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The Environmental Impact of Engineers

Posted October 24, 2009 9:15 AM

Some say that engineers have destroyed our cities by building freeways that divide neighborhoods and exacerbate congestion, erecting ugly steel and glass towers across the landscape, stringing cables and wires in overhead bundles down our streets, and covering every piece of nature with concrete and tarmac. But is it fair to blame engineers for this unsightly urban aesthetic? Weren't they just doing what urban planners asked them to do? To what extent can we blame engineers for the world we live in today?

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#1

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

10/24/2009 12:42 PM

" To what extent can we blame engineers for the world we live in today?"

Just try living for a day without using something an engineer made possible. Unless you're residing in a cave, eating captured animals and vegetables you grew yourself, clothed yourself in animal skin, defended your territory with rocks and sticks, heated your cave with burning dead trees, walked for miles for fresh water carefully avoiding the places you last took a dump and then somehow enlisted the services of a carrier pigeon to deliver this comment to CR4, methinks thou protests too much.

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#2

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

10/24/2009 4:15 PM

The engineers were the weapon, society set the aim and pulled the trigger.

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#3

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

10/24/2009 11:07 PM

You spelled engineers wrong. The correct spelling is "P-O-L-I-T-I-C-I-A-N-S".....

Ed Weldon

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#6
In reply to #3

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

10/25/2009 1:46 AM

Dear Mr. Ed Weldon,

You have correctly identified the POLITICIANS for all the wrong deeds that took place in this globe. I fully agree with you and I am sure majority of CR4 Members , and for that matter the people in the world also agree with your views.

DHAYANANDHAN.S

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#4

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

10/25/2009 12:24 AM

I have never heard "some say" anything of the sort.

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#5

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

10/25/2009 12:29 AM

Society is generally defined as "a complex of organized associations and institutions with the community. A community in turn may be defined as a population rooted in one place whose members are interdependent on a daily basis and perform many activities that satisfy the population's economic and social needs. The craze of progress in agriculture, industry, transportation and technology is taken as the general criterion of development of any nation. Besides we are living in an age of advanced science and technology, which has influenced all major social institutions like family, religion, education, defense etc. Technology continues to grow because we have tasted the fruits of knowledge and we cannot suppress the desire for advanced knowledge on technology. The effects of technology are felt in many part of society, producing both favorable and unfavorable results. An engineer is a part of society. Engineers are the backbones for the development of society. He is the man who puts the ideas formulated by scientists into a useful device so that society can benefit out of that. For instance the success of Japan in high-tech fields is due to the dominant role-played by the engineers. The future of the world is tied up with growth of science and life is becoming more and more dependent on science. Engineering is an art of utilizing the great sources of power in nature for the benefit, conveniences and survival of mankind. Engineering in its modern form, involves men, money, materials, machines and energy. With multifarious development activities going on in the society, engineering disciplines have also become diverse. An Engineer is an important link between established philosophies and scientific knowledge, and the society for its realization. It is bounden duty of engineers to ensure that environmental balance is maintained for welfare of the mankind.

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#7

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

10/25/2009 5:35 AM

"Some say that engineers have destroyed our cities by building freeways that divide neighborhoods and exacerbate congestion, erecting ugly steel and glass towers across the landscape..."

let me borrow some cat's expression - "blimey" - what about what lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc., have done? they, too, have done some irreparable damage on humanity at large! they've put up and enforced on us their "systems" that make life miserable for some.

the first reason why I disagree is by virtue of the law of supply and demand. when humanity finds a need for a solution to a technical problem, the engineer is sought. and why should we be blamed for all those things they mentioned? shall the architect who planned the city be blameless? what about the city's legislators? they allowed it, didn't they? in an argument between a politician and an engineer, who has the loudest voice? guess who gets the 'ayes'.

the second reason I disagree is that we're all in the same boat. it just so happens that we're not all using the same size of oar. some are using toothpicks, some are using pencils, some are using spoons, but only the engineers are using the right paddles. but they're too smart to ask an engineer.

go figure. well, maybe this is just a defensive rant of an old engineer, not worth the bytes its using up.

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#8

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

10/25/2009 9:58 AM

I'd place blame squarely on the shoulders of the Lawyers and "Bean Counters". We Engineers unfortunately been been forced in between a rock and a hard place in order to work around their "garbage-in garbage-out systems approach to solving problems in order to make society, and hence our lives, work a little bit smoother...

Laws by lawyers for lawyers.....

Who was it that said "hang all the Lawyers"??????

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#9

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

10/25/2009 10:49 AM

On the other hand........ perhaps we engineers should be known for behaving like sheep, only concerned with filling our bellies and willing to be shorn by any who lead us to the forage. ..........Ed Weldon

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#13
In reply to #9

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

10/25/2009 8:35 PM

I think not. The type of mind that makes for an effective engineer makes for an ineffective politician and vise versa.

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#10

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

10/25/2009 10:55 AM

I went into engineering (as a kid) the minute I decided to do something about an oil slick exiting a factory into a river while walking home from school one day.

Since then I've saved lives, time, money, energy, and resources, and found ways to put waste to good use. I've avoided fines, debunked myths, made people's lives better, saved the (fill in the blank), and trained other people to do the same. The world is better for it, on the whole. I am a chemical engineer.

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#11

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

10/25/2009 11:58 AM

The fact is that, Engineers have done a greatest service to humanity and the planet's eco and environmental safety, by way of making possible use of space above earth's surface.

The same may have to develop for large area complexes using minimum land surface area.

This may include habitation development in unmanned remote areas by way of artificial provisions on infrastructural needs and essentials supplies like water, energy, commodities etc.

It may extend to under ground dwellings, on sea dwellings ensuring all safer and comforts and accessibility to essentials.

Smart and broader thinking innovative engineers with long term futuristic outlook have made life on the planet worth ,what we are enjoying now and the trend should continue endlessly.

If environmental considerations and alternate thinking manifests in the mind and activities of Engineers in its true spirits, all our hardships and uncertainties should bid good bye.

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#12

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

10/25/2009 3:13 PM

Wow,

No wonder we are the first characters killed off in the movies.

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#14

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

10/26/2009 10:09 AM

Perhaps a typo..To what extent can we THANK engineers for the world we live in today?

Have you thanked an engineer today?

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#15

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

10/26/2009 7:57 PM

Three words: Low Bid Mentality

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#16

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

10/27/2009 9:09 PM

Frankly I would blame Le Corbusier and Robert Moses, not engineers. Actually Le Corbusier was an artist before he was an urban planner. : As Norma Evenson has put it, "the proposed city appeared to some an audacious and compelling vision of a brave new world, and to others a frigid megalomaniacally scaled negation of the familiar urban ambient." Not merely content with designs for a few housing blocks, soon Le Corbusier moved into studies for entire cities. In 1922, he presented his scheme for a "Contemporary City" (I thought it was called Radiant City myself, as it is captioned so in David Byrne's wonderful book Bicycle Diaries on Page 1...) for three million inhabitants (Ville Contemporaine). The centerpiece of this plan was the group of sixty-story, cruciform skyscrapers; steel-framed office buildings encased in huge curtain walls of glass. These skyscrapers were set within large, rectangular park-like green spaces. At the center was a huge transportation hub, that on different levels included depots for buses and trains, as well as highway intersections, and at the top, an airport. He had the fanciful notion that commercial airliners would land between the huge skyscrapers. Le Corbusier segregated pedestrian circulation paths from the roadways and glorified the use of the automobile as a means of transportation. As one moved out from the central skyscrapers, smaller low-story, zigzag apartment blocks (set far back from the street amid green space), housed the inhabitants. Le Corbusier hoped that politically-minded industrialists in France would lead the way with their efficient Taylorist and Fordist strategies adopted from American industrial models to reorganize society. (wikipedia) You might want to look up robert moses too... milo

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#17

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

10/28/2009 2:15 AM

"Some say that engineers have destroyed our cities by building freeways that divide neighborhoods and exacerbate congestion, erecting ugly steel and glass towers across the...To what extent can we blame engineers for the world we live in today?"

Those eager to blame engineers for "the world we live in today" can draw some comfort from the fact that there are a few cities on this planet still unsullied by the touch of an Engineer...

No ugly steel and glass towers, no wires, no concrete, no tarmac, no freeways dividing the plentiful neighborhoods, no Engineers.

Utopia.

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#18
In reply to #17

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

11/04/2009 11:03 PM

GA.

The honeymooners?

Acckkkk!

Yer old!

milo

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

11/05/2009 12:58 AM

I hated the Honeymooners, quite honestly, and I never liked Jackie Gleason. Loud, obnoxious, and Not Funny. I don't like loud comedians. I'm not deaf, and louder ≠ funnier.

But I did like The Invaders, and yesterday I was editing my Bio to reflect that fact when my pooter sh!t the bed. Seems some app's got a memory leak - allocates memory but doesn't return it to the pool when finished. Send reports to Apple but nobody's apparently minding the store.

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#20
In reply to #19

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

11/05/2009 7:04 AM

memory leaks are better than ,well you can probably figure it out... good luck with the 'we are so good at design that we don't owe anybody any follow up folks in cupertino...

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#21

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

11/14/2009 5:40 AM

Envornment is damaged by the human demands. Engineers produce what the humans want. For eg is lip stick really required? Is pant belt required? If we reduce our our demands, the environment will be better. If air conditioning is switched off where it really can be avoided, thousands of MW of power can be saved. Multi storey buildings requires lifts and water pumps. Urban planning can be done to provide a 30' x 40' site to all families. Large houses are not required. British system of governance in India requires thousands of tons of paper work, which really can be avoided.

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#22
In reply to #21

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

11/14/2009 9:55 AM

*Growing population, improving living standards, comforts, fashion and life styles calls for resources like habitation, infrastructure,food, materials, equipments and gadgets.

*We can think of improving our life style and comforts by alternative and greener options- which calls for a new outlook for all technology, products ,process and culture.

*Personal human habits like use of lipstick, belts, air conditioning etc are of choice of the user and afford ability.

After all,products for consumption is the ultimate goal of technology.

*The issue is about sustainability that calls for the challenge of technology evolution, which can be very well solved by alternative approaches.

That does not mean that, we got to shrink our needs and go back to natural life style: we can re think on our habits and consumption but can not give up the wholesome.

HUMANS CAN NOT THINK OF GOING BACK TO JUNGLE, BECOME NAKED, HUNT AND EAT RAW MEAT AND DWELL ON CAVES / TREE TOPS.

The real difficulties and hardships faced had motivated mankind to this level of living styles and comforts for which the Engineers, scientists and innovators hold credit.

It becomes the duty of the successive generations to hold up the status , solve issues and make effective policies and options.

BLAMING PAST GENERATION IS MEANINGLESS, KEEP THE LEARNINGS OF PAST LESSONS AND SORT OUT A NEW JOURNEY.

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#23
In reply to #22

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

11/14/2009 11:55 AM

After all,products for consumption is the ultimate goal of technology.

not so much

Labor saving & the efficient use of resources, more accurately

While individual products & processes may be wasteful.

The ultimate goal of engineering is to reduce costs...

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#24
In reply to #23

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

11/14/2009 2:16 PM

The ultimate goal of Engineering...

Costs is one phase of engineering.

The ultimate goal is to improve the material welfare of humanity.

We live in a hostile world, Engineering helps us reduce risk, improve nutrition, improve mobility, communications, eliminate disease.

Certainly engineers work to improve cost effectiveness of technologies. But the ultimate goal of engineering is more than lower their costs.

Besides, if the engineers only focused on that, what would the accountants do by the time we are done?

milo

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#25
In reply to #24

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

11/14/2009 2:29 PM

Milo quoted -- "Besides, if the engineers only focused on that, what would the accountants do by the time we are done?"

They'd take all the credit for the job. If you don't believe that then you've never experienced an executive staff meeting. ....... Ed Weldon

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#26
In reply to #25

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

11/14/2009 7:27 PM

Aye, there's that!

milo

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#27
In reply to #23

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

11/14/2009 11:01 PM

After all,products for consumption is the ultimate goal of technology.

not so much

Labor saving & the , more accurately

While individual products & processes may be wasteful.

The ultimate goal of engineering is to reduce costs...

So if I rewrote it:

The ultimate goal of engineering is the efficient use of resources

would you be happier?

Speaking of wasted resources,

Did you ever attend a meeting to decide when the meeting should be? & for bonus points the meeting will be about an issue which you have no stake in...

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#28
In reply to #23

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

11/15/2009 2:16 AM

On the process of safe guarding against nature and seeking a comfortable niche humanity had indulged in development search around its surroundings by way of developing science, technology, engineering and research activities. These activities had resulted in meeting human needs like food, consumables, health and medicine, habitat, utilities, infra structure , entertainment, communication,recreation and so on

So to say mankind is not just satisfied with basic needs alone like food, shelter and clothing alone.It had added to one more basic need called occupation / job/ employment / activity / useful time pass whatever the way one may take up.

That results in manufacture, consumption of resources like raw materials, products, distribution, business and quality improvement activities leading to service to human needs and economy.

This trend is going to be non stoppable phenomenon and we can not get out of the process chain since it will lead to drastic consequences because of its inter dependency.

Of course now the time has come to caution us to be thoughtful on long term sustainability, renewabilty aspects, boringness on ecology and health aspects as well as environmental sustainability, which will get set right in the long run- since awareness has triggered that.

Humanity except for its greediness, selfish outlook, lacking in broader perceptions,and lavish consumption habits -had successfully overcome against difficulties and explored all potential avenues towards improving living standards and established itself.

Starvation is not a permanent solution against food shortage, in fact we have to over come it by technology, that is the spirit of engineers-HANDLING COMPLEXITIES AND REACHING SOLUTIONS.

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#29
In reply to #28

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

11/16/2009 1:11 AM

There is enough food to go around. It is not a question of shortage, but of distribution.

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#30
In reply to #29

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

11/16/2009 9:42 AM

Thanks to agricultural technologists, you have made food production sustainable with growing population. Great job. That is a technological excellence. No doubt about that.

Well ,coming to the distribution of water for irrigation, usually the gravity flow low land gets supply of water, whereas the high lands even with fertile soil gets no water. NO much of provision by way of pumped water supply is made available to such destinations. This is the condition in India. I happened to see this problem live on two sides of an irrigation canal, the down lands greener and wealthy, the adjacent high lands simply of draught regions. This applies to universal trend particularly in African countries.

Now, it is high time for engineers, policy makers, leaders and public to look for implementation of strategic sharing and distribution of water by pumped up supplies.

The same approach should reflect in all other resources sharing.

My expression in post 28 is just an example that, for certain essential needs, cutting down consumption level is not the ultimate solution, Technology should make the feasibility of supply sustainability to all at reasonable cost.

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#31

Re: The Environmental Impact of Engineers

11/19/2009 3:12 PM

Any activity undertaken can be broken down into the following steps:

Identify a need

Conceptualize a solution

Design it

Built it

Test it

Implement it

Improve it

Engineering is involved in EVERY step of the process. Engineering is not just a discipline, or profession... it is the process of turning dreams into reality.

And it is one of only two professions that is continually expanding with technologies and discoveries, the other being scientists. As new discoveries are made only those engineering-minded individuals, that can do all the above steps, are able to harness that discovery and turn it into a tangible solution to a need.

The Mechanical Engineer who brought to society The Wheel and his knowledge of static and dynamic objects, mechanical advantage, and strength of materials.

The Civil Engineer who taught us how to use the earth's materials to build roads, walls, bridges, dams.

The Electrical Engineer who harnessed the natural power of the electron

The Chemical Engineer who taught everyone what the building blocks looked like and the wonders of the chemical reaction.

To answer the question in the original post:

1. "Unsightly" is subjective and the "Urban Aesthetic" is a product of what current technology allows. As technologies improve, so does the aesthetic, generally by the hand of the engineer.

2. No, you have it backwards. Urban Planners do what engineers tell them is possible, but often not how the engineer would desire. Engineers are intuitive, global-versioned, future-thinking... whereas Urban Planners are predisposed to boundaries of thought and purpose. Their limits are defined before their progress begins. The engineers boundaries are fluid and only defined by where he stopped working that day.

3. Engineers are the conduit by which the world which we know advances. As Stevem said in the first reply, "Just try living for day without using something and engineer made possible..."

JavaHead

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