As an environmental engineer, a huge issue to tackle is getting clean water to people in other countries. So many people do not have access to something that most Americans take for granted. It seems like an issue that is impossible to solve, but Michael Pritchard is his Ted talk (link below) talks about how he has solved this problem. He has invented a Lifesaver water bottle that would enable people to clean their own water, instead of delivering the water to them through expensive and inconvenient means.
This Ted talk is from 2009, and over three million people have viewed it. My first thought was why doesn’t everyone have one of these yet? It would cost money to make and distribute, and it is still not understood that this is a problem that could be fixed with a little bit of help and coordination.
He stresses the use of this during times of disaster, but I think that it could really be useful for everyday and long term usage. Even water in America has been found to have lead (Flint Michigan? Woburn Massachusetts?) and been harming people here. Clean water is a world-wide issue, one that affects all of us, and one that is within our ability to solve.
I was at a talk last night given by iO Tillett Wright, she has a popular TED talk (that I have not seen) but she spoke on gender equality. She used this extended metaphor about circles, and she quoted Chimamanda Adichie from another TED talk. The one by Adichie is one that I had seen in high school, and it was cool to see this connection. They both discussed the problem of a single story, and how in doing so you rob someone of his or her dignity and right to his or her own story.
Its amazing how the same TED talk came up in these two very different contexts, but still worked very well in these situations. This just speaks to the generality of some ideas, and how there are many different ways to look at people and stories.
That’s what iO’s whole talk was about, expanding your own world and what you’re used to by getting comfortable around people who are not exactly like you, and in doing so making the world a more accepting place to live in.
I like looking at quotes, because sometimes people say things in a way that you never would have thought to put it, and it works well for what you’re trying to say. A quote showing this and leading into my point is: “Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats” – Voltaire. In his usual wit Voltaire wrapped up what I was trying to say: be optimistic, even in the worst of times. In Psychology right not we are discussing stress and overall health relating to personality types, optimist or pessimist. You would think that these are things that are outside of our control, how stressed/ hopeless/ pessimistic we feel, but in reality a lot of it is just dependent on how you look at it.
Pessimists tend to think that things happen to them, and that they really don’t get to choose what happens in their daily life. If you approach every stressful event or situation in this way, you’re less likely to try and change your fate. These negative emotions and stress and lack of ambition is a cycle that is hard to get out of.
If you instead approach a problem with motivation, treating it like a challenge where you’re determined to do well, you will have a much better attitude and a better chance of reaching your goal. People that have a positive outlook on the future live longer and are just generally healthier. They get more done, they seek support from others, and they think that they can control their own destiny and therefore are able to.
All of this is just about how you are approaching your problems and in what way you view the world around you, and its amazing what happens if you look on life in a more positive light.
Lehigh has had an Ethics Speakers Series for a little while now, and it is concluding this fall. One of the last people to speak was Dr. Ed Freeman from the University of Virginia, speaking of business and its reputation and place and future within society. He discussed the bad reputation that business has had, and explained how in actually it serves a greater positive influence within society. It has to power to do a lot of good, but also a lot of bad, and some companies are really trying to enhance the good.
He discussed future business leaders, and the goals and passions that they may have within their company.
Business was never an area that I was particularly interested in, partially for the reputation of it being competitive and sneaky, but also just because it was out of my interest. It allowed me a better view of business in society and of the positive power it may have, which is something everyone should know about. Whether you’re in the business school or not, his ideas and arguments are influential for anyone living in our capitalist and business driven society.
It’s always interesting to see how your courses overlap even though they may seem unrelated, and even though I’ve only been here two semesters it happens all the time. Right now I am in a Psychology class, and of course the IDEAS seminar, and in the seminar we talked about an idea in psychology that I just heard about earlier that week in the class. It was on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and the idea that there is a pyramid of needs that humans wish to fill, starting from the base level of food, shelter, water and working up to the peak of is self-actualization.
It was brought up that technology is being used as our companions and friends as an attempt to fill our hierarchy of needs, beyond the physiological base, in order to reach self-actualization. This was brought up as being an issue if people start to try and fill the levels of belonging and esteem before they meet their physiological needs. Also, people now aren’t looking to human friendships and interactions to fill those higher levels, but to technology, and does that pose an issue for the future of our social world?
In what ways should our needs be met, and should we make sure they are in the order that Maslow created?
My favorite novel throughout high school was Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I was really able to understand and appreciate the ideas that Conrad wove into his novel on the story of the trip up the Congo river told by a man running the ship. The man was able to retell all that he had seen, heard, and witnessed during his time, and later in his life retold the story in order to try and make sense of it and to get the blame off of himself. I always found this struggle with morality and self- justification very fascinating, and have found that most things in life can be related to this novel.
This was evident yet again when in the IDEAS seminar we discussed Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut. I thought of it right away when we started to have a vague discussion about “the edge”, on where people like to be and where people go. Would you rather be safely in the middle, or on the edge, where there is a danger of falling off? The edge is that “darkness” Conrad talks about, and getting close allows you witness evil things. What does that do to your person, your humanity? But is it better to be blind, never knowing what is really out there?
Taking chances and getting closer to the edge may allow you to differ from right or wrong, but it gets risky when you’re close to falling off, as Kurtz did in Heart of Darkness. He reached a point of no return, whereas Marlow stayed on the edge and was able to witness all that happened. Yet the guilt of what he had seen stuck with him throughout his life, and as engineers this is actually an important thing to consider.
How do we wish to affect humanity, how will we deal with being on the edge, and how will we make sure we don’t go too far?
This documentary, named “Most Likely to Succeed”, was one that played a while ago at the middle school that is right off of Lehigh’s campus. Though one of the only students in a mass of parents, I was so happy that I went to see this film.
I’m not sure if this topic will ever relate to my degree, or if it could be tied in with engineering at all. But it matters to me not only because of the interesting changes our world is going through, but as a human and as a potential parent there is an obligation to do what is best for your children.
The way high schools work today, and what I have found talking to people from different backgrounds here at Lehigh, was that most of these schools are teaching directly for the AP, SAT, or ACT tests, because that is what colleges want and look for. I happened to come from a very small high school in the country that did not care about our records, if you went to college, or how you did. They cared about your growth as a person and that leaving the school you were going on to did what you wanted to do, but because you put yourself there, not because your high school led you there.
Because of this I was able to explore things and go off curriculum in ways that students today are not able to, which is exactly what this documentary showed as being the thing students should be allowed to do. It fosters creativity and character that is what is actually needed to have a good job and do well in life. The problem is that students still want to be able to go to college and to look good on paper, and so they are hesitant about this new way of education.
Once you’re in college, its not about studying for a standardized test, especially not in the IDEAS program. Its about so much more than that, which is what schools aren’t teaching us.