Engineering and Public Policy
Consume. We all do it. Whether it’s to sustain our vital functions (eat), to provide us some pleasure (entertainment), or to keep our jobs (commute), we make dozens of decisions each day that affect the way that the earth’s resources are used. Most of the time, we make these decisions with only cursory awareness of how our choices will reverberate through the complex natural and social networks that shape our collective fate. Developing a deeper knowledge of these systems (and systems of systems) helps us discover opportunities for making a difference. One finds, for instance, that the carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation fuel used to deliver a serving of imported produce is 20 times that of locally-grown produce. If we are to survive our looming environmental challenges, we need to identify, expose, and correct the many ways in which our social and economic systems obscure environmental and other costs of consumption. Investigating these linkages is both fascinating and satisfying.