Recent research indicates that pollution (air, water, …) is a major killer on a global basis. That pollution kills is not a surprise, but that it kills one-in-six persons globally is disturbing. It is interesting that this “technology failure” appears to be a more significant cause of death than technology-assisted sources, such as all forms of violence (war, terrorism, criminal activities, etc.)
I mentioned my recent travel to Africa and the priorities for technological evolution there. The image here reflects the air pollution that yields “beautiful” sunsets that we saw every night. This low air quality is a result of burning wood for cooking, burning off land to clear it for farming or pest control, and the use of coal as a major energy source. This picture is taken in Zambia in a major national park miles from any large city. And the smell of smoke (wood and coal) is present in most areas. Each year, 6.5 million persons die from air pollution. A top priority for applied technology has to be clean energy sources. Ironically, southern Africa has significant solar exposure/opportunity — and panel designs could provide shelter, power, and water collection with a bit of thought.
According to this study, 1.8 million deaths result from water pollution every year. IEEE Honorary Member Dean Kamen has developed a device, “Slingshot,” designed to provide clean water from virtually any source. Dean is one of the leading examples of applying engineering to benefit humanity. The documentary pointed to inthe link shows his 15 year effort to address water quality, and some of the “out of the can” thinking it takes for pragmatic solutions.
I encourage our young technologists (the folks Dean targets with his “FIRST Robotics” competitions), to focus on air quality as one priority to help improve the world. Air pollution kills, and technology can help. Let’s make this happen.