31.01.2011 lecture diary

About the first part of the lecture about EIA:

While the intentions of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) are reasonable, even noble, I’m somewhat sceptic about how much it really helps in a society where there’s little data available, high corruption rate, and otherwise completely different basis for doing it than in the western countries. Can’t EIA just be set up in a way that the “Let’s use the waste product from the chemical factory and turn it into fertilizer.” -project next to the largest local pure water source looks good in the EIA? I think that the main problem is the lack of a proper overseeing party, which is most probably unavailable in projects which are located in the third world countries.

The lecture slides claim that the need of EIA has increased because the environment matters nowadays more, and that the risks and impacts are larger than before. But does burning a ton of coal really pollute today more than it did in the 1900s? Or the late 19th century? What I think has changed is the human perception of the pollution, and that we should avoid polluting and destroying our environment.

The current way of implementing the EIA in the western countries isn’t just to help environment. It also helps the company itself. If the EIA was done properly and was properly oversaw, then if something environmentally disasterous happens, then the company can prove that they tried to take various kind of environmental issues into account already in the planning phase.

The explanation of the actual process underlines in my opinion even more the difference between the intention and the reality of conducting a EIA in a developing country: If you can pick the people who can get their voice heard, you can really skew the results the way you want.

If the EIA is conducted properly, it seems to be mostly a tool to evaluate how much the pollution costs, and thus is a very volatile value. Could we perhaps have some example of a real case where EIA has been used? I’d be mostly interested how the pollution values were priced, and how much a human life is worth, or is it 5M that I heard was used in the insurance calculations.

About the second part of the lecture about the mathematics:

This part of the lecture had one major issue: it didn’t feel it related in any way to the course. We didn’t get a single example of anything related to the course, only general optimization mathematics. We actually had to wait around 75 minutes to get to the _first_ example, which made the lecture extremely tiring to follow. Examples wake at least my brain up thus letting me follow the topic more intently. Two off topic examples, no breaks, and lecture lasting over a hundred minutes made me extremely sleepy during the Monday’s lecture, so I was glad that the topic was given proper example through Friday’s lecture/demo, since I’m not too sure if I would’ve understood the topic too well otherwise.