Maria Rampa: Hi, I’m Maria Rampa. Welcome to our annual wrap-up episode of Engineering Reimagined for 2023.
Over the ten episodes this year, we’ve heard from leading thinkers and practitioners, not only tackling engineering and social problems, but also considering the most innovative solutions to the existential threats our civilization faces.
It’s no coincidence that in 2023 a key recurring theme was ‘climate change’. Let’s revisit some of the highlights.
Firstly, Suneiah Cullen, Principal Transformation Advisor with Aurecon’s Energy business interviews her son Ashley Cullen-Cross, in the episode Dear World: a child’s perspective on climate change.
Here’s part of their conversation about what the future generation thinks can be done to help solve arguably the most wicked problem our world currently faces.
CLIP FROM EPISODE 49 | Dear World: a child’s perspective on climate change
Suneiah Cullen: Can you tell me a little bit about what you love about nature?
Ashley Cullen-Cross: I love that it's so green and beautiful. And there's a whole lot of animals.
Suneiah Cullen: What are some of the things you learn about the planet when you're at school?
Ashley Cullen-Cross: I learn about how trees can help us breathe and we try to grow trees and see what happens over time.
Suneiah Cullen: Can you tell me about your favourite subject at school and why it is?
Ashley Cullen-Cross: It's science because it's so cool and you get to do experiments with it.
Suneiah Cullen: When you grow up, what do you think you can do to help make the world a better place?
Ashley Cullen-Cross: I think I'll be a scientist with my friend Archer, and we'll try to make a formula to help to change people's minds about the Earth and keep it in a safe balance.
Maria Rampa: Let’s hope Ashley and Archer do become the scientists of tomorrow! To hear the full episode or any of those still ahead, check out the show notes for links wherever you're listening.
Next. How can the circular economy be a significant enabler of a sustainable future?
Aurecon’s Circular Economy Leader, Jodie Bricout, talks to the CEO of ReLondon, Wayne Hubbard, and the Co-Founder and Managing Director of XFrame, Carsten Dethlefsen, about what they are doing to accelerate the adoption of a circular economy to create a future by design not disaster.
CLIP FROM EPISODE 57 | Circular economy: a future by design not disaster
Jodie Bricout: So circular economy is important not just around waste material, but for the carbon side of things as well. What do we do next? How do we actually achieve a circular economy?
Wayne Hubbard: I think there's a lot that we can do in cities. More than 50 per cent of the global population live in cities, and I think that's going to grow to something like 80 per cent. So cities are where it happens. Cities are the engine room of the circular economy. So we can certainly do a lot in cities, but it also needs action at a national level. It needs for circular economy policy to be integrated across government so all departments understand the implications, not just the environment department or the local government department, but also the Treasury, the whole government apparatus. And then cities working together collaboratively can make a real difference in the way that they support businesses and therefore, in the opportunities to engage in the circular economy that citizens have. And we started to think about how we can move into the neighbourhood level. So the sub regional or the sub city level and really talk to citizens within their own neighbourhood.
Jodie Bricout: So it’s almost like a decentralisation of engagement around this.
Wayne Hubbard: Yeah, because if you can build a circular economy neighbourhood around a main shopping street and its environs, you can fill that street with circular economy businesses like repair cafes or libraries of things or unpackaged shops. And you can engage citizens through schools, through civil society, and you can build champions and give them tools to engage their peers. You can really have a great impact. In London, for example, there are 9 million people who live in the city, but there are 600 neighbourhoods and 90 per cent of Londoners live within 10 minutes of those 600 neighbourhoods. So if you can deal with those 600 neighbourhoods rather than 9 million individuals, you crack 90 per cent of the problem.
Jodie Bricout: Behaviour change is so much easier where we've got something convenient and easy and good to go towards as well isn't it?
Wayne Hubbard: I would say that without that kind of plethora of circular economy business choice, then it's going to be almost impossible to get people to make the decisions that they need to take in order to reduce their consumption emissions from materials. And that's the crucial aspect here, because without that, we're not going to hit our climate change targets.
Jodie Bricout: So why do we really need to be doing this, Wayne?
Wayne Hubbard: Well it goes back to that point I was making about the climate change implications of this. You can only address 55 per cent of the world's carbon emissions through switching to more renewable sources of energy. The other 45 per cent can only be addressed through reducing your consumption-based emissions related to materials. So, if we don't address that 45 per cent, then we'll hit a point where we'll have catastrophic climate change and then things will change. So the life we live now is going to be different in the future. And it's going to be different by design or by disaster. And I choose design every time because then we're in control and we can make our support for more circular business models and a circular economy, we can design that and that can be a better way of living life. Freeing us from the burden of ownership. Freeing us from the troubles that the linear economy presents.
Maria Rampa: Next, let's hear from Carsten, whose circular construction technology platform Xframe, addresses real world challenges through reducing embodied carbon and waste associated with construction.
Jodie Bricout: Carsten thanks very much for joining Wayne and I onstage with CEDA. I was really proud to be able to bring you to speak with Wayne Hubbard, CEO of ReLondon, who is a global leader in the circular economy, because I like to think that you are a global leader in the circular economy living right here in Australia. What advice do you have for other circular business models that might be emerging in Australia?
Carsten Dethlefsen: I think there's enormous appetite out there. We're seeing a lot of interest come from the corporate level, driving the need for circular approaches for some solutions that have really strong ESG credentials. The shift towards moving away from traditional construction techniques is taking a little bit longer. But I think the more of these innovative solutions we've got, the more of a compelling use case it becomes.
Maria Rampa: It is reassuring to know we have clever minds at work changing how we behave as a society to be better custodians of the planet. Find the full conversation between Jodie, Wayne and Carsten in episode 57, Circular Economy: a future by design not disaster, with the link in the show notes.
Before we get to our final re-visit for the year, if you’d like to re-listen or re-read the transcripts of any Engineering Reimagined episodes for 2023 or before, go to aurecongroup.com
Finally, let’s hear from two people who have moved into careers firmly focused on making the world a better place. Jenni Philippe, Associate in the Circular Economy team at Aurecon, speaks to ClimateWorks System Lead, Tom Wainwright, about how to reshape your career to focus on sustainability.
CLIP FROM EPISODE 54 | How to Green your Career
Jenni Philippe: Hi Tom, great to have you on this podcast today.
Tom Wainwright: Thanks Jenni.
Jenni Philippe: When I did make my shift, I had to do a lot of upskilling and back a few years it was quite difficult to get a job in sustainability. I remember applying for over hundreds of jobs, and not getting any single response because I didn't quite fit the exact profile. Sustainability has now become a critical business imperative and people want to be involved. I get calls almost every week from people from all walks of life looking to make the shift, and they all ask me the same question. How does someone who was not trained in sustainability, repurpose their skills and make the transition. So keen to hear your thoughts around how we can help people make that shift.
Tom Wainwright: If I were to list some of my skills, obviously sustainability strategy and systems thinking is up there now, but the bedrock of my career is built on program design, human-centred design, organisational change management, business strategy. And when you hear from the business community about what it's going to take for them to shift their priorities and what they need, they'll always say they need more technical skills, but they'll also talk about leadership, mindset, technology gaps. If people want tips, I would say read and just get a feel for the breadth of the topics, but also which ones you might want to specialise in or you find most interesting. Build your network, internally as well as externally. Be proactive in shaping your own role and maybe even take on that internal advocacy role both for yourself but we all need to be working to make the world a better place. If you can't shift your current role, if you can help shift the organisation to have a more sustainable purpose, then your role will follow.
Jenni Philippe: What sort of benefit do you think people with business and / or STEM backgrounds bring to working in sustainability and climate change?
Tom Wainwright: I look at a lot of the existing technical engineering or scientific roles at the moment in chemistry, mechanical engineering, physics, they've got to be pretty excited about the opportunity to either dive into some of those new technologies and R&D programs. There's a lot of new technical knowledge out there that's going to be fantastically valuable to businesses as they try and seize the opportunities around these new and emerging technologies. You can really support the transition of some of the existing industries and workforces. Something like offshore oil and gas and harnessing those skills and all that institutional knowledge to really scale the new industries around offshore wind and green hydrogen infrastructure and shipping ammonia, or forestry, all those skills are super relevant for regeneration and resilience of our habitats. What we need to get this global transformation moving at pace is system integrators, problem solvers, collaborators, communicators.
Jenni Philippe: There's definitely something for everybody to really add the sustainability or climate change elements to their role.
Maria Rampa: The holiday break is a great time to reassess your career and how you can focus on purposeful work, so hopefully that conversation between Jenni and Tom Wainwright, gave you some food for thought!
We very much hope you’ve enjoyed our fifth season of Engineering Reimagined. We look forward to bringing you more inspirational episodes in 2024.
As always, if you have any feedback or suggestions for future episodes, please leave us a review or get in touch.
Have a safe and happy holiday season and we look forward to catching up next year!