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Shocking truth about Engineering



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I’m Grant Symons. I convene Transition Edge to help us understand how we can transition to a low carbon sustainable world using leading thinking and practices.


Engineering - The problem and solution


Lets face it, the developed world is addicted to using more resources and energy than the planet can provide and is on a trajectory towards serious consequences if we don't change what we are


Engineers designed and built that problem.  Let me repeat that. Engineers designed and built that problem and continue to do so. 


Not because they are bad folks, but because they are doing their job. Solving problems and creating things that are wanted and needed by consumers, producers, the government and military.


Want it bigger, better, faster, stronger, smaller, smarter, cheaper?... no problem... there is an engineer right there, eager to solve that problem and they are really good at it!


And their colleagues over in the finance, marketing and business development departments are just as eager for the engineers to solve difficult problems. In fact, they are constantly dreaming up new ones, many of which are adding pressure to a system under stress.


And there's no compelling pushback from investors, politicians or banks yet either - as they enjoy the headroom that all of this activity and consumption growth provides, it gives them latitude with policies, financial settings and margins.


To make matters worse, amidst the rhetoric about doing the right thing, we are seeing evidence of green-growth programmes emerging that contain the seeds of accelerated use of resources that, are in effect, stealing from future generations. Is that the kind of legacy we want to leave?


This is an enormous challenge and needs to be addressed sensibly and urgently. We cannot continue to operate in silos, assume infinite growth and externalisation of negative affects, while applying legacy approaches and expecting our problems will disappear. We need to transition away from this system, but how?


This predicament has not gone unnoticed by a group of dedicated engineers and thought-leaders around the world. Transition engineering has evolved over a period of 15 years, led by Susan Krumdieck at Canterbury University - New Zealand   


Introducing Transition Engineering

The professional engineering discipline that deals with the application of the principles of science to the design, innovation and adaptation of engineered systems that meet the needs of today, without compromising the ecological, societal, and economic systems on which future generations will depend upon to meet their own needs.  Transition Engineering projects are about changing existing complex systems to radically lower energy and material use while preserving essential functions.


The way forward - engineers and a variety of other disciplines are applying themselves to innovating better roadmaps and solutions, that take us towards a future that is truly sustainable over the long term and away from what is unsustainable and unsafe.


Globally networked and evolving

Transition Engineering is growing globally. It is being taught and practiced in England, France and Germany, as well as here in New Zealand. Professor Krumdieck is headed to Scotland in October, where she will establish the theory and practice there. The network is expected to breach a critical threshold in the coming year, where the volume of case studies and data begin to create a new wave of insight and innovation. 


Not only is it an exciting opportunity for our professional engineering practitioners to be part of the solution - they need all of us to create the environment for them to do this work.


Working together on the Solution

Leaders, managers, planners and procurement specialists all need to know what to ask for (better still, what to demand!) and then support them on that journey. 


We all need to become part of the solution, not perpetuating the problem. Our engineers need to be working on the real solutions!


If you would like to know more about Transition Engineering methodology, develop your leadership capability or simply make sure your projects deliver a real and positive difference, head on over to Transition-HQ to find out about what you can do. 


Coming up

Here at Transition-HQ we have a number of projects taking shape for the New Zealand context. More on these in future articles and website changes in the coming weeks.


If you would like to read and comment on this and previous articles they are re-posted here:


Have a great week






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