask is: why has nature been sacrificed for the development of new cities, and then “reintroduced” as a green space? We should be keeping nature intact, developing around it, within it, blending in and treating it as we should be, as our home, and nothing else.

I like to take biomimicry as an example. Looking at aircraft, they look wildly similar to birds, and that’s due to the fact that they’re meant to do so. Humanity took inspiration from animals which fly effortlessly, by having two wings, a tail, and a body. Then came the thrust obstacle, but this was resolved through jet turbines, a fantastic solution. What I’m trying to put across is, if airplanes worked so well, why not apply the biomimicry to most things we do? We should be taking inspiration from natural examples which have worked for eons of years, and applying the necessary innovative solutions when obstacles appear through endless investment in research of new technologies. Looking at how technology has evolved in this century alone, I cannot imagine how far we will stride in the years to come. I believe we’re smart enough to overcome any obstacle that comes our way, we just have to commit. 

We should be pushing new generations to keep the environment in the highest of priorities, through education and awareness so that taking the environment for granted is a thing of the past. I, for instance, have not heard a single mention of the environment as our home throughout my entire academic life – kindergarten, primary school, secondary school, sixth form and university. So many instances where we could be taught and shown just how precious nature is for humanity, wasted. In the engineering aspect, all I’ve heard about is the ways to reduce costs, but never ways to reduce or enrich environmental conditions within engineering works. It is almost as if we have completely blipped it out of our minds and worries, when in reality, it has become the globe’s largest concern. We need to bring the environment back as a core entity in our educational systems, to really begin to make a larger scale impact in society.

I have to say, it did and always has saddened me to witness the little care many have for the environment, and I believe it is a culmination of all of the above – forgetting how we not only depend on the environment and nature, but additionally where we come from. Not only is nature our home, but it is home to all living creature on this planet, something we should never forget.

All generations living in the present need to realise the damage we’re incurring by not changing our lifestyles, by not having the discussions we should be having, by not confronting the current issues preventing us from thriving as a civilisation. We need to bring the environment back as our main priority, in every single task we carry out, as without an environment, our world as we know it will cease to exist, together with those future generations waiting to come.”

Watch the video where the Student Panel consider what our environment could be like in 2050.

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