The history of the last hundred years has largely been the history of engineering. From skyscrapers to dams, from exploration to the new interstate highway system, human beings, led by engineers, have been changing lives and the very face of the planet. Even our victories in the wars that have plagued us this century have – while taking nothing away from the brave soldiers who have secured our freedom – have relied on the skills of the American engineer. Engineers worked to turn out ships, tanks, jeeps and other materiel in numbers that would have, before the war, been unthinkable. Combat engineers worked to shape the battlefield and to provide the bases from which our armies emerged to defeat the enemy. Most of all, engineers worked next to physicists in the greatest engineering feat of the war – perhaps of all time – as theory was turned into explosive fact and the war in the Pacific was brought to a quick conclusion.
As professional engineers look backwards, we have every reason to feel proud of our contributions to the greater good. As we look forward, however, we do not see the next great engineering challenge. There is, to be sure, unfinished business that we must complete but nowhere do we see the great world-changing achievements that have characterized our professions past.
We need a new horizon.
Some say that our next great challenge will come from helping mankind step off of our planet and take his first step in space. It is true that space travel will come some day, but for now mankind has his eyes firmly focused on our planet; on healing the wounds of the recent war. Moreover, though we by no means intend to suggest that space travel to, say, the moon or Mars will be easy, a space ship is, at heart, simply a special type of gun or ballistic warhead. There is no new fundamental knowledge, no great leap into the unknown, for the space faring engineer.
When, though, that engineer first sets foot on a new planet, he will likely not find it to his liking. It will be too cold or too warm, too wet or too dry, with an atmosphere too thin or too poisonous to breath. Making that world more welcoming will be a fit job for tomorrow’s engineer.
If that (literally) world-changing engineer were then to return to Earth, he would see that his skills are also needed here. Even if we ignore the cooling trend of the last 20 years, likely just the result of normal variation, the fact is that our ancestral home, like many old family homes, is simply too cold and drafty. We propose that professional engineers spearhead a national (indeed, international) project to increase mean temperatures by at least 2º F.
In the pages of this issue, JAAPE explores how engineers could bring us a warmer, richer and more welcoming world and the great benefits that would follow. Bruce Johnson explains how cleaner air would also mean a warmer world. Frank Goldman looks at how European Jews, freed from their sunless ghettos, are making the empty desert bloom. Cyrus White examines the population boom we can now expect thanks to modern medicine, longer life spans and a new stable international order and concludes that new arable land in Canada and the Soviet Union is the only way to avoid the coming Malthusian crash. Peter Nixon looks at how every family can play its part and jokes that we need to confiscate Dad’s car and give every family a truck. Finally, our publisher, John Burke, argues that, given the benefits to be won, a warmer world isn’t merely a good idea but every American’s duty to mankind.
04 February 2007
Amazing What You Find While Looking For Something Else I
Editors Note, "Our Next Great Work", Journal of the American Association of Professional Engineers, April 1, 1954, v. XL, no. 3, p. 3.