Four headlines, four ways to look forward. These are the stories hitting the news this week that encourage engineers to consider new challenges that the future may hold, and the voices that may help guide us.
A stark warning from the 2021 State of Environment report
A five-year University of Sydney study, co-authored by Professor Emma Johnston, has revealed that climate change is increasing pressure on every ecosystem.
The 2021 State of Environment report goes on to say that Australia now has more foreign plant species than native, and that our environment is generally deteriorating.
The news throughout the report makes for difficult reading – native vegetation, soil, wetlands, reefs, rivers and biodiversity have all suffered in recent years. The news is not entirely bad, though. The report highlights that Indigenous knowledge is helping deliver on-ground change. There is still room for improvement, but knowledge such as traditional fire management is being recognised as vital by government departments.
In a recent article, Engineers Australia National President Dr Nick Fleming FIEAust CPEng told create that “engineering sectors can have significant effects on biodiversity and thus a key role in its restoration.” He also spoke of the “significance of the climate crisis and the role of engineering in providing solutions.”
“We can protect floodplains and wetlands that provide clean water, flood protection, and sustain ecosystems that offer a variety of tourism, food production and other value services,” he said. “Or we can continue to undermine and diminish those systems.”
You can read a more detailed summary, and access the full report, on the University of Sydney’s report findings page.
Science & Technology Australia wants to know if you’re the next Superstar of STEM
Think you’ve got what it takes to inspire the next generation of engineers? Science & Technology Australia (STA) has opened up applications for its next cohort of Superstars of STEM. The program is designed to advance gender equity in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM), and is open to women or non-binary people employed in STEM roles – at any career stage in any sector.
A strong desire to build a media profile is key – STA aims to create a group of highly visible STEM role models from a diverse range of backgrounds. Applications are strongly encouraged from First Nations people, people with disability, people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and LGBQTIA+ people. You can find a full set of eligibility criteria on the Superstars of STEM application page.
The jury is out on robot companions for older people
Researchers at the University of Melbourne have conducted their own study following the announcement from the New York State Office for the Ageing that they planned to distribute robot companions to more than 800 older people across the state.
The robot in question, the ElliQ, is a smart speaker with a light-up module designed to mimic the human face. It tracks the user when interacting with them, and makes suggestions for activities, suggests that the user should “call the family,” or reminds them about appointments.
The University of Melbourne research focused on a small set of respondents who were asked their opinions on living with a robot companion. Responses were mixed, with some of those surveyed saying that the idea of living with robot companions was “rude, intrusive and controlling.” Others were more positive, especially about the idea of robot pets.
ARUP releases Sustainable Forces podcast
ARUP’s newly launched podcast series, Sustainable Forces, aims to answer one of society’s most pressing questions: how do we build a sustainable future?
Hosted by Dr Michelle Dickinson, the podcast releases every couple of weeks, with episodes so far covering constructing a net zero building, and surviving climate challenges. The latest episode, “What will accelerate the energy transition?” features Russell Tham, Temasek’s Joint Head, Enterprise Development Group and Head Strategic Development; and Poya Rasekhi, ARUP’s Energy, Water and Resources Leader in Australasia. The team talks about the opportunities and risks in the energy transition, how you can accelerate your energy ambitions, and how we can create meaningful change together.