Green Ethic

By eweek  |  Posted 2001-04-09

While bemoaning a shortage of engineers, Craig Barrett, president and CEO of Intel, might want to consider why young people arent pursuing a course of study that might land them at companies like his own.

In March, at the annual Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association conference, Barrett questioned why fewer students are studying math and science when the Internet and technology are — or were — so hot. Instead, students are majoring in parks management and other environmental areas.

Its really not that hard to figure out whats going on. Next-gen workers are beginning to question the cost of technology manufacturing. Santa Clara, Calif., the heart of Silicon Valley and home to Intels headquarters, has more Superfund sites than any other county in the U.S., and many of those sites are or were semiconductor manufacturing plants. Intel has at least two Superfund sites in the valley.

Most sites were first listed in the mid-1980s, and since then the soil contamination in many areas has been cleaned up. But damage to water sources is still being worked on — a process that can take 20 to 50 years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Of the 1,400 Superfund sites ever listed, only a handful of sites have been completely repaired.

In defense of the technology sector, however, its environmental record has improved dramatically, and few sites in Silicon Valley have been added to the Superfund list since the 80s. Many companies back then may not have been completely aware of the harm they were doing with their waste products, an EPA spokesman says. One thing is certain: Cleaning up past mistakes is costly and should be impetus to be more careful.

Meanwhile, our new president is busy unwinding the environmental policy that the Clinton administration spent eight years building. I wouldnt be surprised if the net result turns out to be even more students pursuing environmental degrees and jobs in the parks system so that they can try to repair the damage that will be done under the Bush administration.

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