In the spirit of Emory’s tradition of courageous inquiry, what question do you want to help answer, and why?

How can we build a more environmentally sustainable society?

Such a broad, open ended question may seem unreasonable for a sixteen year old girl to pursue, but at a place like Emory University, courageous inquiry is literally in the water. When I say ‘literally in the water’ I am referring to the new WaterHub located on campus. The WaterHub is a water reclamation center that uses natural processes to break down organic matter in waste water. And Emory’s courageous inquiry in this field inspired my own. If we could harness the power of nature by re-using perfectly reusable resources to save the environment (perhaps by adapting the WaterHub methods to other situations) we humans would be considerably closer to achieving plausible sustainability.

One part of my own inquiry on water sustainability was the topic of my senior project, “aquaponics.” Aquaponics is a method of aquaculture in which the waste (specifically ammonia) produced by fish supplies nutrients for plants grown hydroponically (in water instead of in soil), which in turn purifies the water. To create a system that is simultaneously self-sufficient, eco-friendly, and reliant on 90% less water than traditional farming techniques is the ultimate goal for my project. After all, as a global community we need to be more conscious of the rapidly increasing issue of water scarcity; the blue planet is essentially running out of usable water.

Achieving sustainability with a focus on water conservation and recycling will be the question I spend my life trying to answer. Practically every ethical human being with the desire to live in a balanced and healthy environment should be dedicated to answering this question — due to the fact that we all need water to survive, for obvious reasons. Water even holds a special place in my heart: my fondest childhood memories consist of lazy days on Lake Burton in breathtaking North Georgia and long summers on the beach at my grandparents’ house on Amelia Island. The human race is ill-prepared for the inevitable loss of resources because there are not enough individuals ready to courageously assess and approach the question of sustainability.

While, yes, water is a renewable resource, we still need to focus on the movement and conservation of water in areas that are especially vulnerable in times of need. I find myself at a place where I am ready to devote myself to the inquisition that will benefit humanity at large, sustainability. Emory University is the obvious front-runner in the push to save the planet: the efforts taken by the faculty and students are truly inspiring. I hope to one day lead the same endeavor. If we can achieve a truly symbiotic relationship with the world we live in, one in which we give and take equally, we just might have the chance to save our planet.

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