PO BLOG

Do You Really Want to Save the Environment?

Published in May, 2019

Try science and technology instead of activism, says young Canadian mycologist

“In order to protect the environment, we must first understand it and learn from it.”

“A prosperous economy is integral to innovation, especially environmental innovation.”

 

By Kelcie Miller-Anderson

I grew up in Alberta. Surrounded by nature, I spent my childhood skiing in the Rockies, fishing on the Bow River and camping in Kananaskis. Surrounded by such beauty it would be near impossible to not fall in love with the environment, and not want to fight to protect it. I believe I’ve been an environmentalist my entire life.

However, I’m not your typical environmentalist. Where others see protesting, boycotting and rallying as the answer, the be-all and end-all ways to “protect” our environment, I believe that the best way to create change is to actually do something, to create solutions.

Rather than dedicate time and energy to opposing oil and gas operations, I believe that time and energy is better spent dedicating ourselves to creating new solutions and developing new technologies to make the industry more sustainable and environmentally conscious, while at the same time working to develop those new technologies so that when we are ready, we can begin a smooth transition to incorporating new energy sources.

A global concern

Growing up in Alberta I was exposed to the oil industry from an early age. As I grew up I began to take notice of some of the press surrounding the industry, focusing always on the negatives, and highlighting the environmental concerns.

It was around this age that one afternoon while I was in the alley behind my house, I noticed a dandelion growing up through the pavement. Knowing asphalt was hydrocarbon based I became curious as to why dandelions could grow in an environment that was toxic to most other plants. With a bit of research I soon discovered it was attributed to the accumulation of a fungus in their roots.

Since this discovery nine years ago, I have developed two novel and completely natural methods of remediation, to help support the industry by alleviating some of the environmental concerns. In 2016 I founded my first company, MycoRemedy, with the goal of changing the way the world remediates.

Contamination of both soil and water is truly a global concern, and the problem is only further elevated by the lack of current technologies to efficiently address this contamination.

Current remediation technologies tend to be slow, costly and extremely energy-intensive. At MycoRemedy we aim to change this, by using fungi-based techniques in order to restore polluted environmental sites naturally. We aim to provide the most cost-effective, rapid and environmentally conscious solutions available, without sacrificing high quality results.

Our technology utilizes fungi, part of which is diverted agricultural waste from commercial mushroom production and manufactures it into our novel MycoMats. All aspects of our MycoMats are completely natural, meaning they can be left in the soil indefinitely, requiring no removal once remediation is complete. Early trials show our technology is 90 per cent cheaper, 98 per cent faster, and unlike traditional methods that don’t actually do any remediation, we remediate 100 per cent of the contaminants.

In order to protect the environment, we must first understand it and learn from it. I feel it is important to support our environment, ensure its protection, but I don't believe we need to sacrifice our industry and our economy in order to do this.

Fostering innovation

A prosperous economy is integral to innovation, especially environmental innovation. To support innovation, to support change, we must support our industries, help them adapt so we can secure an economy that can support and foster innovation. I believe the lack of “social license,” the opposition to new projects that would enable more efficient transport of crude across our country, comes from a place of misinformation and wrong assumptions. Many see a huge environmental risk where in reality the risk is minimal.

They simply care. They want to protect the environment, ensure a healthy world for future generations. We need to show them the incredible environmental innovations taking place in our society, the innovations in all areas of policy and technology that are addressing our unique environmental challenges and working proactively to reduce our footprint.

We need to show them that we are addressing problems aggressively, that we are capable and that we are ready.

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Kelcie Miller-Anderson is an award-winning scientist, innovator, writer and social entrepreneur based in Calgary. She currently splits her time between research, speaking to future leaders, and on her environmental startup, MycoRemedy. She is a dedicated environmentalist and fierce industry advocate.

Published in PIPELINE OBSERVER SUMMER 2018