Some concepts can be so large, so hard for individuals to comprehend, that they simply turn people off.
Quantum physics for example is no doubt making amazing head way in helping some people understand the very fabric of the universe. It will have an impact on our lives but the sheer scope of the subject and the complex detail make the vast majority of people shrug and say ‘so what?’.
The long and convoluted history of the Balkans throughout the 19th century undoubtedly still has ramifications for contemporary politics resonating far beyond the causes of the First World War, but very few pub conversations start with the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
This column often addresses industry-wide systemic problems that to the civil engineer concentrating on the project at hand can seem remote and immutable.
However, when something is large, complex and apparently beyond the power of one individual to change, disengagement is rarely the right option.
In fact, it is often these bigger issues that can have the greatest impact on our lives if we do not engage with them early enough and practically enough.
One of the most significant challenges we are facing at the moment is the impact of climate change and how to tackle it. However, long-term predictions made through climate modelling are often so distant as to seem irrelevant.
Early signs of negative effects happening in remote places are often dismissed as problems that no individual can make a difference in tackling or are too large to make a dent in.
If we all think like this, who will deal with the issue?
It is for this very reason that the ICE will be hosting the World Federation of Engineering Organizations (WFEO) at the Global Engineering Congress in October.
Engineers have the practical skills and knowledge to provide genuine and deliverable solutions for the problems that climate change will inevitably bring, and can help the world reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs).
It is the ICE’s hope that we can bring together enough collective engineering expertise to provide a clear direction for making the UNSDGs achievable in a very real sense.
The five day programme at One Great George Street in October will examine the role of engineering in progressing the UNSDGs; the challenges and opportunities this may present; how to build resilient economies and communities; how to quantify the societal impact of engineering; and how to drive change for the good of society.
It is undoubtedly ambitious – deliberately so.
But it is incredibly important that action is taken by those who have the best skills and tools for the job. Solving some of the largest existential threats that the world has ever faced may seem so large and so distant that our natural reaction is to imagine someone else will fix it. We must resist that urge. Perhaps more than any other occupation engineers have it within their gift to make lives better for millions of people across the world.
We have seen how small changes by individuals can often collectively have great impact.
By attending the GEC there is a real chance that you could be one of those individuals, who by being prepared to engage with the complex and apparently insurmountable challenges that the world faces, could have untold beneficial impacts on generations to come.
- For more on the GEC click here.