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global environmental change processes that impact human health

Other special cases of substituting resource-light for resource-heavy technologies involve the use of simulated aspects of reality for a variety of purposes. Simulators have been used for flight training for many years. This was motivated in part by safety considerations, and in part by the fact that operating a simulator is much less expensive than operating real aircraftPage 167Suggested Citation:“5 Environmental Change.” National Research Council. 1995. Emerging Needs and Opportunities for Human Factors Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4940.×SaveCancel

for training purposes. A major reason is that it requires less expenditure of energy and other resources, a fact that benefits the environment as well.

The development and use of SIMNET, the army’s simulation system for training tank teams, illustrates what is possible by way of network-based systems that are capable of simulating situations involving many people and machines interacting in complex ways (Thorpe, 1993). A SIMNET-based training exercise is not only much less expensive than a comparable exercise involving real tanks but also much easier on the environment. How to ensure the effectivenss of this approach to team training remains a challenge.

Virtual reality technology carries simulation, in theory at least, to a new plateau. The goal of developing this technology is to simulate objects and situations in such a way that people can perceive and interact with the simulated realities very much as they would with whatever it is that is simulated, except without the inconvenience or, sometimes, the danger that would be involved in interacting with the real thing. There are many human factors questions relating to the development and use of virtual reality technology that represent challenges for research; the National Research Council has completed a study of some of these questions (Durlach and Mavor, 1995).

Recycling and Waste Handling
Improving the Technology of Recycling

Recycling of waste materials is a relatively new technology. It seems reasonable to assume that, as with any new technology, its effectiveness and efficiency could be improved. In particular, inasmuch as the energy required for some recycling operations limits their utility (Georgescu-Roegen, 1976), there is a need to find more efficient methods for processing recyclable materials, for example, new ways to separate trash into unrecyclable and the several recyclable categories and new ways to transform the recyclable types into reusable materials.

A major problem of waste recycling is getting sustained citizen participation in recycling programs (Geller et al., 1982). Education and advertising campaigns have not been very effective (Coach et al., 1979; Geller et al., 1975). Efforts to motivate people to recycle have sometimes met with modest short-term success but have not managed to effect lasting change (Geller, 1987; Humphrey et al., 1977). And in some cases, simple positive reinforcement schemes have even produced unwanted behavior (Geller, 1981). Planning and executing recycling programs that will effect the lasting changes in attitudes and behavior that are essential to make real progress on the problem of waste remains a significant unmet challenge.