Environmental technology 101

While environmental professionals' vocabulary may be filled with terms such as "electrolysis," "filter press" and "centrifuge," students, novices to the field and corporate managers may not be so well versed. Preserving the Legacy: Industrial Processes and Waste Stream Management is a good introduction to some of the terminology and equipment common to the environmental industry, as well as its leaders, techniques and challenges. A video series of 15 half-hour episodes, with a college-level text available, Preserving the Legacy gives viewers a basic knowledge of physical, chemical, thermal and biological waste treatment technology. Early segments supply basic definitions and explain remediation and prevention processes, while later ones focus on selected industries and specific case studies. The petroleum, chemical, metal plating and finishing, semiconductor and electronics, papermaking, paint and surface coating and food and agriculture industries are all highlighted. The concerns of not only multinational, but also small local business are addressed, with an emphasis on combining environmental concerns with economic ones. The series is careful to explain not just remediation and waste management methods, but the science behind them, using both film and computer graphics. It also provides, especially in later episodes, a framework of the political policy that shapes real-life business decisions. Company managers, engineers, academic experts and environmental activists are all given a chance to present their opinions, both positive and negative. While this is one of the series' strengths, it is also a weakness. Preserving the Legacy has a tendency to tell viewers about environmental challenges, rather than showing them. The talking head format of a speaker filmed from the shoulders up, interspersed with clips of machinery or processes, can be numbing. Also, many of these clips, and even some speakers' sound bytes, are used repeatedly in the series. You are left feeling you have already seen many of the segments. Overall, however, Preserving the Legacy is an excellent introductory training tool for environmental professionals. The case study segments are an especially effective demonstration of the environmental challenges business owners face. Produced by Intelecom Intelligent Telecommunications, in cooperation with the Partnership for Environmental Technology Education (PETE) and with partial funding from the National Science Foundation, the series is available either from Intelecom directly, or as a PBS Adult Learning Satellite Service telecourse for college or continuing education credit. Each episode is $99, with the entire series available at $899. A teachers guide for each episode is included. PETE members receive a 10 percent discount. The text, which was not available for review, is $49.95, published by John Wiley & Sons, and written by Howard Guyer of Fullerton College, the lead academic for the series. Check with PBS affiliates or your local college for telecourse broadcast availability. For more information, call Intelecom at (626) 796-7300, or John Wiley & Sons at (800) 225-5945.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/1999 issue of Environmental Protection.

About the Author

Mel Zimmerman, PhD, is chair of the Biology Department at Lycoming College Williamsport, Penn., as well as the director of the Clean Water Institute (www.lycoming.edu/biology/cwi/index.htm). His research and publications deal with wastewater parasites and wetlands and stream restoration.

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