I just got back from a month of travels throughout Thailand, struck by something I didn’t expect: water bottles. Lots and lots of water bottles. On beaches. Floating in the ocean. Strewn throughout the forest around a monk’s hut. In the hands of locals and tourists alike, because the tap water isn’t safe to drink. And sadly, a lot of that plastic is being burned (I whiffed the fumes to prove it), because there isn’t a good trash/recycling infrastructure in place. Well, let’s be honest: recycling is pretty much nonexistent.
I know that plastic and trash is a problem worldwide—but the sight of bottle after bottle bobbing amongst the lapping waves caused a more visceral reaction to pollution than I’d ever experienced. It made me sad. Tourists and Thailand’s own people are destroying its oceans with trash.
This observation prompted my thinking about an even bigger problem: the amount of time it takes developing countries to adopt environmental practices. What systems need to be in place to increase the rate of adoption? Is acceleration even possible?
Some would argue that “as in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, nations that are struggling to survive are less concerned with environmental sustainability than advanced and stable nations.” But, if you believe in global warming (and I do), then you know that we don’t really have time to wait. Somehow, we have to speed that process up.
This would address current pollution issues and cause an exciting domino effect: sustainability embedded into the infrastructure of future developed nations. These countries would have already tackled sustainability issues that nations like the USA are struggling with right now. After all, “the world’s richest countries…have contributed by far the most to the atmospheric changes linked to global warming”.
While this topic area is not within my personal area of expertise, I can’t stop thinking about what an interesting problem this would be to solve, to what extent we can actually solve it, and how the User Experience Design (UX) community community can be a part of developing the solutions. After all, if anyone loves to solve big problems that impact human beings, it’s a user experience designer. And, if the solutions that are coming forth don’t explicitly address user experience, they are less likely to succeed.
So, two questions for you:
- Where are some of the most fruitful places that this issue is currently being addressed?
- How can the UX community participate?