In 2010 I wrote the following:
“Hovering above any major city in an aircraft, one can look down and view all the arterial roads, railways and canals leading towards and away from that city – its lifeblood. The city is the heart and the trucks and trains are the blood, pumping the goods to where they are needed. In and out of the valves of society. Then the thought arises. This could all stop. In fact, if engineers laid down their tools and their calculators today everything would soon stop. Nothing would work, nothing would move. This thought can make you feel very powerful or very responsible.”
Then, in 2020 it did all stop.
We laid down our tools not by choice, but because we had to hide away from a disease that had caught us off guard.
But as much as stopping was terrible, and many suffered horrific deprivations, for those of us who create the tools, processes and systems, it did make us think. It made us question why this had happened and whether there might be a connection between technology and overconsumption and ecosystems and food webs and pandemics and injustice and economic growth and climate change.
At the University of San Diego Shiley Marcos School of Engineering we formed a post-covid task force to consider the relevance and appropriateness of our programs to prepare students for an unknown future. We created a program which we had wanted to for some time, but now its urgency came to the fore – MESH – MS in Engineering for Sustainability and Health. MESH will bring together graduates and professionals of all fields, not just engineering, to think through these connections and at least begin the transdisciplinary, multisector conversations required to co-create much needed alternatives. We need to reset before its too late – so lets get it right.
Caroline Baillie Professor Integrated Engineering, University San Diego and Director of MESH