How do you envision the future?

By Asta Mail

Great Lakes Expedition Coordinator

March 4, 2013

How do you envision the future?

At one time, I think a lot of us would have met this question with rosy optimism. Flying skateboards, instant transportation, and robots that talk to us, all right!

Marty McFly and his hoverboard-where the heck is this nowadays? photo.
Marty McFly and his hoverboard-where the heck is this nowadays? photo.

But now, in 2013, I feel like maybe our outlook for our future isn’t quite so positive. With a burgeoning human population, limited resources, and a rapidly deteriorating environment, many of us are left wondering- will the future really be as bright as we once though it would be?

Are we ready for this? photo
Are we ready for this? photo
Are these the "business as usual" employees of the future? image from website.
Are these the "business as usual" employees of the future? image from website.

As a society, I’ve notice lately that we seem to now expect disaster in our future. Whether it be a meteor shooting through space to take out the planet, a zombie plague roaming the Earth, or the “2012” Mayan Apocalypse, it seems to me like we are starting to consider our own fate on this planet. And yet, when the most serious threat to our current existence-the disappearance of a healthy environment- shows itself, we ignore it and try and go on like nothing is happening.

Our environment is suffering, and it’s a real downer. It’s easy to get caught up in the doom and gloom, especially if you work in the field of science. All day long, I am bombarded with information about how unhealthy this planet is. It’s shocking to see how degraded the marine and freshwater environments have become, and many of us in the field of marine science have become to consider declining ecosystem health to be the norm.

What is worse, I feel an overwhelming sense of apathy from most people about environmental issues.  We don’t often see the direct result of our unsustainable actions in our day to day lives until it’s too late. The problems we face, like plastic pollution, acidification of our oceans, or climate change, seem too big, too overwhelming to tackle. Most people have enough things to worry about already, and so they ignore these issues and continue on with their lives.

However, some of us have a whole lot of hope for the future. We have made fixing these environmental problems our personal challenge. We want to tackle these problems head on.  We know the situation is bad, but we also know that even in the worst of situations, there is always the hope that things can get better. As the saying goes, hope floats, and in the Great Lakes, I believe that this saying applies perfectly.

Can we prevent environmental disaster in the future? I honestly believe that we can.

Recently, I came across a “meme” on Facebook that perfectly describes what I feel about things, and maybe you can relate to it as well.

Sorry for the vulgarity. The Grandmothers Against Bullshit don't seem to mind.
Sorry for the vulgarity. The Grandmothers Against Bullshit don't seem to mind.

It’s time to look away from the dreariness of the current environmental picture, and focus on raising hope for the future of our world.

We, at this juncture in time, can act to change our own perception of the future, and that of the following generations.

Wouldn’t it be great if the kids of the future looked back on 2013, and thought, “That was the year people woke up and joined together to keep our planet alive!”

The best part about this is, many people have already begun to come to this exact conclusion, and have already started to contribute to creating a better future for all of us.

If you read the last blog article, you’d know that I am particularly worried about plastic pollution, especially in the Great Lakes, where plastic is beginning to turn these beautiful clear waters into a plastic soup.

I went looking for solutions to this problem all over the web, and I am thrilled to tell you that we  are already creating the technology to help reduce the amount of plastic that is building up all over our planet.

A company called  Algilyx, based out of Oregon, has discovered a way to convert plastic waste into a source for crude oil. While this may not be a perfect solution to fixing environmental problems like climate change, it certainly reduces the amount of plastic filling our landfills and being blown out into our lakes, seas and rivers.

Check out an interview with Algilyx here courtesy of Waste and Recycling News:

Aaron Mickelson's disappearing package models. From his website
Aaron Mickelson's disappearing package models. From his website

What could be better than breaking down plastic packaging? Having packaging that breaks down itself! Aaron Mickelson developed a brilliant idea to help solve the plastic pollution problem by designing packaging that actually dissolves on its own through use. He designed real prototypes for some of the most common household brands that dissolve and are washed down the drain, or at least require far less packaging than the current production methods use. Check out his prototypes here:

The Plastic Pollution Coalition based out of San Francisco, wants to think big about plastic pollution solutions.  In an effort to motivate young entrepreneurs and out-of-the-box thinkers to come up with new businesses, the coalition has created a contest called  “Think Beyond Plastic”. The coalition is offering a first prize investment of $50,000 dollars for a well articulated idea that reduces plastic production or pollution in industry. $10,000 dollars will go to a winner with the most innovative business idea.  This amazing campaign for innovation is being sponsored by organizations including Rolling Stone magazine, Bonnaroo Music Festival and Conservation International, among others. Read more about the contest and develop your own idea!

Think Beyond Plastic's Logo.  Photo From
Think Beyond Plastic's Logo. Photo From

All of these initiatives give me hope. They make me realize that as a society, we are waking up to the huge environmental problems we face, and that if we don’t act now, we may not see a rosy future. I have faith that as an intelligent, creative and innovative species, we can rise above our environmental failures, and create a future that is healthy for not only ourselves, but our environment as well.


Algilyx website. 2013. “Converting Plastic Waste to Crude Oil”.  Accessed March 4.

Plastic Pollution Coalition. “Think Beyond Plastic”. Accessed March 4

Mickelson, A.2013. “Snobby Design”. Acessed Online March 4.

PR Newswire. Feb 20, 2013. “”Think Beyond Plastic” Competition gains sponsorship from Rolling Stone Magazine, Bonnaroo, One Pacific Coast Bank, FSB.” Accessed online March 4.

Neddo, B. July 16, 2012.” Dr. Sherri Mason leading first ever Great Lakes plastic pollution survey.” Acessed online, March 4.