Will we build the roads and bridges of the future?

Although our national infrastructure is in desperate need of an update, scientists warn that more building isn't always better.

According to a recent letter signed by the world's leading farmers, environmentalists, philanthropists, and scientists, the large infrastructure projects planned in the next 15 years could have a disastrous effect on our planet.

The letter explains that while it's vital to update the world's roads, bridges, and ports, “trillions of dollars spend in pursuit of typical mega-projects in the energy, transportation, agriculture, and water sectors could put in place infrastructure that eliminates wildlife habitat, destroys fisheries, undermines vital ecosystems, and further destabilizes the Earth's climate.”

In other words, it's not only important that we replace our crumbling infrastructure, it's important that we do so in a way that protects our planet. And, many of the infrastructure updates announced by the G20 aren't going to meet that requirement.

William Lawrence of Australia's James Cook University broke down this problem in a recent edition of the journal “Current Biology.” He said that there are specific issues that must be addressed when we plan the infrastructure of the future.

Those issues include making banks include the suggestions of social and environmental experts in their infrastructure investments, keeping wilderness areas free of roads that divide ecosystems, and considering the “secondary effects” in environmental impact assessments.

By considering aspects like these when planning infrastructure projects, we can build the airports, roads, and bridges of the future, while ensuring that there is a future for our species as well.

We have the technology, the know-how, and the ability to remake our infrastructure with these goals in mind. The only questions left is whether we have the will to make it happen.

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