Shouldering the green burden

More by accident than design, the theme that comes across strongly in this month's issue of Eureka is the environment.

From the cover story looking at the whys and wherefores of design for end of life to a feature looking at the advances in drive and control technology being developed for the renewable sector, there can be little doubt that 'green' issues now dominate many people's working lives.

In this sense at least, the environmental debate has been over for some time. The 'big picture' politics and ideologies of the climate change question may rumble on, but from a practical, day-to-day point of view, there are few walks of life that have not already been transformed by questions relating – at least tangentially – to the environment.

Like most transformations, it has been gradual. Many of the changes have been imposed by regulation, which has allowed time to adjust, while others – like saving energy in a world where fuel costs are rising – just make sound business sense. However, that such changes have often been more a question of pragmatism than principle should not distract from how significant they have been.

Naturally, this emphasis has placed a huge burden on the shoulders of the design engineer as he or she has had to negotiate the minefield of environmental regulation while still achieving cost savings and greater efficiencies. The work is very far from being finished, of course. If there is one factor driving design innovation in the modern world more than any other, it is the environment.

To achieve a successful result, the skills of engineers will be called on again and again. So, next time you wonder whether your contribution is sufficiently valued, it's perhaps worth bearing in mind that you are on the front line of probably the most significant societal shift we will see in our lifetimes.

Paul Fanning

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