No matter where you are in the world, you likely have a complaint or two about the infrastructure of your area. Whether roads are left with gaping potholes, public projects left with lackluster funding, or even something as simple as having a few streetlights out, there's usually something that a community has a few gripes about.
But, what about the things we don't see, until it's too late? A pothole is easy to see, or feel when you drive over it, but what about lead pipes transporting your drinking water? What about inefficiencies in power grids, and a crippling dependence on fossil fuels?
In the United States, we saw this recently, with thousands going without power in the state of Texas, in one of the biggest snowstorms that area had ever seen. We can see the rising ocean, decimating homes and causing millions to move further inland. We see this in species being driven extinct thanks to highways, pollution, and the ever-encroaching human population.
How exactly does American infrastructure affect the environment around us? We've gathered the topmost examples, to educate and spread awareness of these big issues.
First and foremost, we will talk about the lack of efficiency in our power system. Per person, we use nearly 7 tons of oil worth of energy! That's more than 3 times the Chinese 2.0 tons per person. Despite many advances in technology, Congress has not passed a major environmental infrastructure bill in ages!
Infrastructure is the basis of how we build our country, and when it's inefficient or unable to work, that affects our country and how we work. And when it's harmful to the environment on top of that, no one's happy.
Our power supply is frighteningly reliant on fossil fuels, despite the wide availability of more renewable resources. Geothermal, windmills, and solar power are all in wide availability, and yet, they only made up 20% of the power used in 2020. While this is certainly progress, we need to move quickly, as more extreme weather conditions will only aggravate already aging systems.
As of 2008, the total estimated water infrastructure needs for the United States included:
$63.6 billion for combined sewer overflow control; and
$42.3 billion for stormwater management.
Imagine what areas could do with an extra 100 billion in their budget!
Stormwater runoff doesn't just cost us money, it costs us our environment. When water runs over roads, picking up all sorts of pollutants and chemicals, and then runs off into rivers and lakes, it brings those pollutants with it. This can effectively kill the ecosystem of a lake, through a process known as eutrophication, where a richness of nutrients can cause algae blooms, starving the fish and other creatures inside of oxygen.
As we all know, when one part of our ecosystem fails, they all start to suffer. Whether it's taking the wolves from Yellowstone, or the millions of species that have gone extinct over the years, we can see our world changing around us, and not for the better.
So, how do we fix this?
The individual cannot change much, no, but the group is able to change things. While making individual choices is good, the most that one can do is petition large companies that account for over 50% of carbon emissions to stop that and to switch to more renewable and less damaging forms of energy.
Every small step counts. This is not a race, this is a marathon, and we can do this if we're all together.