Civil Engineering Saving The Earth

May 6, 2008 at 2:46 pm 10 comments

by Carol Metzner, President, The Metzner Group, LLC and Managing Partner,

In 1973 a sci-fi movie called “Soylent Green” was released. It was a story about Earth and humanity (or lack of humanity) in the year 2022.  I was about 12 years old and can remember almost every detail of that film.  Quoting from the plot summary (IMDb), in the movie “natural food like fruits, vegetables, and meat among others are now extinct. Earth is overpopulated and New York City has 40 million starving, poverty stricken people. In the year 2022, earth’s face has completely changed. The greenhouse effect has risen the temperature into nearly unbearable regions, and the people are kept in the cities by law.”

So why on a civil engineering blog do I talk about one of the most realistic science fiction movies I have ever seen?  Because in 1973 the idea of global warming was something only that Democratic, young generation even worried about. In 2008, the news, conferences and marches on DC are all discussing the Earth’s peril. In 1973 the concept of overcrowding, loss of precious farm land and national parks, water shortages, natural food shortages were all concepts for the “Soylent Green” Charlton Heston movie ~ not reality! That movie was 35 years ago.  The plot becoming a reality is just around the corner.  As civil engineers, and those of us non engineers interested in the civil engineering world, we can act to help the environmental disaster from occurring. Great civil engineering minds are creatively devising new water treatment plants to deal with pollution and high speed rails to reduce individual automobile traffic.

Can you offer other ways that our community is working to save our planet?

Entry filed under: Civil Engineering Issues, Environmental Engineering issues, Global Warming. Tags: , , , .

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10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Outgoing Bush “Midnight” Environmental Legislation «  |  January 15, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    […] environmentalists, but at 47, I find this unsettling at the least! You only need to read my earlier BLOG discussing my obsession with the movie “Soylent Green” to know that this is beyond […]

  • 2. Texas Engineer  |  November 21, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    I would guess that the oil companies that fund the majority of the anti-global warming research and dissemination of information are a much bigger meal ticket than the federal government. Especially a federal government that has been quite hostile to the theory of anthropomorphic global warming for the past 8 years.

  • 3. CA Engineer  |  September 19, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    Just being from California, I know most of you will roll your eyes and ignore me… but until someone can prove to me that humans have NO impact on the earth’s climate, I will choose to assume that our actions have an impact. I already know that we produce greenhouse gases (the bad kind), and I want to be a good steward, so I will do what I can to reduce possible contributors to global warming. If global warming continues despite humanity’s effort, aren’t we better off for at least having tried?

    • 4. Amanda  |  January 11, 2011 at 8:03 pm

      Steward of the Earth,

      We most certainly are better off trying! Good point.

  • 5. whereslumpy  |  September 13, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    “Texas Engineer” pastes from a link from NASA, an agency funded by the US Federal government, that fans the flames of anthropomorphic global warming…thus proving “Virginia Engineer’s” point that this so-called majority of “climatologists” have a vested interest in perpetuating this hysteria and thus their meal ticket.

  • 6. Virginia Engineer  |  July 22, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    The problem with your explaination is that the “climatologists” have based their conclusions on sloppy science. They have not (and can not) provide any scientific proof that human activities contribute to the increase global temperatures. Anyone serious about learning more would be wise to also look into the credentials and background of many of these “climatologists”. You may be surprised how many are political appointees from governments around the world with a political interest in promoting the global warming hysteria. Many of them have little to no scientific background! And stating that “the vast majority of climatologists” believe humans are responsible for global warming is simply false. A little more research and you would find just as many scientists belive global warming is natural. Based on the credentials of the scientists who are in that camp, I would say they are much more credible.

    I suggest anyone interested search the internet for facts. You will find no data that proves humans contribute to global warming. See the following link as a starter. There are a number of articles and statments by actual scientists (not political appointees) that expose a lot of the flawed conclusions by those that want to push a political agenda by scaring people.

    P.S. while you are looking, check out the science that shows the temperatures on Mars increasing. Could it be caused by humans too?? – check out the National Geographic link:

  • 7. Texas Engineer  |  July 9, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Pasted from

    Global Warming Global warming is an increase in the average temperature of Earth’s surface. Since the late 1800’s, the global average temperature has increased about 0.7 to 1.4 degrees F (0.4 to 0.8 degrees C). Many experts estimate that the average temperature will rise an additional 2.5 to 10.4 degrees F (1.4 to 5.8 degrees C) by 2100. That rate of increase would be much larger than most past rates of increase.

    Scientists worry that human societies and natural ecosystems might not adapt to rapid climate changes. An ecosystem consists of the living organisms and physical environment in a particular area. Global warming could cause much harm, so countries throughout the world drafted an agreement called the Kyoto Protocol to help limit it.

    Causes of global warming

    Climatologists (scientists who study climate) have analyzed the global warming that has occurred since the late 1800’s. A majority of climatologists have concluded that human activities are responsible for most of the warming. Human activities contribute to global warming by enhancing Earth’s natural greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect warms Earth’s surface through a complex process involving sunlight, gases, and particles in the atmosphere. Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are known as greenhouse gases.

    The main human activities that contribute to global warming are the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) and the clearing of land. Most of the burning occurs in automobiles, in factories, and in electric power plants that provide energy for houses and office buildings. The burning of fossil fuels creates carbon dioxide, whose chemical formula is CO2. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that slows the escape of heat into space. Trees and other plants remove CO2 from the air during photosynthesis, the process they use to produce food. The clearing of land contributes to the buildup of CO2 by reducing the rate at which the gas is removed from the atmosphere or by the decomposition of dead vegetation.

    A small number of scientists argue that the increase in greenhouse gases has not made a measurable difference in the temperature. They say that natural processes could have caused global warming. Those processes include increases in the energy emitted (given off) by the sun. But the vast majority of climatologists believe that increases in the sun’s energy have contributed only slightly to recent warming.

  • 8. Virginia Engineer  |  July 2, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    I’d be interested to know exactly what people think can be done to “help the environmental disaster from occurring”. The earth’s climate has been changing for millions of years. Massive changes in temperature have occured all in the natural life cycle of the planet. The last 30 years is insignificant in the history of the earth’s climate, and it is amazingly arrogant for humans to think it can be controled. There is no scientific evidence that the earth’s climate can be changed or controled by humans. Civil engineers should use their talent and knowledge to help the human race adapt to the earth’s natural cycles and not attempt to control mother nature.

    • 9. Amanda  |  January 11, 2011 at 8:01 pm

      True, earth’s climate changes naturally, but it is warming undeniably faster than it should in the amount of time it has.
      Although there are many natural sources of CO2, there are anthropogenic (“man-made”) emissions. The burning of fossil fuels (coal and petroleum) as well as deforestation are major causes for extensive CO2 emissions.
      The responsible thing to do is decrease and/or eradicate these sources because it is unhealthy and providing unnecessary amounts of CO2.
      Humans are better than this! Our technology should allow better than the way the majority of humans live. We can have quality, balance, and responsible living!

  • 10. Clark Engineering  |  May 6, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    We have worked on several community project in the civil engineering field. One such project was the Woodbury City Hall, in Woodbury, MN. Clark partnered with other firms to create on of Minnesotas first LEED-accredited city halls. This structure features many different designs that all apply to using green principals. Also, our staff members of the Civil department are LEED-certified, which means that they implement green-building principals into their work. Going back to the city hall though, the final project completed had a garden of flowers growing on the roof, cobblestone parking lots (instead of paved ones) and many other unique principals included in this building.

    For more information please visit

    The Clark Engineering Team


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