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The Intel Environment Award
Dorothy G. Glancy
Introduction: The Applications
Sustainable development in which technology helps the environment to thrive is the vision inspiring the remarkable people and organizations that applied for this award. Applicants represented many types of technologies designed to solve environmental problems and to preserve the natural environment and its resources.
Each of the applications represents a distinguished example of how human cooperation can apply technology to meet environmental challenges. The applications illustrate both synergy between technology and the environment and the beneficial effects of human cooperation. Combining high technology with environmental savvy, the applications illuminate the increasingly strong ties between the environment and technology.
More than fifty individuals and organizations applied. Their technologies ranged from nano-tech-nology to garbage composting, and there was considerable variety in the environmental issues addressed by the technologies.
Several relatively small-scale alternative sources of energy were among the applicants. These included uses of solar power for cooking, a new technology to improve the spark ignition process in internal combustion engines, a biomass-based micro-algae utilization technology (MUT) using solar energy, and a new technology using pressurized fluidized bed combustion.
Concerns about solid and hazardous wastes were reflected in applications related to oil-spill remediation technologies, a unique composting system, and a project focused on garbage disposal.
Protection of water and oceanic resources was the major environmental concern addressed by many of the applicants. Some applicants were concerned with preventing harmful organisms and chemicals from contaminating water supplies. Examples include an ingenious system for off-shore sewage treatment in small coastal towns that lack major sewage treatment plants, innovative technologies that treat water pollution through floating rafts of vegetation, technologies that apply sophisticated microbiology to eliminate waterborne pathogens, and new technologies for restoring coral reefs through transplantation.
Some of the applications represent new remediation techniques, including applications of nanotechnology to the remediation of soil, water and air pollution through photocatalyis using imprinted TiO2 to selectively bind to pollutants, and a technology for separating out plastics and aluminum in recycling.
A large number of the applications were designed to collect and present environmental data and to promote environmental education. Examples include training adolescents in environmental protection techniques, using the Internet to promote environmental education, a novel environmental education program, use of the Internet to promote sustainable living, and a new environmental education game.
Finally, a few of the applicants applied software to the management of environmental data.
Selecting the Laureates
The panel of judges was impressed by the number of outstanding technologies that benefit humanity by solving environmental problems. In selecting the best of these outstanding individuals and organizations, the panel considered a number of factors. These factors included identification of the environmental problem, the nature of the technology, contributions made by the technology and measurable results from the technology. The technology proponents’ consciousness of possible unintended consequences and the potential for replicating the environmental benefits of the technology were also important considerations. In addition to applying their own expertise, the judges conducted on-line research and interviewed technical specialists to add depth to the panel’s understanding of the sophisticated technologies the applicants apply to solving environmental problems.
The Five Laureates
Five of these exceptional applicants emerged as Laureates. Varied both in terms of the types of technologies they employ to benefit the environment and in terms of the aspects of the environment on which they focus, the Laureates are, in alphabetical order:
1. Environment Canada
2. Bill Lovin & Susan Lovelace , EstuaryLIVE
3. International SeaKeepers Society
4. Craig M.V. Taylor, Los Alamos National Laboratory
5. Ravigadevi Sambanthamurthi, Kalyana Sundram and Yew-Ai Tan, Malaysian Palm Oil Board
Environment Canada, Saskatchewan, Canada
Under the guidance of Dr. Leonard Wassenaar and Dr. Keith Hobson, Environment Canada’s research institutes apply stable isotope technology to understand the migration patterns of songbirds, as well as insects, such as Monarch butterflies, and even fish. Because natural stable hydrogen isotope ratios in a migratory bird’s feathers reveal the geographical area in which each feather was grown (usually in the breeding grounds), mass spectrometer readings of isotope ratios derived from a single feather from a song bird shows where the bird grew that feather.
Isotope technology is markedly superior to traditional bird banding that requires capturing the same bird at both ends of a migration cycle, resulting in major uncertainties and much higher costs. Stable isotope analysis, at a cost of only about $25 per sample, greatly facilitates the ecological study of migration patterns. Using this technology, a migratory bird needs to be captured only once and loses only a feather. The result is many more samples, as well as the ability to determine precise areas of breeding and wintering of whole populations. In particular, stable isotope analysis facilitates detailed study of migratory connectivity––ascertaining whether individual migratory organisms migrate from the same breeding area to the same wintering area in a group pattern. The results of such studies are vital for understanding the ecology, evolution, and conservation of migratory organisms.
Although, stable isotope ecology has been ex-plored by other scientists, such as Dr. C. Page Cham-berlain of Stanford University’s Department of Geo-logical and Environmental Sciences, Environment Canada independently developed stable isotope tech-nology and applied it to important and ground-breaking ways to help preserve migratory species such as song birds. The work of Environment Canada’s various research institutes, in- cluding that in which Dr. Wassenaar and Dr. Hobson worked together to apply stable isotope analysis to migra-tory organsms is visible on Environment Canada’s website http://www.mb.ec.gc.ca/
Bill Lovin and Susan Lovelace, EstuaryLIVE, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
The best way to experience EstuaryLIVE’s contribution to environmental understanding is to take a virtual field trip to the Rachel Carson Reserve, a unique series of islands and salt marshes outside Beaufort, North Carolina. To do that just go to: http:// www.estuarylive.org. Once there you can experience the sights and sounds of a rich estuarine environment where rivers run into the sea. More than that, you can see the results of live, streaming-video, field trips organized for students from all over the world, including Canada, Venezuela, Mexico, Iceland, New Zealand, and Australia. The site presents information about lesson plans and examples of how the innovative, interactive, live, streaming-video, field trips have made a difference to thousands of school children. Even special needs children, with such severe behavioral problems that they would never be allowed to participate in a “real” field trip, are able to visit the estuary through EstuaryLIVE’s interactive, live stream-ing-video.
All of this is possible because of the collaboration and dedicated work of EstuaryLIVE’s two cofounders and co-applicants for the 2002 Intel Environment Award. Susan Lovelace of the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve is a naturalist and education specialist who leads the virtual field trips and is the Education Coordinator of the Rachel Carson Reserve outside Beaufort, North Carolina. Bill Lovin is an underwater filmmaker who contributed significant technical resources from his firm, Marine Graphics, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 150 miles away from the reserve. Years of dedication and experimentation with various types of off-the-shelf video and audio technologies on the part of these co-applicants adapted live, Internet, video-streaming and two-way communications in truly remarkable ways. The product of their application of technology, EstuaryLIVE, has enriched the environmental studies of countless school children and generated both understanding of and interest in this precious estuarine environment among people who live far from the Rachel Carson Reserve.
International SeaKeepers Society, Key Biscayne, Florida
The International SeaKeepers Society coordinates and collects data from large yachts, cruise ships, cargo vessels and coastal piers in monitoring the health of the world’s oceans and the atmosphere above them. This remarkable technological effort directed at the ocean environment has required human cooperation, as well as innovative technology. The more than fifty members of the International SeaKeepers Society based in Key Biscayne, Florida, come from sixteen countries and include technology leaders such as Paul Allen of Microsoft, Craig McGaw, Lee Anderson of API Group and Jim Clark, founder of Netscape. International SeaKeepers also includes business leaders such as Albert Gersten II, Steve Forbes and Bud Paxton of the Home Shopping Network as well as a number of major cruise lines, including Carnival, Royal Caribbean Celebrity and Holland-America. Tom Houston, a former Los Angeles deputy mayor and outstanding environmental lawyer, is the President and CEO of International SeaKeepers.
What is particularly praiseworthy about International SeaKeepers is that it has managed to engage these and many other important and ordinary people, as well as government agencies and research institutions, in a cooperative effort to monitor the health of the oceans. In just four years, the SeaKeepers have devised unique technologies that use miniaturized sensors to keep track of atmospheric and ocean conditions all over the world. When installed on a yacht or other ship, two holes drilled in the ship’s hull permit the intake and outflow of ocean water through a module about the size of a microwave oven located in the engine room. Five times a day, the SeaKeepers module automatically monitors sea surface temperature, clarity, salinity, pH levels, oxygen levels, and even the health of microscopic aquatic organisms. There are plans to add sensors to monitor such factors as air/sea CO2 flux related to global climate change, nutrients, phosphates, and seven toxic metals.
The data stream is automatically transmitted via electronic interfaces and the vessel’s Inmarsat-C. The data is made available through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to research institutions, government agencies and scientists. By the summer of 2004, the SeaKeepers data is expected to be on-line with “real time” data on such matters as ocean salinity and pH.
The SeaKeepers oceanic and atmospheric monitoring module is relatively low-cost (around $36,000) and durable (5-10 year lifetime) with a patent-pending anti-fouling system that allows the module to operate autonomously without the need for recalibration and maintenance over long periods of time. Already deployed on far-ranging ships and coastal piers, SeaKeepers modules will soon be attached to ocean weather buoys. SeaKeepers’ automatic technology makes it possible to collect marine data from all over the world, including developing nations, so that wise policies regarding ocean and atmospheric pollution can be adopted. The society’s Web site, http://www.seakeepers.org/, shows the growing deployment of this amazing technology cooperatively applied to benefit the ocean environment, as well as to benefit the humanity that depends upon the health of the oceans.
Craig M. V. Taylor, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico
Craig M.V. Taylor and the Applied Chemical Technology Group (C-ACT) group at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico worked together to devise a new technology to address environmental consequences of manufacturing the integrated circuits at the heart of computer technology. According to a European Union study, manufacturing a single laptop computer generates more waste and uses more re-sources than manufacturing a car. The SCORR (Supercritical CO 2 Resist Removal) technology allevi-ates some of the environmental consequences of manu-facturing that laptop and other computers.
Plants employing hundreds of thousands of workers in more than fifty countries currently prepare silicon wafers for integrated circuits in ways that pose serious dangers to the workers and the environment. Many of these plants are located in areas where water resources are in short supply. Conventional semicon-ductor manufacturing requires preparing silicon wa-fers by using large amounts of water and energy to produce super-pure distilled and de-ionized water, as well as applying a witch’s brew of toxic solvents, such as chlorofluorocarbons, hydrogen peroxide, sulfuric acid, mono-methyl ether acetate, xylenes, and many others.
The SCORR technology instead uses supercritical CO 2 ( SCCO 2 ), which at high pressures and temperatures becomes liquid, while retaining many of the properties of a gas. This SCCO 2, com-bined with certain co-solvents, is used in the closed-loop SCORR process, which consumes no water and uses less than 5% of the toxic solvents. SCORR cleans silicon wafers in half the time and at much lower cost than conventional wet-stripping systems that use great quantities of water and toxic solvents. Moreover, the SCORR process results in a silicon wafer that is dry and virtually free of dirt and poly-mers, with a much lower incidence of defects. Wafer defects pose a substantial problem of waste in the manufacture of very high-density circuits, such as “systems on a chip.”
The SCORR technology was developed in response to these water-consumption and toxic chemi-cal problems. Responding to a request from Hewlett-Packard (now Agilent), a joint development program led by the Los Alamos National Laboratory included such industry leaders as SC-Fluids, IBM, International Sematech, Air Products, and Praxair. Cooperation among government scientists, semiconductor com-panies and materials providers was essential to the development of this technology that is vital for the environmentally responsible and sustainable growth of the semiconductor industry. The SCORR process is illustrated on the web at the Los Alamos National Laboratory website: http://www.lanl.gov/.
Ravigadevi Sambanthamurthi, Kalyana Sundram and Yew-Ai Tan, Malaysian Palm Oil Board, Kuala Lampur, Malaysia
Research scientists at the Malaysian Palm Oil Board devised a novel process using an ion-ex-change membrane that filters out low molecular weight compounds that are high in flavonoids and phenolic antioxidants that show potent protective functions against cancer and atherosclerosis in ani-mal and cell cultures. This technology literally trans-forms highly polluting palm oil mill waste, called POME, into beneficial materials, including nutraceuticals.
The process begins with POME, a nasty by-product of the extraction of palm oil. Each year millions of tons of highly polluting POME require very careful environmental management. Ton for ton, the oxygen depletion potential of POME is 100 times that of domestic sewage. Some POME is used as low-value fertilizer. Some is treated with anaero-bic digestion to produce biogas. But there remain tons and tons of POME that pose serious environ-mental problems.
The applicants’ patented product results from a process that extracts water-soluble com-pounds that appear to fight cancer and heart dis-ease. The innovation required the collaboration of diverse and talented women and men: Ravigadevi Sambanthamurthi (a biochemist), Kalyana Sundram (a nutritionist) and Yew-Ai Tan (a chemist). Their innovation underscores the potential for using high technology, including bio-science, to turn environ-mentally dangerous waste products into health-giv-ing compounds. A detailed report of the applicants’ research, under the auspices of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, part of the Ministry of Primary Indus-tries in Malaysia, is described in Technology Trans-fer Project Number 97 available at http:// mpob.gov.my/.
Each of the applicants for this award, and especially each of the Laureates, represents a unique approach to using technology to solve and prevent environmental problems. The cooperative efforts essential in the innovations of these applicants and the five Laureates reveal extraordinary ways in which technology brings people together in the interests of a cleaner and ultimately more humane environment. •
Dorothy Glancy, Chair, Professor of Law, Santa Clara University
William Eisinger, Professor of Biology, Santa Clara University
Tatsuo Okada, Executive Director, NPO Global Sports Alliance, Japan
Amy Shachter, Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Director, Environmental Studies Institute, and Associate Professor of Chemistry, Santa Clara University
Carlos Sluzki, Research Professor, School of Public Policy and Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, and Clinical Professor of Pyschiatry, George Washington University Medical School
Michael A. Taylor, Consultant and co-founder of Syleum