My whole life is surrounded by technology that has been discovered or invented in the past 50 years. I am a product of Generation-X, the epitome of consumerism. I love and want more technology, I crave the latest gadget, I consume therefore I am.
But really, I am a poor example of a consumer, I spent two whole days in Vancouver and bought nothing but food. Technology is useful, but I take much more pleasure in building things by hand or digging in the garden than having the latest. We have internet at home and a couple of computers, but no cable and only a small tv that occasionally gets turned on for some kids videos. We drive modest cars, we infrequently purchase food or drinks from fast food outlets – overall we buck the trends ingrained by years of pressure from advertising, schooling, parents and society in general urging us to be all that we can be.
As I listened to some of the speakers at the Institution of Civil Engineers Convention last week in Vancouver, I was struck at how, even though they were talking “sustainability” in engineering practice, the basis for treating the topic almost always started with the assumption that in general, the typical high level of consumption seen these days is normal and will continue unabated.
Civil Engineers, along with many other professional classes are relied upon by society to respond to challenges with a risk based approach. Too many civil engineers believe that innovation is the only way forward, resulting often in added complexity and consumption of raw materials. Some of the speakers understood this and offered a challenge to design with less impact, and I’d even say, design with less – and to allow that design philosophy permeate through our whole professional lives.
Simplifying your life and simplifying designs is rewarding, the way out of many of our problems is not to rely on technology but to reverse the course we’ve chosen thus far, unwinding the consumption and complexity from our lives.