Month: May 2009

Engineering Council UK publishes sustainable engineering guidelines

Engineering Council UK publishes sustainable engineering guidelines

28 May, 2009

The Engineering Council UK published new sustainability guidelines for engineers.

The regulatory body for the UK engineering profession claims that “Guidance on Sustainability for the Engineering Profession” provides coherent direction for engineers and is a public declaration of the profession’s commitment to sustainability.

The guidelines call on engineers to:

  • Contribute to building a sustainable society, present and future
  • Apply professional and responsible judgement and take a leadership role
  • Do more than just comply with legislation and codes
  • Use resources efficiently and effectively
  • Seek multiple views to solve sustainability challenges
  • Manage risk to minimise adverse impact to people or the environment

The guidelines replace the body’s previous code of practice “Engineers and the Environment” published in 1993.

To read the full document click here.



Small is Beautiful

 An interesting and relevant revisit of E F Shumacher’s book ‘Small is Beautiful’ in the light of current events, can be found at the link below.


Finally, and most centrally, Schumacher pointed out that the failures of contemporary economics could not be solved by improved mathematical models or more detailed statistics, because they were hardwired into the assumptions underlying economics itself. Every way of thinking about the world rests ultimately on presuppositions that are, strictly speaking, metaphysical in nature: that is, they deal with fundamental questions about what exists and what has value. Trying to ignore the metaphysical dimension does not make it go away, but rather simply insures that those who make this attempt will be blindsided whenever the real world fails to behave according to their unexamined assumptions. Contemporary economics fails so consistently to predict the behavior of the economy because it has lost the capacity, or the willingness, to criticize its own underlying metaphysics, and thus a hard look at those basic assumptions is an unavoidable part of straightening out the mess into which current economic ideas have helped land us.

see also

How many light bulbs does it take to change a man?

 David McKay’s book has been  highlighted on this Blog before  and the video at the link below makes an excellent contribution to the debate on the conundrum we face.

Unfortunately, the video, being short gives the impression that the problem is how we expand supply to meet demand. However, the real question is how do we reduce the ‘resource intensity of society’ to match, realistically available supply.

Another unfortunate aspect of the light bulb analogy is that it gives the impression that the use and waste of energy is in ‘things’, when in reality much is wasted in how we organise  these things to run the society we have.

The gains obtainable by this ‘effective’ use of energy are probably an order or two in magnitude greater than making ‘things’ more ‘efficient’.

The critical test of this fact is being made in the UK Parliament at the moment, where the lack of understanding of the risks and possible costs of external failure has created pressure for ‘change’.

However, the pressure is to change the system to make it more efficient not more effective, which can only be achieved by asking ‘what are we here for’  – to which the answer can only be “we are here to improve the ‘quality of life’ of UK citizens by reducing the resource intensity of the goods and services they consume per unit of consumption per capita.

Arguments about preserving democracy etc., in a society constrained by the ‘first law of sustainabilty’, are unsustainable in themselves and will only lead to its loss in the not too distant future.

What we have to create is a proactive process of government that ‘protects its citizens freedoms as far as possible in such a resource constrained world’, whist working to enable the continual reduction in the resource intensity of the goods and services that they create, consume and dispose of.


Prof. David MacKay’s book, “Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air”, has been published, and it’s an instant success. Now there’s a video, a radio interview, a Guardian editorial singing his praises … and a bafflingly inscrutable criticism from the Sustainable Development Commission.

More information and a video can be seen at