My name is Angel Armenta and I am a student in Chemical Engineering at Arizona State University(ASU) graduating in May 2017. As a student in the Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP) I have been able to focus my studies in chemical engineering to the theme of sustainability. I have been able to use GCSP to tailor my education in focusing on areas of sustainability such as providing access to clean water or designing for sustainability. Through GCSP I gained experience in interdisciplinary studies involving sustainability in both geographical and social sciences, conducted research in providing desalination solutions for underdeveloped regions, gained understanding of the importance of geopolitics and its influence on climate, learned and practiced entrepreneurial skills to turn a sustainability idea into a full-fledged business, and participated in engineering service learning through the Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) program at ASU.
What is Sustainability?
Sustainability can be generally described as a sort of process that depends on a societal desire to pursue an ideal ecological state. However, the interpretation of an ideal ecological state is subjective because planetary ecology is dynamic and it is challenging to assert a metric for sustainability. The most common metric is atmospheric CO2 concentration. If humans would want to circumvent ecological disaster due to climate change the simplest solution would be to reduce CO2 emissions. However, what is the CO2 concentration of an ideal ecological state? A few goals include keeping constant at today’s levels, reverting back to pre-industrial era levels, or even pre-human era levels. However, the issue with using atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases to solely define sustainability is erroneous because ecology depends on a well maintained atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere. This makes sustainability much more complex and allows it to overarch into the broad areas of energy and health and also affects the world in a political, social, economic, and technological way. The complexity of sustainability is what draws me to it. Sustainability is important to me because it incorporates technological innovation in order to improve the environment and forces different requirements in engineering design to achieve better products.