Measurement Matters


Data, data, data. Every part of our modern-day society has to be backed up by some sort of numerical proof. Commercial businesses and politics would not be able to thrive as they do without their data, for no one would support them in fear of falsification. So why is it that when it comes to the environment, no one takes out their measuring stick? It seems that the environment has taken a backseat when it comes to the data-collecting world.

We are currently facing enormous amounts of environmental issues; overuse of landfills, air quality, and climate change, etc. And yet, the collection of data in no way shape or form matches up to the size of these problems. It seems as though these topics, which some consider to be life altering, lack importance in the world of research.

This lack of data brings forth a lot of uncertainty about where we currently are in our environmental crises. We seem to be playing a large-scale guessing game when it comes to national recycling rates, waste management, and toxic chemicals; a game we should not be playing. Without the facts, it is impossible to convince anyone in government to advocate for the environment. You cannot simply ask a policymaker to act on an issue while having large gaps in information.

So, what are the hurdles in front of us in our attempts to collect this data?

The first hurdle is how to get support. Many environmentalists advocate for government aid, stating that the federal government has the most power in today’s society to obtain this information successfully. And yet, critics argue that the federal government is possibly one of the slowest to react which is why these critics call for the help from the private sector.  Private sector companies are pushing the limits of Big Data for targeted solutions – but why not specific to the environment?

The second hurdle exists in how this data will look and where it will come from. Because it has never been seen before, it’s nearly impossible to predict in what form it will come in and how powerful the data will be.

When it comes to environmental data collection, we might as well be blindly placing our hand into a jar, hoping to pull out our lucky number or an executable, economically-favorable solution.

We have to start somewhere and may just have to start small. Whether it’s just a little measurement of weight here or there, the more we know means the closer we are to understanding just where we stand environmentally and what we have to achieve. Measurements are a vital part of our society and we must keep track of our changing environment, in order to improve it.

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