Transition Engineering

Susan Krumdieck

Everything around you is an engineered system – start demanding of the engineers to change things.

Prof Susan Krumdieck is developing Transition Engineering at the University of Canterbury. We talk about green energy mythologies, transition engineering of complex systems, growing up in Colorado, and how her son’s persistent questioning led her to look for ways or making real change.

Talking points

My concern is what we are doing that is not sustainable, and changing that – transition engineering.

People can adapt to whatever situation they’re in, and they can do that if they have the ability to see what’s happening, understand what’s happening, trust one another and work together on it.

Mechanical engineers have made these big systems work really well, but they have not been given the task of winding them down in a way that is sustainable.

The conundrum, that if you are going to engineer your systems even more tso that you can overcome bad behaviour – you’ve introduced more reliance on the engineered system instead of reliance on people thinking.

How engineering interacts with people is at the core of sustainability

We tell ourselves these big stories – and then start to believe them.

Green energy mythologies – may be as important as mythologies have always been for people – that we have a belief in our own progress and in our own development, and

we need stories and mythologies that support that belief. But the facts tell us we are in trouble.

Our development, our progress – that we’ve been so success at is a trap, and a bit suicidal – a lot suicidal – and we don’t know how to deal with that except to believe more in the story.

The party we’ve been having – we’ve come to a trough that is bottomless, an all-you-can-eat banquet with a free returns card, and we we’ve come to think that’s how things are, but we gotten quite obese – it’s not good for us, it will kill us, and yet we’re afraid of change.

We know continued growth is doomed, so we’ve shifted our growth over to the green category – it’s still doomed, the miracle green energy is a myth.

Basically anything that anybody sends you with a big “Yay!” Solar roads, house batteries…everybody, your green energy myth radar should just ping.

Solar panels…something that says to people something about you that you will probably be quite smug about…it will fulfil an emotional need that you have, but what

I call it is green bling. – you didn’t need it, it didn’t change your circumstances or add value to your life. It is decoration for your house, not a legitimate part of the energy system. But something you couldn’t see – perhaps insulation – would make so much more difference.

If we really want to talk about the route to sustainable, what we really have to talk about is what is not sustainable – that’s it.

We’ll never really be sustainable. All we can do is look at the most stupid things we do, and tell the engineers that are making them “thank you very much, but we want something that isn’t that bad, we want you to rethink this.

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