It’s no secret that environmental problems have put our planet in jeopardy.

Whether you consider the rise in temperature as a result of greenhouse gases and global warming or the depletion of the Earth’s non-renewable resources, it’s clear that preservation efforts must continue to be researched and developed.

It’s the perfect time for those with an interest in science and sustainable efforts to consider pursuing an engineering degree to help push scientists’ findings into mainstream knowledge and use.

But discussing planet-saving measures and actually acting upon those ideas are two different animals. In his TED talk, Justin Hall-Tipping, CEO of Nanoholdings LLC, posits that our tendency to look at the world through “the lens of normal” prevents us from developing real-world solutions for problems that plague the planet. Hall-Tipping was called to action after seeing the B15 iceberg break off the Ross Ice Shelf in March 2000. Reported upon as a “normal” event, the occasion was anything but. The reformation of that iceberg – measuring in at 1,000 feet tall, 76 miles long, 17 miles wide, and weighing two gigatons – would take anywhere from 50 to 100 years. It’s hard enough to try and get adults to care about something that will happen towards the end of their lives, let alone long after they’ve passed on. The task is made more difficult since global warming has already proven to have a dynamic impact on the environment.

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It’s easy to believe that a big problem requires an equally big solution.

Hall-Tipping asks, “What if the answers to some of our biggest problems could be found in the smallest places?”

Focused in part on finding solutions to the world’s growing energy crisis, Nanoholdings uses nanotechnology in its research and has re-imagined carbon as a way to heat and cool homes throughout the year. When vaporized, carbon becomes a carbon nanotube, a transparent and flexible material with the power to conduct at a much higher rate than copper. Combined with a polymer, it can be affixed to a window and used to reflect or draw in the sun’s heat. This use of green technology allows us to make use of an existing energy source while still preserving the Earth’s existing resources, resulting in a win-win situation for both the planet and us.

 

The challenging, changing world of research that lies ahead for engineers and scientists means we have to rethink “normal.”

As Hall-Tipping says, “Questioning our notion of ‘normal’ can lead to extraordinary breakthroughs.”

Progress, however, takes time. Research can be delayed by a lack of funding or, in some cases, naysayers who believe, for instance, that global warming is a hoax. Without research, of course, there would be little scientific progress or discovery of sustainable efforts, such as the implementation of green technology to affect at-home climate change. What began as the discovery of a new and useful material, as was the case with vaporized carbon, lent itself to the preservation of the planet in small measures. With continued research and developments within the field of nanotechnology, perhaps the at-home solution can be implemented on a grander scale.

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