Dear World: Perspectives for a better future

Benjamin Marsh, Bronwyn Barry, Kate Newman, Tom Wainwright, Dr Adrian Ward, Nick Morris, Jon Lipton & Dr Sarah Kelly | 06 September 2023 | 14:16

Podcast Transcript: Dear World: Perspectives for a better future

Maria Rampa: Hi, I’m Maria Rampa and welcome to this episode of Engineering Reimagined.

Here at Aurecon, our purpose is bringing ideas to life. We’re passionate about reimagining and designing a better future for people and the planet.

Now, if you could write a ‘Dear World’ letter about your hopes for the future, what would you say? You might remember, in our first episode of season 5, we asked 7-year-old Ashley, “If you could change one thing about the world right now, what would it be?” He replied, “To make humans care more about it.”

Throughout this season we’ve been asking our podcast guests the same ‘Dear World’ question, and a common thread has emerged around how we can create a more sustainable future, be it environmentally or socially.

Join us now to hear our podcast guests’ dreams for a better world. Guiding us through their responses is Ben Marsh, a civil engineer and member of Aurecon’s emerging professionals group, Limelight, who also shares his ‘Dear World’ hopes for the future.

Before we get underway, if you haven’t already subscribed to Engineering Reimagined, you can find us on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. And don’t forget to leave us a review and follow Aurecon on socials.

I hope you enjoy this ‘Dear World’ episode.

Ben Marsh: Kia ora from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Thanks for joining us on the podcast. It’s great to be here. I work in Aurecon’s Integrated Transport and Mobility team, more specifically in the transport planning area. My work commonly entails the design and assessment of different options to best solve client problems, which often relate to inefficiencies in the public transport system. As an engineer only a couple of years out of uni, I’m fully aware that I’ll be living in the future that both myself and those older than me are creating.

I‘m really excited to learn a bit more about what some of our previous guests have said on this topic. If I and my peers can better understand what sustainable and equitable issues we are currently facing, I can be in my best position to help fix that throughout my career, hopefully making the world a better place for the next generations to come.

First up, let’s hear from, Bronwyn Barry, who we spoke to earlier this season about Passivhaus buildings. A lot of people think these buildings are only suited to cold climates, but they actually work in warm climates too. It was interesting to learn about the benefits of Passivhaus, not just for the environment but for the comfort and wellbeing of occupants.

Here’s what Bronwyn said when we asked, “If there was one thing you could change about the world to make it a better place for people and the planet, what would it be and why?”

Bronwyn Barry: I would like for one day, like tomorrow, all the cars, all the internal combustion engine vehicles on the whole planet to just suddenly stop working, because ostensibly it sounds like this has nothing to do with buildings. But how we get to and from the places where we live and the places where we work, completely controls the type and the style of buildings that we design and we build. And currently we are so tethered to this, especially in California and in America, our vehicles, and they completely are creating a world that is not really very sustainable. So I would really like if we got rid of cars, internal combustion vehicles, and went back to bicycles and trains and sailboats. I still have to say I am a global citizen. I do still travel a lot. So maybe, you know, electrically powered airplanes for the long term. That would be totally transformative and would create a completely different world. How we live, we would go back to walkable cities, we'd go back to much closer neighbours, with much better parks and open spaces around us. And we wouldn't be so completely tethered to the internal combustion engine.

Ben Marsh: Imagine a world without cars. That’d be a huge change to our lives. I’d love to see our cities better support active transport and sustainable mobility. As engineers and advisors, we need to make sure the infrastructure we plan and design is sustainable. We spoke with Kate Newman from the World Wildlife Fund about sustainable infrastructure in season 4 of Engineering Reimagined. This episode was about the World Wildlife Fund’s Sustainable Infrastructure Strategic Framework, which is a tool to influence biodiverse and climate positive decision-making for infrastructure design and development.

Now, don’t let that seem overwhelming. Listen on as Kate also shares her ‘Dear World’ vision of the incredible impact individuals can have.

Kate Newman: Growing the green around you and opposing the reduction in the green that you might see, and every citizen can do something to grow the green around them, to be involved in the zoning discussions, to planting trees, to being a part of a pollinator garden, to not letting the highway go through a national park that they just tried to do near me. That if we grow the green, keep the green, it will be better for every person. And when every person feels better because they have that access to shade and cleaner air and beauty, they'll want more people to have it. And we can be spreading that. And it's a decision that comes in lots of different forms. But the idea could be, let me take the high road and make sure that what happens next is going to grow the green. For me, for my family, or for my town. I think together, if we’re all making decisions like that, we'll all benefit and the planet will be restored and the climate will solve itself.

Ben Marsh: That’s really inspiring. We can also each play a role in living more sustainably in all the choices that we make. This could even extend to the career we choose. Have you ever considered a career in sustainability? In a recent episode, Tom Wainwright from Climateworks Centre shared tips on how to reshape your career with a sustainability focus. Listen to his reply to our ‘Dear World’ question.

Tom Wainwright: Well, what gets measured gets done. And we do believe that transparency around reporting and transition plans is key to driving change. So, I don't have a snappy name for this, but I would wave a magic wand and create a science-based, instant, real-time impact rating score for literally everything you do ever. And that would factor in not just carbon emissions, but the value of nature, the value of the social impact. The future cost of inaction should be priced into every decision you make as a consumer or an organisation right now. And believe me, that would switch the dial on a lot of what we do at the moment. It would redefine economics. It would completely combat any greenwashing claims because people are fundamentally well-intentioned, but time-poor, information-poor. And we're just not incentivised at the moment to make the right long-term decisions for people and planet.

Ben Marsh: A real time impact rating score would really make organisations accountable. On the subject of accounting, Dr Adrian Ward, who is the CEO of Accounting for Nature joined us on the podcast last year to explain about how organisations can measure their impact on nature to help them become nature positive. Here’s what he’d like to see in the future.

Adrian Ward: I would open up the newspaper on my iPad or whatever and see GDP alongside some measure of environment next to it. Because I think that really can change the world. And if we're saying GDP is going up 3% this year and also the condition of nature is improved by 3%, integrated in that, of course there are a lot of other social benefits and more cultural benefits. I think that would be a huge thing just to be able to start to take into account nature in a mainstream way into decision-making. It can be very, very powerful.

Ben Marsh: Incorporating nature’s wellbeing alongside economic indicators would help us to see, on a global scale, how the two are so intricately connected as we move towards a decarbonised economy. Now for a slight change in direction – let’s move from environmental sustainability to social sustainability. Last season, Paralympian and universal design expert Nick Morris made the point that it’s not about designing for people with disabilities because we all experience accessibility issues at some point in our lives. Let’s listen to his vision for a future encompassing equitable access.

Nick Morris: I want to put a value on every person. Be that economic value or sustainable or philosophical. Because at the end of the day, everyone is able to contribute. It's either barriers we create, or barriers people have in their own minds, that limit people achieving their potential. By making sure that our facilities are accessible, it's one less barrier to getting out there and having a go. And one day at the age of 26, you end up winning a gold medal because when you first went to have a go of basketball, there was an accessible toilet.

Ben Marsh: Absolutely nailed it, Nick. I think you’re spot on with the idea that barriers, whether they’re self-imposed or physical, can limit potential. And if we as designers can always focus on providing value to everyone, then I think we can make a real impact on the outcomes of any project we work on. Let’s explore another area of social sustainability and equitable accessibility with Amplitel CEO Jon Lipton, who we interviewed on the podcast this season about the transformation of the telecommunications tower industry across Australia. This is what he said when we asked: “If there was one thing you could change about the world to make it a better place for people and the planet, what would it be and why?”

Jon Lipton: If we had widespread telecommunications, both voice and data for every inch of the Australian landscape, I think that will be fantastic for regional and remote communities. At the moment, with really ultra-low population density and the enormous cost of investing in infrastructure, having 100% coverage for regional and remote Australia is a real challenge. If we can close that gap between demographics and regions that have access to modern telecommunications and those that don't or can't afford it, that would be one thing that would make it a better future for people and the planet.

Ben Marsh: Did you know that only 64% of the world’s population has access to the internet? I think universal access to global communication and information should be available to everyone, regardless of where you find yourself in the world. Lastly, we hear from Dr Sarah Kelly, who is on the Organising Committee board for the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games. She talks about the growth of women’s sport and improving gender equity . Let’s hear her ‘Dear World’ response.

Sarah Kelly: It's one of the key opportunities, but also a huge challenge I see out there. And it's ensuring everyone remains curious and open-minded. That means for new ideas, new experiences, new cultural understanding, new people understanding and working as part of an ethical contribution, I think, and that's the future. And with that comes the commitment to sustainability, the commitment to diversity and inclusion, the commitment to a compassionate approach to everything you do, and a commitment to ethical business. So, stay curious.

Ben Marsh: Yes, let’s stay curious, what an exciting way to approach the future. And on that note, having heard such a diverse range of answers to our ‘Dear World’ question, if I think about what I would say, it would probably be to click my fingers and instantly the world becomes aware of the climate change clock and its significance. The clock was originally created to emphasise the urgency of addressing climate change and it effectively tracks how much time we as humans have left before global warming reaches 1.5 degrees from pre-industrial levels. At the moment, that's just over eight years. And whilst only 1.5 degrees seems small, its impacts would actually be devastating. I think a big problem that we face today is the lack of awareness, and understanding as a whole, of climate change and its importance. I mean, if this threshold were to pass, our reality would change, You know, we'd experience lethal heat waves, drowning coastlines, vanishing ecosystems. I mean, the list really does just go on and it's not a distant future, it's a reality we're hurtling towards. The 1.5 degree threshold is our last chance to avert a nightmare where the world we once knew is no longer. Going back to the question, I really do believe that if everyone knew about this clock, what it represents, then communities, businesses, governments would unite to cut carbon emissions, embrace renewable energy and enact further vital climate policies.

Maria Rampa: What a fascinating selection of thoughts and ideas about the future! I hope you found this episode of Engineering Reimagined insightful. We’d love to hear your hopes and dreams for the future, so why not join the conversation on Aurecon’s social media platforms. Until next time, thanks for listening!

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Reimagining a sustainable future

Aurecon’s purpose is bringing ideas to life. We’re passionate about imagining and designing a better future for people and the planet. So, if you could change one thing about the world right now, what would it be?

In the first episode of season 5 of Engineering Reimagined we asked 7-year-old Ashley this ‘Dear World’ question. He said: “To make humans care more about it.”

Now, hear our recent podcast guests share their perspectives for creating a better future, where two themes emerged – environmental sustainability and social sustainability.

“We would go back to walkable cities, we'd go back to much closer neighbourhoods with much better parks and open spaces around us,” said Passivhaus expert Bronwyn Barry.

Hosting this episode is Ben Marsh, a civil engineer and member of Aurecon’s emerging professionals group, Limelight. What would your ‘Dear World’ letter about your hopes for the future say?

Meet our guests

Learn more about Benjamin Marsh.

Benjamin Marsh

Civil Engineer, NZ Transport, Aurecon

Ben is a civil engineer with a strong passion for transport planning. Having recently graduated, he brings a youthful perspective to providing solutions to client problems, often through shaping efficient and sustainable transportation systems for his community.

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