Keep up the progress

Sustaining innovation post-breakthrough


Jin Tuan

Some opportunities for citizen science include Agent Exoplanet, Project BudBurst, Mark2Cure, Christmas Bird Count, the Citizen Weather Observer Program and Cyanotracker.

Scientists work hard to come up with breakthrough after breakthrough. Hydrogen fuel cells are a promising step into the future, but like any other solution proposed, they aren’t the be-all and end-all of solutions to sustainability.

Hydrogen fuel, though relatively straightforward to use and consume, is difficult to store. Due to its highly reactive nature, hydrogen gas needs to be stored in cool, insulated units to avoid risks of explosion, making it difficult to store in large amounts. To increase its efficiency in powering vehicles, hydrogen gas must be liquefied.

Taking a step back from the science, hydrogen is also not yet widely available, making hydrogen-powered vehicles a difficult choice to maintain. The vehicle itself, due to its relatively new technology and thus higher cost, is only an option for more privileged consumers, following the trend of more eco-friendly products being limited to the higher-income demographic.

The truth is that fighting climate change is a constant, ongoing process, not a stop-and-go ordeal.”

Though the latter two problems will likely solve themselves as hydrogen fuel cells become more widespread, it’s clear that this technology is not a panacea. Promising new solutions always come with hype, and the positives might be blown out of proportion compared to the negative aspects.

In the wake of a new discovery, the public, content with the success, can forget to pay attention to and continue giving feedback to developing breakthroughs. Issues like climate change are not the responsibility of one specific group of people, and yet these short-term successes can still fuel a thought process that encourages slacking off — because someone else has made this step in combating climate change, you no longer need to dedicate as many of your own resources to fight climate change.

It’s tempting to breathe a sigh of relief and see the breakthrough as having done “enough for today,” but the truth is that fighting climate change is a constant, ongoing process, not a stop-and-go ordeal. For that one large step forward, the amount of people who begin to let their guard down can completely undermine the positive progress.

It may seem like our voices, those of ordinary citizens and students, cannot contribute to professional scientific process. But whether it’s participating in citizen science projects or surveys, spreading awareness and new ideas or simply backing organizations who you feel are moving in the right direction, there are surprisingly many channels for contribution.

So, in the face of new technology and the challenges that come with it, we must keep fighting against widespread issues like climate change. Even if our impact is not immediately clear, every single action counts toward our common goal of staying alive.

This piece was originally published in the pages of The Winged Post on December 6, 2018.