The Power of Engineering


Engineering is a wonderful thing. It designed my mobil home, but it can not stop the wind that is flapping the tin roof, and it can’t grow new leaves on the Dewberry bush — and if it could — we should not try until we understand the wind well enough to know if it would be a good thing or a bad thing for the future of human kind. There might be worse things than wind flapping the tin roof, and what could be better than the new green of Spring.

Many people believe that our science and our technology control the laws of nature. This is not true; in fact, it’s impossible. The human miracle is not that we control mother nature but that we have been given a brain with which to understand the laws of nature, and use our knowledge to help ourselves. Neither our brain, nor our engineering and technology nor all our knowledge, none of that can control natural law. What our amazing knowledge does do is permit us to use the laws of nature to make ourselves more comfortable. Sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes it is not a good thing for the future of human kind.

So as humans, the most important thing we can do to sustainably improve the lives of ourselves and our communities is to learn to understand the most basic principles of natural law so we can prevent our leaders from using all that power just for themselves, or just for this generation, and help our leaders to build a sustainable quality of life for the future.

Our quality of life did not come by magic, and it will not stay unless we understand the natural relationships upon which it is based – the relationships of the individual, the community, the ecosystem. If we want to have some control over the quality of life of our children and grandchildren, we need to understand these relationships and how they function in nature, so we can make wise decisions today for the benefit of tomorrow.

In addition to the relationship laws, we need to understand the basic laws of energy – energy for ourselves to eat and energy for our cars to run, because the energy of the living system, including our cars, is not the unlimited fire of the sun. That old sun will keep right on firing away while we starve to death, if we do not recognize where our food comes from and what limits the amounts that are available. Surely, as parents and grandparents and leaders of the new world, we want to understand the real facts about how energy flows through the living system, so we can make wise decisions today for the benefit of food for tomorrow.

We have huge power in this age; therefore we have huge choices* to make.

*New York Times, Elizabeth Rosenthal