Comment: the engineer and the environmentalist

The infrastructure sector is tasked with responding to huge societal and environmental challenges. It is a crucial piece of the puzzle in our efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals and in, ultimately, enabling a world that can thrive socially, economically and environmentally. But in order to do this, engineers in the sector must confront some innate contradictions between sustainable development and traditional approaches to infrastructure development; contradictions that have contributed to our current crisis. Engineering as a discipline exists in the service of people. Historically, engineers have used our technical skills in shaping the world to the benefit of human lives. However, we are increasingly realising that the world is not so easily controlled and that many of our accepted engineering approaches have negative impacts on the environment and, unintentionally, on the people that they are intended to serve. This raises an existential question: are engineering and environmental sustainability inevitably in conflict, or can we develop a more holistic approach to engineering for complex 21st century challenges?

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