Sustainability

Environmental Sustainability

  • 1.  Environmental Sustainability

    Posted 06 January 2012 00:02
    Bill
    As engineers we are trained (indoctrinated) to use facts (to prove theories and to design and implement solutions). This is a givien.
    Cost benefit and sensitivity analysis, primarily comes with training and our experience in the real world (as opposed to academia!)
    One of the difficulties I am finding with engineering solutions for the environment (at the moment) is doing and justifying the cost benefit analysis, where the costs will occur now and the benefits will accrue much later (for our grand children's children) - perhaps 30, 40, 50 to 100 years out.
    Councils are currently looking (struggling) to build 10 year forecasts (e.g. in asset management).
    Our current corporate focus on short term gain from short term pain is often not appropriate.
    I think we need a new financial model. What do you think?

    Also you seem to be talking about "council" and "rate payers" as almost separate, opposing entities.
    Surely part of a new solution is for everyone to get involved ("community engagement").
    Council must be effective and effficient (as it is using others dollars), while the community (rate payers and others) need to get involved and do their bit.
    Councils are in a great position to provide leadership and encouragement for meaningful community (self help) involvement while leading the way in driving relevant, important (perhaps bigger) initiatives (projects).

    I welcome your thoughts and the thoughts of others on this and how we get out of the "analysis paralysis"!

    Regards

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    Darron Passlow
    Asset Planning PRF
    Warringah Council
    DEE WHY NSW

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  • 2.  RE:Environmental Sustainability

    Posted 08 January 2012 19:59
    G'day Darron

    Your comments raise some matters that are dear to my heart. I am glad that you have provided an opportunity for a more detailed response and will take the easiest one first.

    In my recent experience there is often a big difference in thinking between "council" - include both council staff and councillors - and ratepayers. In this part of the world "council" feels it has the need to do what it thinks is best for itself; future communities; tourism; the envirinment; etc.; etc. In actual fact it is put in power by the ratepayers and should carry out their wishes - be they good or bad!!!.

    Does a majority of ratepayers in any particular council under consideration consider that
    1   Global warming is going to be destructive to the world, or more particularly themselves?
    2   Global warming is actually taking place?
    Irrespective of the answer to these questions, do they want their own council to do anything about it?

    In my experience council (again including staff) have taken it upon themselves to decide these questions and dictate what it thinks is best for those that have put it there and who pay its/their wages. There is. of course, significant pressure being exerted on councils by state and federal governments to override ratepayers wishes on these and many other matters. If, for whatever reason, the ratepayers think that they can look after their grandchildren's futures by taking a particular course of action; or alternatively do not wish to do so then, in my opinon, council MUST comply with their wishes.


    To help clarify my point about the analysis; I am saying that, in relation to any proposed action on 'environmentally sustainable' policies we as engineers can and are capable of doing the numbers based upon the literature that is out there in the ether. We should do so not only for our own benefit but for that of others who are not so well informed and have been caught up in this populist theory. The short answer to such an analysis - and I am happy to be corrected by numbers, not heresay, if someone disagrees - is that if my or your council totally ceased its carbon dioxide emissions altogether then it would have an infinitessimal effect on world emissions and global warming (if such is actually taking place). Compare then the burden on the ratepayer of any proposed "sustainability action" with an all but nil outcome and the answer is clear. Our attempts to provide for future generations are futile and we do so at great expense.

    If world wide action on global warming; sustainability; etc; is taking place then there is a good agrument that we should participate, but to act alone is lunacy.

    Cheers
    Bill Peach


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    William Peach
    Manager
    W L Peach & Associates
    Gordonvale QLD

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  • 3.  RE:Environmental Sustainability

    Posted 09 January 2012 22:35
    All (and Bill in particular)
    I would like to share my attitude to life and the world we live in.
    I would like to share it under this debate as our "attitide to life and the world" is extremely important in this debate.
    Personally I think I can and will make an impact.
    Certainly as a Council employee, I feel Councils (who work with citizens at the grass roots level) can make a more significant impact. I also think we as Aussies can "bat above our weight" and make an impact.
    I do not assume that others (in other countires etc) will act in our best interest.
    We cannot keep our head in the sand and hope things will be OK.

    So onto Global Climate change (note I do not refer to global warming as this confuses people when they experience some cold weather) or even better Global Environmental Sustainability.
    With now more than 9 Billion people on this planet, we need to be able to cater for this.
    We (as Aussies) can make a difference and we need to.

    As previously stated Councils are moving to considering longer term sustainability of assets/infrastructure and the services they need to provide now and in the future. This is a great step forward.
    What this is showing is that previous generations were not "pulling their weight" in renewing assets so consequently Councils across Australia (in fact across the world) had huge (almost insurmountable) backlog of asset projects that needed to be completed (to get assets back to an acceptable level) for future generations.
    A new focus (since 2007 approximately) sees Councils developing long term plans to deliver sustainable services to their communities. These plans showed a requirement for increased funding and rate rises above the standard regulated rate rises. This is happening and is being accepted by communities (because the benefits are being marketed).

    Communities (rate payers) are feeling some pain, but are now starting to see the gains (and their kids and kid's kids) will be the ultimate beneficiaries.

    My point - Councils cannot always leave the ultimate strategic (longer term) decisions to community members and busy rate payers who have multiple pressures on family, life, job security, incomes, expenditures etc.
    Often the longer term solutions need to be thought out and promoted by people who know and care (e.g. Council employees).

    Suffice to say that sustaining the environment and adapting to climate change (I am assuming but also stating that sustainability is the issue - another debate at a later stage) is a much longer term project which needs a strategic approach.

    Councils (and other governments) have the people, the support systems and the combined knowledge to attempt to solve long term problems (on behalf of their communities). Their communities will come to expect nothing less. But having said that it is not the sole responsibility of Councils - everyone has a vested interest in ensuring environmental sustainability for future generations.

    We all need to get involved and support those (us) who are ready, willing and able to develop solutions to solve longer term problems.

    I am glad to be working in a council that has the foresight and interest in Environmental Sustainability.
    We need more knowledgeable, willing, enthusiastic participants.


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    Darron Passlow
    Asset Planning PRF
    Warringah Council
    DEE WHY NSW

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  • 4.  RE:Environmental Sustainability

    Posted 10 January 2012 22:33
    Any issue that involves change draws criticism from parts of the community, let alone a major strategic global issue such as climate change.  Individuals will make choices and comment about their own personal circumstances, however leaders and government have a broader responsibility to plan and make more strategic decisions for the long term benefit of a community.  

    If you wait for broad community census on a strategic issue with a broader community or society impact then you will end up with tragedy of the commons.

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    Wayne Prangnell
    Director of Infrastructure Services
    Shire of Augusta-Margaret River
    MARGARET RIVER WAau
    wprangnell@amrshire.wa.gov.au
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  • 5.  RE:Environmental Sustainability

    Posted 10 January 2012 22:54
    G'day All

    It is a pity that Darron and I are all but the only ones within this forum that are contributing at present.

    Darren, your attitude that council officers know best is the one that I am particularly addressing and which, in my opinion, is extremely dangerous. You are correct on the fact that in the bad old days many councils did not make provision for future asset replacement. The better ones did (mine included) but government legislation was required to make the bad ones do this. This then progressed into asset valuation and replacement and has since been tagged with the 'sustainability' catch word. What many of the younger members of the profession do not realise is that the State Government provided most of the funds to construct the assets that councils must now maintain and replace. These funds came from taxpayer revenue. The State is now using taxpayers money for other purposes and ratepayers are now being forced to foot the bill. This is a big enough impost in itself and any proposed rate increases need to have their justification well founded.

    It is right for councillor officers to press councillors to address matters that are in the interests of future ratepayers - eg asset replacement. It is not right for its officers, engineers particularly, to press for changes that will involve an expense on ratepayers for an unquantified (and in this case negligible, beneficial) result.

    No more need be said on that matter unless someone has the numbers to prove otherwise. Do not quote Al Gore as his movie - now dubbed the "Inconvenient Untruth - has been shown to be misleading at best and utterly false in parts.

    Regarding climate change; if warming is not occuring, then mankind's expulsion of that disastrous pollutant, carbon dioxide, is not adversely affecting the climate. Hence we do not need to impose a cost on taxpayers (and more relevantly on ratepayers) to reduce something that is not causing a problem.

    As engineers we should be above the hysteric mob that is calling for reduction of a gas that increases the growth of plant life which in turn absorbs more of it; all without proof that it is causing harm. We should be, instead, providing the quantative figures for all to make informed judgments.

    Cheers
    Bill Peach


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    William Peach
    Manager
    W L Peach & Associates
    Gordonvale QLD

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  • 6.  RE:Environmental Sustainability

    Posted 10 January 2012 22:56

    I disagree that "to act alone is lunacy". It may be visionary. No change ever occurred by people following the crowd.

    It is imperative that we use all the resources available to look at the risks and opportunities to minimise these.  I believe the imperative is to follow the precautionary principle.

    The precautionary principle or precautionary approach states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action. (source: Wikipedia)

    Is climate change occurring?
    Of course it is.  Geology tells us that this is part of the cycle that has occurred on this planet forever.

    Is it occurring at a rate that is beyond the ability of life on the planet to adapt and evolve?
    Probably.

    Can local government do anything to change this?
    Yes.

    Should we?
    Of course.

    What??
    That is the question. The answer will be guided by our ratepayers, our elected officials, government policy and hopefully somewhere in there, some common sense.





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    Catherine Kinsey
    Co-ordinator Stormwater and Structural Design
    Campbelltown City Council
    CAMPBELLTOWN NSW

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  • 7.  RE:Environmental Sustainability

    Posted 11 January 2012 00:22
    Catherine
    Thanks for your succinct and easy to understand post.
    I agree with the sentiments expressed, but even if I did not, I would be able to understand the logic.

    I also add that in looking at the climate change question, we need to look at the science as espoused by scientist (so I do not mean Al Gore's marketing).
    The more actual science information (from reputable scientist) that I gather, the more convinced I am that my gut feel (having been on and around this planet for a while now) is telling me the truth - that there is a problem brewing with climate and our planet that needs to be addressed NOW for our own and future generations well-being!

    I am willing to act now and that is why I am active on this site (as well as others) and in my daily private life.
    It will require an innovative approach (because the problem has not been encountered and addressed before) but there are some active, well informed, well educated, well credentialed, well intentioned, innovative people working on the problems of climate change (under duress) around the world.
    There is now emerging case studies of wonderful, insightful actions/projects that could/will make a difference. These can be very simple to very complicated.

    To answer your question on "What can we do?" is being answered by innovative people here and elsewhere.
    We just need to stop, look and listen (read) and we will find ways that we as individuals, or as community groups, or as government officials or as Aussies, can make a difference.

    Keep thinking innovation!

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    Darron Passlow
    Asset Planning PRF
    Warringah Council
    DEE WHY NSW

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  • 8.  RE:Environmental Sustainability

    Posted 12 January 2012 00:18
    Good to see some opinions coming to the fore

    This is a question for all engineers in local government. Please respond if you are game enough.

    Is anyone at all providing cost benefit analyses; whole of life costs; or any other numerical treatment in their advices to council on any "sustainability" issue?

    Cheers
    Bill Peach


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    William Peach
    Manager
    W L Peach & Associates
    Gordonvale QLD

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  • 9.  RE:Environmental Sustainability

    Posted 12 January 2012 00:19
    Another one

    Has anyone at all compared the whole of life cost of purchasing, running and reselling an electric car with that of a small, compact, diesel powered car?

    My second question is only for those who have recommended to their council to consider an electric car - if not why not?

    Cheers
    Bill Peach



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    William Peach
    Manager
    W L Peach & Associates
    Gordonvale QLD

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  • 10.  RE:Environmental Sustainability

    Posted 12 January 2012 00:19
    Another one

    Has anyone at all compared the whole of life cost of purchasing, running and reselling an electric car with that of a small, compact, diesel powered car?

    My second question is only for those who have recommended to their council to consider an electric car - if not why not?

    Cheers
    Bill Peach


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    William Peach
    Manager
    W L Peach & Associates
    Gordonvale QLD

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  • 11.  RE:Environmental Sustainability

    Posted 12 January 2012 00:29
    Re Climate Change

    It is occurring as it has from the beginning of time. The only issues of discussion, to my mind, are whether global warming is occurring and if it is, is it being caused by mankind (personkind if you like); and if global warming is actually occurring then is it taking place so fast that we cannot adapt.

    Forget gut feelings and the like. We as engineers must deal in the facts. If we do not then we denegrate our training and our opinions are no better than those of the next person.

    My gut feeling is that global cooling is actually taking place. Why is my opinion scoffed at when I am providing the same evidence as those who opine the contrary?

    There is plenty of "evidence" that global warming is occurring - and at a catastrophic rate. Much of this has already been discredited and the truth will come out in the future. Those people who were not as fortunate as ourselves to obtain a tertiary education (some with none at all) can say that they were led, convinced, conned, persuaded, etc by the spruikers to believe that man was causing catastrophical global change. We engineers in the same boat cannot do this as we have the capacity to do the research and to know better. I am particularly sorry for those who do all their research on the internet and take Wikipedia as an irrefutable reference. These persons are most at risk of falling for half truths.

    If we assume that global warming is occurring then our actions must deliver tangible benefits. It is good to conserve resources if such can be done with little effort and habit changes. It is not good to conserve resources  if we do so at a high cost to achieve little or no benefit. So... why are engineers not putting numbers into their reports? Are we too lazy or will numerical inclusions show that our "sustainability" proposals have little or no merit?


    Cheers
    Bill Peach


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    William Peach
    Manager
    W L Peach & Associates
    Gordonvale QLD

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    Re Climate Change

    It is occurring as it has from the beginning of time. The only issues of discussion, to my mind, are whether global warming is occurring and if it is, is it being caused by mankind (personkind if you like); and if global warming is actually occurring then is it taking place so fast that we cannot adapt.

    Forget gut feelings and the like. We as engineers must deal in the facts. If we do not then we denegrate our training and our opinions are no better than those of the next person.

    My gut feeling is that global cooling is actually taking place. Why is my opinion scoffed at when I am providing the same evidence as those who opine the contrary?

    There is pleanty of "evidence" that global warming is occurring  - and at a catastropic rate. Much of this has already been discredited and the truth will come out in the future. Those people who were not as fortunate as ourselves to obtain a tertiary education (some with none at all) can say that they were led, convinced, conned, persuaded, etc by the spruikers to believe that man was causing catastrophical global change. We engineers in the same boat cannot do this as we have the capacity to do the research and to know better. I am particularly sorry for those who do all their research on the internet and take Wikipedia as an irrefutable reference. These persons are most at risk of falling for half truths.

    If we assume that global warming is occurring then our actions must deliver tangible benefits. It is good to conserve resources if such can be done with little effort and habit changes. It is not good to conserve resources  if we do so at a high cost to achieve little or no benefit. So... why are engineers not putting numbers into their reports? Are we too lazy or will numerical inclusions show that our "sustainability" proposals have little or no merit?


    Cheers
    Bill Peach







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