Cees Buisman and Huub Rijnaarts on 50 years ETE

At this very moment our community is in a crucial existential momentum. Many western societies believe that all their local environmental problems have been or soon will be resolved. The last 50 years, Environmental Technology and its partners helped to create this situation through their technological successes.

Currently, our community is in a crucial existential turning-point. Many western societies are under the impression that all of their local environmental problems have been resolved or will be in the very near future. During the last 50 years, Environmental Technology and its partners have contributed significantly to creating this situation through their technological innovations. We changed rivers from open sewers into clean  water systems; we cured soils and sediments from historical pollution; and we improved air quality with respect to organic and SOx pollutants. Can we now congratulate ourselves with a “completed job”? Of course not!

In our society, new problems are continuously arising on the horizon. They are global in nature, but with large local implications and uncertain temporal and spatial impacts. Depletion of minerals like phosphorous; scarcity of high quality water; antibiotic resistance in soil, groundwater and surface waters; and NOx and nanoparticles in the atmosphere are a few examples of current environmental challenges that need to be solved. Moreover, our dependency on large centralised networks for fresh water and energy, and on scarce resources such as phosphorous, make society very vulnerable to climate change and global socio-political developments. The contamination of rivers, groundwater, coastal regions and oceans with chemicals at micro- to nano-scale concentrations is a vast and emerging problem, with implications for human health, ecology and food quality. And all these issues fall within the scope of current and future environmental technologists.

In addition to developing the newest technologies for remediation of water, soil, and air, we also need to excel in communication. We have to convey the message “Think Globally, Act Locally”, making clear that measures implemented locally affect the global environment, and vice versa. This requires us to grow from mere developers and suppliers of technological solutions into advocates for environmental technology. We need to engage societal partners and explain the complex relationships between the local application of technological measures and global, long-term impacts. During the last decade, Environmental Technology in conjunction with many partner companies, governments, and institutes, has been working within this new paradigm. In this newsletter, we hope to inspire you with an overview of 50 years of environmental technology.

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