Keywords: sustainability definition, transition engineering, survival spectrum, safety engineering, sustainability risk management, adaptative systems, complex systems, sustainable development, fossil fuel reduction, social impact, environmental impact, industrialisation
Transition engineering: adaptation of complex systems for survival
This paper puts forward a simple idea describing the time, space and relationship scales of survival. The proposed survival spectrum concept represents a new way to think about sustainability that has clear implications for influencing engineering projects in all fields. The argument for the survival spectrum is developed sequentially, building on theory, definition, examples and history. The key idea is that sustainability will be effectively addressed in engineering as a further development of the field of safety engineering with longer time scale, broader space scale, and more complex relationship scale. The implication is that the past 100–year development of safety engineering can be leveraged to fast track the inclusion of sustainability risk management across the engineering professions. The conclusion is that a new, all–disciplinary field, transition engineering, will emerge as the way our society will realise reduction in fossil fuel use and reduction in detrimental social and environmental impacts of industrialisation.