Sustainable processes in engineering

Posted by : Cat Kutay Sept. 12, 2022

Contact : cat.kutay at Maps

Sustainability is a difficult concept to convey to students in western approaches to engineering, so we are proposing a First Peoples’ approach, situated in deep learning from across time and place, to analyse and implement sustainability in engineering design. This work is based on over 10 years of teaching sustainable approaches through engineering and IT subjects and includes some resources to make a change in students' engagement with this theme.

This chapter uses a narrative approach to look at different ways that are currently available for educators to teach concepts of sustainability to engineering students. Each approach offers some insights into the discipline, but some provide more scope for students to develop their understanding and apply this in future work. We present each approach with some commentary about how it may best be used, and its limitations. The approaches are presented in order of increasing complexity. The Aboriginal approach includes practical exercises, as we believe ‘learning happens when you make your own creative response and relate this to your place’.

We utilise Indigenous perspectives as these form ways to manage an additional layer of complexity to principles of sustainable design. While this approach is a form of systems thinking, an Indigenous lens can provide new perspectives for those who came recently to Australia, that recover land-based knowledge and re-embeds human infrastructures and economies in the natural systems they depend on for their continued existence. As Cajete has noted “Native science is not quantum physics or environmental science, but it has come to similar understandings about the workings of the natural laws through experience and participation with the natural world.” (Cajete & Little Bear, 2020).

This chapter is based on work that has been done through workshops and teaching projects to promote the different approaches by Aboriginal people to fundamental issues such as sustainability and design. We discuss how these processes can be implemented in engineering projects for first year students.

Extract from Chapter 18, Indigenous Engineering for an Enduring Culture, edited by Cat Kutay, Elyssebeth Leigh, Juliana Kaya Prpic and Lyndon Ormond-Parker. Published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Authors: Cat Kutay, Tyson Yunkaporta and Elyssebeth Leigh

Location: CDU