Integrated Human Practices
iGEM Tec-Monterrey 2016 is based in the most heavily polluted city in Latin America. Amidst rampant consumerism and a dearth of civic action, we’re trying to light the spark to ignite the fire of environmental consciousness.
Imagine a future where the well being of our planet is not taken seriously, where unawareness and indifference lead to contaminating millions of liters of water and our soils, producing lasting effects in human health and the environment. A world where economic interests shape our moral decisions and where the striking consequences of our actions are relentlessly ignored.
You don’t have to imagine anymore, that future is now. We are living in critical times, where the decisions we make now, will crucially affect the way of living of future generations. It is said that if you don’t do something about it, you are part of the problem too. We chose to be part of the solution instead.
When deciding what our project would be, a key element stood out from the others. We wanted to solve a real and pressing issue that our community faces nowadays.
It wasn’t hard to come up with something: we just had to look at our cell phones, laptops, and tablets. We just had to look at the rivers of our city, polluted with TVs and toxic materials. We just had to look at the landfills competing with the mountains for the landscape of our city. We just had to look around, and the answer was right there all along.
The electronic industry is the fastest growing manufacturing industry nowadays, producing massive amounts of waste every year. The lifespan of electronics, such as computers and cellphones, is deliberately dropping and new devices keep appearing to replace the old ones. Consumerism and the unconsciousness of people cause the production of millions of tons of e-waste every year. Most of these residues meet their fate in landfills, where the hazardous substances within the waste end up being released, harming not only the environment, but also the health of people in surrounding communities.
After discussing and carefully pondering the effects that all of these issues have in our community, we, as a team, were deeply concerned about the current situation; we realized that we actually wanted to provide solution outside the lab as well as inside it. In fact, we realized that our community needed needed someone and we were placed in the perfect position to do it.
In order to achieve this, we organized our Human Practice in an integrated feedback system: we approached stakeholders and the general community with the purpose of obtaining and analyzing data to assess the severity of the problem. Then, we involved our community in different events aimed to create consciousness about e-waste pollution and the dreadful consequences of the incorrect e-waste disposal. We also wanted to inform them about the different ways in which they could participate and come up with solutions to help us improve our current situation. Throughout this process, our experience allowed us to evaluate and reshape our project according to our society’s needs.
The following is a general outline of the different events and activities we carried out as part of our Human Practices:
Beginnings: conversations with stakeholders and the general community.
- Conversation with B.E. Carlos Lara Valenzuela, Manager of Grupo Peñoles.
- Counseling with the Geomicrobiology Laboratory of the UASLP.
- Meeting with CVR, one of the few certified e-waste recycling companies in Mexico.
- Visits and interaction in our lab with the general public.
- Polls and data analysis: Assesing the impact of our proyect.
Core events: events for creating consciousness, involving our community and coming up with solutions.
After everything we went through during our journey, one thing is undeniable: this is only the beginning. There’s so much more left to do, and there is a pressing need for efficient solutions with a sustainable approach.
At first we didn’t know how many things we could actually do to improve our situation, but what we did know is that we wanted to help our community, we wanted to do something about the alarming environmental situation in our city, and we wanted to make a real difference.
We have learned so much in this period of time. This process has opened up our eyes to the disappointing reality we are facing nowadays, a reality where corruption, consumerism, indifference, misinformation and carelessness are decisive forces in our society. However, we also learned that we can actually do something about it. What we made in our Human Practices is just a small example of what we, as a society, can accomplish if we decide to take action.