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May 2006

Deforestation

by Terrance Malkinson

A Thought to Chew On

As spring emerges, many of us look forward to venturing out into the wilderness to commune with nature. Deforestation refers to the unnecessary removal of trees or other vegetation for human activities, such as agriculture or construction. In 1840, the German chemist Justus von Liebig first proposed that populations cannot grow indefinitely biotic and abiotic factors limit the size that any population may attain. Today, plant and animal species are dying out at an unprecedented rate. The leading cause of extinction is habitat destruction. Deforestation is often cited as one of the major causes of the greenhouse effect and is increasingly negatively influencing our quality of life in many other ways.

Deforestation has existed for thousands of years, the first evidence showing up in the mesolithic era (10,000 years ago). In the United States, the environmental movement is rooted in a 19th-century New England philosophical movement called transcendentalism, whose leaders included Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. In their writings, both men expressed a reverence for the natural world, believing that humans and nature share a divine spirit.

Various pieces of legislation have been passed in the United States, as have dozens of international agreements for the purpose of preserving wilderness areas from human development. The Arbor Day Foundation's (www.arborday.org) Web site provides information on the preservation of forest land and how you can help.

Other Bytes

Here are some of the things going on in and around the engineering community:

  • A good job-fit is crucial to feeling good about your job. In "Finding the Right Job Fit" (HR Magazine, 51(3), pp. 63-67, 2006, www.shrm.org/hrmagazine), Lisa Daniel and Carolyn Brandon discuss the importance of asking the right questions of yourself and a potential employer. Daniel and Brandon caution job-seekers not to "underestimate the importance of a good job fit no matter how enticed you are to overlook it in favor of pay, benefits or some other incentives." They provide valuable tips and strategies to help readers assess their fit with potential positions. They also provide a list of the best 25 questions to ask during a job interview to gauge job fit.

  • Understanding what conditions warrant an apology, and what apologies can and cannot accomplish is important both for individuals and leaders of organizations. In "When Should a Leader Apologize and When Not?" (Harvard Business Review; 84(4), pp. 73-81, 2006, www.hbr.com), Barbara Kellerman discusses how to decide whether or not to apologize, and how to go about doing it. A successful apology can turn a bad situation into a triumph, whereas an inappropriate one may lead to ruin.

  • In 2004, venture investment in China exceeded $1.2B, and that number continues to increase. The Chinese venture capital and private equity market is young, having just begun in the 1980s. Before investing in China, venture capitalists and private equity investors should take the time to understand the differences between Eastern and Western business practices. In "The Seven Disciplines for Venturing in China" (MIT Sloan Management Review; 47(2), pp. 85-89, 2006, http://sloanreview.mit.edu/smr), Ajit Kambil, Victor Wei-teh Long, and Clarence Kwan discuss seven disciplines critical to successful investment in China. These disciplines are based on interviews with leading venture capital and private equity investors who have extensive experience in China.

  • Effective management practices emerge from many years of experience. In "Best Kept Secrets of the World's Best Companies" (Business 2.0, 7(3), pp. 82-96, 2006, http://money.cnn.com/magazines/business2), Paul Kaihla reports on his investigations to identify leading corporations' best practices. He discusses 25 ideas employed by the best-run corporations, encompassing finance, human resources, management, marketing and R&D.

  • The delivery of higher education is being redefined by technology and the information explosion. In "The Future for Higher Education: Sunrise or Perfect Storm?" (EducauseReview, (41(2), pp. 59-71, 2006, www.educause.edu/home/720), James Hilton discusses the issues driving the transformation, and the opportunities for higher education. Hilton believes that "the technology-driven disruptions of the knowledge economy offer higher education an enormous opportunity to remake [itself] this time around collaboration, exploration and engagement with the wider world."

  • Last month, Today's Engineer published an article on Sarbanes-Oxley (www.todaysengineer.org/2006/Mar/sarbanes-oxley.asp). In "The Unexpected Benefits of Sarbanes-Oxley" (Harvard Business Review, 84(4), pp. 133-140, 2006, www.hbr.com), Stephen Wagner and Lee Dittmar discuss the benefits of bringing company operations under better control while reducing compliance costs.

  • The systems implemented to ensure compliance with law and effective administration of pension plans is a matter of sound pension governance. In "The Governance Blueprint" (Benefits Canada, 30(3), pp. 29-31, 2006, www.benefitscanada.com), Jana Steele discusses five considerations of good pension governance, including responsibilities, measurement of performance, risk management, information access, and review processes.

 

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Terrance Malkinson is a proposal manager/documentation specialist; an elected Senator of the University of Calgary; a Governor of the Engineering Management Society; international correspondent for IEEE-USA Today's Engineer Online; editor-in-chief of IEEE-USA Today's Engineer Digest; and editor of IEEE Engineering Management. The author is grateful to the Haskayne School of Business Library at the University of Calgary. He can be reached at todaysengineer@ieee.org.


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