The fuel of the future isn't gasoline, ethanol or even hydrogen—it's education. Specifically, the science and engineering education that will enable a fresh group of smart young people to tackle the world's ongoing energy crisis. Solve the energy crisis and you go a long way's toward solving a host of environmental problems: pollution, environmental health risks, climate change, to name just a few.
Today marks the 41st anniversary of Earth Day, a day meant to celebrate a new way for people and the planet to thrive. And that always has and always will depend on youths (a demographic I am rapidly leaving behind).
That's why Scientific American partnered with the Google Science Fair and, lo and behold, out of the 12 categories that student scientists could choose from, "Earth and Environmental Science" ranked first. That surprises me, at least, given that Google is famous for its computer science and math prowess (which was a close runner-up category).
Using the fruits of that Google prowess to conduct a quick search on YouTube reveals Science Fair projects ranging from harnessing sewage to generate electricity to using recycled cans to create efficient solar ovens. Given that the world produces some 300 billion such cans every year, that's at least one solution that might come in handy.
Out of some 7,500 entries from more than 10,000 young scientists from 90 countries around the world, handling the planet's environmental problems comprised close to 25 percent of submissions. And that's a good thing because young scientists are definitely the key for revving up the innovation engine we will need to invent our way out of these problems of our own making. Let's get started!