Guest Editorial: Safe Drinking Water: A Case for Service
- Roy H. Koerner (SPE Foundation President)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- May 2007
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 20 - 22
- 2007. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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My good friend Lyn Arscott, a former SPE President and an SPE Foundation Trustee, introduced the subject of engineer volunteerism last month. Our 2007 SPE President, Abdul-Jaleel Al-Khalifa, encouraged us to write these guest editorials because we have before us a magnificent opportunity to help change the world for the better. We can help provide safe drinking water to millions around the globe and help save lives in a world where waterborne diseases kill a child every 15 seconds.
Why do people serve? We empathize with others in distress and have since birth. Psychological experiments prove this through the observations of newborn babies in nurseries. When one baby cries out in suffering, it results in a cacophony of wailing infants. Noise is not the causal factor. A recording of a baby’s cry, played back, does not result in more crying. The baby recognizes its own cry and also empathizes with another human in distress. Why? A logical reason is found in the evolutionary study of early humans. Ancestral Homo sapiens survived by relying on and cooperating with others. Even those Neanderthals who suffered severe injuries, such as loss of limbs, had to be nurtured.
Why should we serve? Psychologists have demonstrated that helping others less fortunate in a personal, hands-on way results in a sense of well-being and improves our self-image by showing us that we lead a purposeful life. Thus, we enrich our lives through service. Serving others helps us succeed by improving our relationships with family, friends, acquaintances, work associates, and many other people.
Managers who are sensitive to their employees’ needs and act on them are more successful. And at least two comprehensive studies prove that companies that have written ethical value statements and operate by those standards make more money and provide higher returns to investors, on average, than other companies.
A recent article in Business Week (29 January 2007, page 50) illustrates the point that companies that do good things for their communities often do well financially. Individuals also prosper by doing good things for their fellow human beings. Engineers serve by solving problems. For example, engineers at Colorado State University developed a cook stove with a thermoelectric generator that provides sufficient electricity to power a room light, a small TV, or a radio for hours. This connects many people to the outside world for the first time. Engineers Without Borders provides technical assistance to areas that have needs and has worked to bring safe drinking water to developing areas. Another engineering marvel is the “Lifestraw,” a device that uses filters and other components to purify water as someone sucks water through a tube. It provides about a year of safe water from surface sources. SPE members have many natural and learned skills that could benefit others around the world.
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