CIVIL ENGINEERS unlock more human potential than any other profession through the development of complex infrastructure around the globe, Professor George Fleming said in his presidential address at Great George Street last week.
Quoting the cartoon character Snoopy, Fleming said: 'There is no heavier burden than a great potential.'
Citing the Eddystone Lighthouse, which has been rebuilt many times over its two-century existence, Fleming said: 'Every individual civil engineer excels when they execute a design from principles and experience passed on from one generation to another. That is what this Institution is about.'
Historical bodies such as the Smeatonian Society gave its members a network to communicate ideas. 'This institution needs to build on its local association network by using modern electronic communication to develop the full potential of the knowledge partnership. It must also rebuild its social network, and ensure we communicate socially as a profession.'
Environmental problems were at the top of Fleming's agenda. 'We need to be at the forefront of developing techniques to manage biological problems in water, waste and our environment.'
The civil engineer must be responsible for regeneration of derelict, contaminated and polluted environmental systems, Fleming said.
'Civil engineers do not just give advice but must take a stakeholding in solving the problem and by taking that stakeholding, they enable human potential and share in the wealth both moral and monetary generated by their solution.'
World poverty was also a fundamental problem which civil engineers had a duty to solve, said Fleming. He believes engineers must 'identify how to unlock human potential and assist in helping those in poverty to help themselves out of it'. He intends to champion the Telford Challenge which brings engineering institutions together to combat world poverty.
Fleming believes that a key factor in solving civil engineering problems will be communication between engineers throughout the world.
'I believe that the ICE and ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) must work in partnership to achieve the joint objectives of promoting the highest standards of civil engineering professionalism in the world,' he said.
A professor at the University of Strathclyde, Fleming is impressed by the commitment and enthusiasm of graduates and students. 'We must build on that enthusiasm, and enable and encourage it, because our young engineers are our profession's future in the new millennium. Responsibility must be given to them as early as possible in their evolution.' Young civil engineers must be encouraged to become chartered.
Fleming is also keen to ensure that the heroes of this century are not forgotten. In 2000 he intends that that more engineers who have made a great contribution to the profession will be remembered by having their names carved in stone at Great George Street, to act as inspiration for younger members.
Copies of the presidential address can be obtained free from 1 Great George Street, (020) 7222 7722.