6.3 Sustainable development

The third approach to balancing human needs with environmental protection is to try to come to grips with what we mean by sustainability.

The most widely quoted definition of sustainable development is the one used by Gro Harlem Brundtland in the highly influential book Our Common Future (Brundtland, 1987):

'Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present withou
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4.6 Global climate change continued

Box 3: Some impacts of global climate change

Record global temperatures

The global mean surface temperature of our planet has been rising steadily for 30 years. According to climate scientists, who have constructed a reliable global temperature series from 1860, nine of
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4.4 Discussion

In this second case study, I have described two different trends in energy use by cold appliances over the last few decades. On the one hand the efficiency with which appliances use electrical energy has improved but, in spite of this, their consumption of electricity has increased significantly in recent decades. Since 2000 consumption has started to decline, probably as a result of the introduction of minimum energy standards. The trend will only continue if we demand and use the most energ
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4.3 The UK experience: competing trends

But one striking example does not make an argument. To try to get a fuller and possibly fairer picture of energy use by domestic refrigerators I'd like also to look at the UK experience over the past few decades.

To start with it helps to have a feel for which parts of the UK economy use the most energy. The UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI, 1998), identifies four main economic sectors: domestic (households), industry, services and transport.

In 2003 the domestic sector (h
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2.3 The Industrial Revolution and its environmental impacts

The environmental issues you have identified in your answer to the first exercise are likely to be complex and difficult to unravel, yet alone resolve. Rather than attempt that at this stage I'd like to start this section with another question. Where does our material prosperity come from? To which one short answer would be 'The Industrial Revolution'. In the space of less than 100 years between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, first Britain, then several other countries
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5 Conclusion

The issue of climate change draws attention to the power of human activity to transform the planet in its entirety, and it is brought into sharp focus by the predicament of low-lying islands like Tuvalu. As we have seen in this course, the issue of rising sea level and other potential impacts of changing global climate also point to the transformations in the physical world that occur even without human influence. Oceanic islands provide a particularly cogent reminder that the living things w
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4.1 When climate changes

We have seen that human-induced climate change poses a challenge for people who live on islands. Such changing patterns and extremes of climate also put pressure on the other living things that are part of the make-up of island territories. However, long before human beings became aware that they could transform the flows that constitute climate, they and other species were already taking advantage of these same flows to help create the very territories that are now under threat. But have the
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Introduction

In this course we examine one factor that very often seems to be found skulking around close to problems and solutions: temperature.

Almost whatever we do, wherever we are, temperature changes. Stay in the same spot and you'll find daytime and night-time temperatures can be markedly different. You may even find significant changes in temperature during the day. When moving you can encounter more rapid variations. For example, an aircraft might leave a tropical runway where the air tempe
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2.4 Oral and written communication

Humans use language to communicate. This is an obvious statement, but what is language and how do we use it? Language is basically a set of symbols with associated meanings. These symbols are delivered using a set of rules for stringing the symbols together to generate additional meaning. Humans use mostly sounds to represent these symbols, although as an Italian I can communicate common meanings by only using a range of hand gestures! We string together phonetic sounds to make words, and we
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1.2 Readings

In considering the environmental and social challenges that we are currently facing, we are clearly dealing with so-called 'wicked' problems: the 'problems' manifest themselves only as you try to engage and change society and the Author(s): The Open University

1 Temperature – problem or solution?

'Have you taken the temperature effects into account?' (Figure 1) is nearly always a valid question in any discussion about a proposed engineering solution. Everything has a temperature, and everything behaves differently at different temperatures. It therefore deserves its own special place.

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5.6 Learning and effective action

I claim that learning is about effective action. It is distinguished when I, or another observer, recognize that I can perform what I was unable to perform before. Following Reyes and Zarama (1998), I am going to claim learning is an assessment made by an observer based on observed capacity for action. From this perspective, learning is not about ideas stored in our mind, but about action. So what makes an action effective? Reyes and Zarama (1998, p. 26) make the following claims:


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5.1 The development of the bicycle

Section 4 has looked at how we can follow a logical route or map, from the expression of a need, to arrive at possible solutions to a problem. In Sections 5 and 6 we look in more detail at two quite different examples of engineering problems. Our first example is the historical development of the bicycle frame; the second concerns a vital component of a car's airbag system.

The weight of a bicycle frame is a major burden that the cyclist has to bear. There have certainly been times when
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Conclusion

This free course provided an introduction to studying Engineering. It took you through a series of exercises designed to develop your approach to study and learning at a distance, and helped to improve your confidence as an independent learner.


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4 Engineering with proteins

What are the prospects for designing and making new proteins for specific purposes? The technology exists to build polypeptide chains unit by unit in a test tube, but this is time-consuming and expensive. Often a more practical approach is to find ways of working with nature to produce useful substances in a form that we can use. This might involve extracting a naturally occurring protein and chemically modifying it in some way, or using genetic engineering to produce a particular protein in
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4.3 Experiencing complexity as mess or difficulty

In this section, I want to take the ideas of mess and difficulty and explore them in the context of complexity. I want to determine how these ideas are connected, how significant the connections are and what the differences illuminate. I shall draw on the ideas of three writers: Schön, whose central theme is practice (e.g. Schön, 1983; 1987); Ackoff, who explores the characteristics of mess; and Rosenhead, who shows how different approaches to practice may be contrasted in terms that illumi
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3.6 Learning and effective action

I claim that learning is about effective action. It is distinguished when I, or another observer, recognise that I can perform what I was unable to perform before. Following Reyes and Zarama (1998), I am going to claim learning is an assessment made by an observer based on observed capacity for action. From this perspective, learning is not about ideas stored in our mind, but about action. So what makes an action effective? Reyes and Zarama (1998, p. 26) make the following claims:


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3.5 Distinctions about systems practice

A tension has existed throughout the history of Western thought around whether to focus on parts or the whole. The practice that springs from this history carries the same tension. This tension has been particularly visible within science and philosophy for a long time and it gives rise to different approaches. I will be addressing these tensions in Author(s): The Open University

10 Part 2: 6 Review

In Part 2 of this unit, you have undertaken a major piece of work. In encountering the case study you were engaging with a set of events, issues, actors, stakeholders and intentions that was, by any standards, complex. In addition, you brought your own complexity to it, your own stakeholdings and understandings, your own reactions and feelings.

You used systems diagrams to structure the complexity you encountered in the case study. That then structured and clarified the situation in way
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9.4 Influence diagrams

I want to return to the definition of a system I used earlier: an assembly of components interconnected as if they had a purpose. In the last section, I used purpose as a way of structuring the complexity of the case study. In this section, and the sections that follow, I want to turn to the idea of interconnectedness as another way of structuring the complexity. In the case of influence diagrams, I search for interconnection in the form of influence to hold together a structure
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