Discussion Thread

If You Could Change One Thing...

  • 1.  If You Could Change One Thing...

    Posted 04-09-2021 07:03 PM
    Alright everyone, this thread gives you a chance to get on your soapbox.

    If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be? It doesn't need to be specifically technical or related to one direct facet of engineering.

    For me, I consistently can't help but wonder what would happen if the entire developed world simply decided to wake up one morning and no longer purchase single-use water bottles.

    There are many different entities out there that try to find creative ways to handle the growing global plastic crisis. Meanwhile, producers of these plastics show no signs of slowing down. Some of them are experimenting with "chemical recycling", but the current level of effort and nascent state of the research on that front doesn't inspire a lot of environmentalists. (Companies are placing big bets on plastics recycling. Are the odds in their favor?)

    In contrast, private companies tend to respond to consumer trends and decisions very quickly when faced with the choice of adapting or going out of business. In that regard, private consumers wield considerable influence.

    I want to acknowledge that I also understand that not everyone has access to clean water all the time, and that the private consumer does not always have a say in how to purchase certain products. (When two grocery stores both offer the same products in plastic packaging for example, one can't really choose a more sustainable option).

    However, for those of us who do have the privilege to live with access to easy alternatives to certain single use plastics such as water bottles, I like to picture some of the ways that plastic production and distribution might change if everyone changed their mind about them overnight.

    Do you guys have any soapboxes of your own?

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 2.  RE: If You Could Change One Thing...

    Posted 04-13-2021 04:56 PM
    Hi Christopher, thanks for the soapbox forum!

    If I could change one thing, by definition it would have to be in two parts:

    #1a. Educate, train, and develop the executive and senior management
    level to own their responsibility to personally model daily/publically those behaviors they expect their
    people to follow.

    #1b. Re-engineer the college curriculum for engineering undergrads and grad students to learn and practice the
    so-called soft skills in order to communicate, coordinate and collaborate with other people.

    Engineering and technology knowledge is important, but not sufficient to deliver successful projects. TM
                                                                                                                -W. M. Hayden Jr.

    Stay Healthy!
    Cheers,
    Bill

    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
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  • 3.  RE: If You Could Change One Thing...

    Posted 04-14-2021 08:10 AM
    Thanks Dr. Hayden! I can definitely appreciate the value of those ideals as well. I'd also like to believe that neither of your wishes (nor my own) are beyond the laws of physics, and so are *technically* one day possible!

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 4.  RE: If You Could Change One Thing...

    Posted 04-14-2021 11:00 AM

    Christopher:

    Like Bill Hayden, I appreciate the wide-open soapbox.

    "If I could change one thing in the world [within the U.S. engineering community]," to use your words, it would be to largely eliminate America's omnipresent engineering licensure exemption laws. I've concluded, based on studying the literature and on drawing on about a dozen disaster case studies described in Chapter 3 ("Disasters: Were Some Caused by Licensure-Exemption Cultures?") of my book Engineering's Public-Protection Predicament: Reform Education and Licensure for a Safer Society, that the bottom-line-first culture within some licensure-exempt engineering employers places the public at unnecessary risk. For decades, too many Americans have been killed, maimed, and injured, and much property has been damaged. Reason: Many engineering projects have not been produced under the guidance of and with engineering approved by competent and accountable licensed engineers whose paramount responsibility is public protection.

     Why raise this issue in civil engineering forum? For two reasons. Some CEs work for licensure exempt employers-I empathize with them and wonder why and how they do what they do.

     Second, some ASCE members have worked diligently, for over two decades, to reform the education and pre-licensure experience of CEs, with a hope that a few other disciplines might be stimulated to do the same. The goal was to raise the bar on preparation for professional practice and more effectively hold public protection paramount. ASCE members, as also members of NSPE, have attempted to reduce the adverse effects of licensure exemptions.

     Raising the licensure preparation bar and reducing licensure exemptions means major change, which, of course, is opposed by many. Accordingly, ASCE has occasionally put its reform effort on hold – like right now.

     In February, ASCE President Briaud convened a summit of civil engineering clients to obtain their views and use that input to decide if/how ASCE's two-decade reform effort should resume. We all have a stake in the results. My hope is for continued reform – ASCE and, more importantly, the public would benefit.

    Thanks for the soapbox.

    Stu Walesh

     

     



    ------------------------------
    Stu Walesh PhD, PE
    Consultant - Teacher - Author
    219-242-1704
    www.HelpingYouEngineerYour
    Future.com
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: If You Could Change One Thing...

    Posted 04-15-2021 10:06 AM
    Thanks Dr. Walesh!

    I had no idea that licensure exemption was even "a thing", let alone something that is prevalent enough to have become the center of focus of both literature and policy discussions. I appreciate you adding this topic to the thread here!

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 6.  RE: If You Could Change One Thing...

    Posted 04-15-2021 10:06 AM
    This sounds like it would be a very worthwhile topic all on its own here in the forums!

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 7.  RE: If You Could Change One Thing...

    Posted 04-15-2021 12:38 PM
    Christopher:

    Consider checking out the following licensure-exemption thread that I started in late 2019:  https://collaborate.asce.org/professionaltopics/communities/community-home/digestviewer/viewthread?MessageKey=8a758899-8929-47d3-9f31-8150eb520b31&CommunityKey=c95c7fc3-ed66-4208-8841-14604b5a3c32&tab=digestviewer#bm8a758899-8929-47d3-9f31-8150eb520b31

    Stu

    ------------------------------
    Stu Walesh PhD, PE
    Consultant - Teacher - Author
    219-242-1704
    www.HelpingYouEngineerYour
    Future.com
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: If You Could Change One Thing...

    Posted 04-16-2021 04:10 PM
    If I could change one thing... I would concentrate  the human population in megacities, and let nature reclaim most of the planet.

    I know climate change is a topic that affects everyone, and while many countries around the world are making improvements, a vast majority of ecosystems will be destroyed in our lifetime if we don't work with nature and try to find an equilibrium.

    There have been a few examples of how quickly nature can reclaim land and have a thriving ecosystem in the absence of humans. If we allowed nature to take over large areas of the Earth's surface, it would help combat CO2 emissions by allowing forests to regrow, and allow diverse ecosystems that would promote a healthier and more stable planet.

    Too often I feel that we, as humans, feel that we can out-think, or figure out how to engineer our way out of our problems, when they become too large. This is a problem that literally affects every living thing on our planet. While I feel that we are capable of fixing past mistakes, this is a situation where we may need to get out of our own way. The best thing we can do to help our planet, is to stay isolated, together, and allow nature to fix our planet.

    Sadly, the needs of people will always outweigh anything else, even if its the very planet we live on.

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    Doug Cantrell P.E., M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Durham NC
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  • 9.  RE: If You Could Change One Thing...

    Posted 04-17-2021 12:46 PM
    Thanks Doug. I feel your desire very strongly myself, as your concerns for the planet are also largely the same ones that drive my desire to see an end to uncontrolled plastics consumption. It seems like both of our wishes are argued against by ideas that we can engineer faster solutions than the rate at which the problems expand. People will go to great lengths to change the world around them if it means that they don't need to change their lifestyle or habits.

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 10.  RE: If You Could Change One Thing...

    Posted 04-17-2021 09:39 PM
    If I could change one thing, I think it would be the prevalence of the "hurting by helping" that happens when people enter another culture or community and throw a solution at a problem without a feasibility or long-term impact study. I think this is something Engineers Without Borders does well to prevent within their projects, and I wish others would follow suit. For those that don't know, EWB has minimum commitment timeframes, requires cooperation with locals NGOs, prefers for project ideas to come from within the community itself, requests long-term management plans, etc.

    As an example: there have been a lot of wells built in places like rural Africa by engineering or other charitable groups. Often, no one local was taught to maintain it or how to construct more, and sometimes the materials used were imported instead of local. This means that for the functional lifespan of the well the community has improved access to water, but as soon as it ceases to work they're out of luck. Sometimes these kinds of temporary solutions survive long enough that it has been so long since the "old" way was used that the techniques or schedules for acquiring the resources may have been forgotten. Or, more dangerously, any immunity to impurities from another water source aren't built up in the younger members of the community and they become more ill than if they'd never been "helped." How much better is it when local members of the community are taught to build and maintain wells using locally available materials?

    Another less technical example would be when clothing is donated in masses and puts local tailors out of work. A more sustainable and healthy way to help would be to support the local businesses already meeting a need.

    If we don't truly think through the impact of the assistance we offer to address a need, we're doing little more than making ourselves feel nice for a while.

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    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK
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  • 11.  RE: If You Could Change One Thing...

    Posted 04-19-2021 10:36 AM
    Great points Heidi,

    In its own way, being able to help others is a privilege and responsibility of its own. Helping others in the most responsible way takes more time and humility to think through than simply rushing forward with a great idea. This might be a good topic for discussion all on its own here if it hasn't been raised yet.

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    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
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  • 12.  RE: If You Could Change One Thing...

    Posted 09-12-2021 03:01 PM
    I've come to realize that practically everything about the world these days tends to be simplified and packaged for the masses like any consumable product. So, in regards to "changing one thing", I would have everyone be more intuitive on the power of perception.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPSQswV2fLc&t=1s

    It is a huge world out there, and no one person is bigger, older, or more interrelated with any aspect of it. That is why it can be tempting to focus on what can be seen right away (e.g. projects going up and running for minority groups), and difficult to comprehend the bigger picture manually (e.g. what it takes to help said minorities keep themselves functioning).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_RTnuJvg6U

    To that end, especially with all the content we see every day, it takes more awareness of issues to step up to them. It takes acceptance of what's to deal with next.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1vuhrFfEkE

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    Alexander Granato A.M.ASCE
    Student
    Bexley OH
    [email protected]
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