Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Terms of endearment

If the government were to be judged on the basis of the last four years, I would be publicly positive but secretly disappointed. However, if as expected, it is successful in the election, I imagine we are in for an exciting term.

Sustainability has crept to the front of its agenda in the last months, and, with the events abroad, looks set to make headlines in the weeks and months to come.

Of course, elections can lead to surprises, as we discovered in America. The election of Bush instead of Gore has twisted world policy around as Bush backed away from the Kyoto agreement. Gore's failure as a committed environmentalist was pay day for the business as usual lobby, funded by the likes of the oil giant Exxon Mobil. These are the very people who maintain that the 'confirmed links between fossil fuels and climate change are scientifically unfounded scare scenarios. . . promoted in an effort to justify the Kyoto Protocol'. This is despite 167 governments accepting the link.

Over the next month, leading up to our election, it will be interesting to watch for signs of similar lobbying with the same aim of maintaining business as usual. The Tory announcement on fuel price reductions is possibly the first.

At the same time and set against this lobbying is the launch of a national campaign to boycott Esso Petrol stations (Exxon Mobil's European arm).

This is organised by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and has the backing of celebrities such as Bianca Jagger and Anita Roddick.

Recalling the damaging boycott of Shell following the Brent Spar incident, there is no doubt that, despite its huge size and wealth, the action will cause Exxon Mobile to reflect on its reputation as 'the world's most powerful climate change sceptic' (Economist December 2000). It is also the world's biggest oil company.

However, unlike the election, the campaign against Esso will not be a short term affair and, to have any effect, will have to be taken from the UK into Europe and probably further afield.

America's volte face is being seen by many engineers in the UK as setting up a market for us that should mean we can lead the world in developing sustainable solutions to global warming. The campaign will do much to promote this.

As civil engineers, sustainability is at the heart of our profession and our duty to society means we need to see further ahead than the life of a government.

What better position then than all the industry bodies, whose professionals share in delivering the sustainable agenda, joining together to show their support for the campaign.

Is this inappropriate? We have done it before - Bazalgette and other civil engineers led the campaign for public health against similar established short term interests. Should we not be showing the lead again?

Or should we keep our heads down and continue to wonder why we seem to have such trouble explaining what good we do for society?

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.