How to Work in Engineering for Global Development

job engineer2“So, you have decided to put your engineering skills to use in the service of global development, but you’re not sure how to get started. We asked some of our happily employed members and other experts and came away with two different kinds of answers. The first is that it’s hard, and the second is that it’s possible.”

Read more at Engineering For Change. Image: Envisioning the American Dream.

Human Alarm Clocks

human alarm clockI’m one of those people for whom it’s hard to get out of bed early, especially when I didn’t sleep enough. Setting an alarm clock makes little sense because I turn it off and go back to sleep. Setting multiple alarm clocks throughout the apartment might work, but it bothers the neighbours and I will still wake up too late. The only foolproof solution for me is a human alarm clock, but unfortunately this is not always available, or reliable.

Enter the professional human alarm clock, or knocker-up. Before the advent of reliable and affordable alarm clocks, British and Irish workers were woken up by a person who made sure they could get to work on time. The knocker-up used a baton to knock on clients’ doors or a long and light stick to reach windows on higher floors. Others used a pea-shooter.

knocker up with pea shooterThe knocker-up would not leave a client’s window until it was sure that the client had been awoken. People would agree verbally, in advance, or simply post a preferred time on doors or windows. There were large numbers of people carrying out the job, especially in larger industrial towns such as Manchester and London.

Generally the job was carried out by elderly men and women but sometimes police constables supplemented their pay by performing the task during early morning patrols. Larger factories and mills often employed their own knocker-ups to ensure labourers made it to work on time. The profession lasted at least until the late 1920s and in some regions until the 1950s. Bringing it back would not only make me reach early morning appointments on time. It would also create new employment, foster social cohesion, and save energy and resources.

Sources: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4. Thanks to Cynthia Hathaway.

How Beneficial is the Sharing Economy?

“Uber is part of a new wave of corporations that make up what’s called the “sharing economy.” The premise is seductive in its simplicity: people have skills, and customers want services. Silicon Valley plays matchmaker, churning out apps that pair workers with work. Now, anyone can rent out an apartment with AirBnB, become a cabbie through Uber, or clean houses using Homejoy. But under the guise of innovation and progress, companies are stripping away worker protections, pushing down wages, and flouting government regulations. At its core, the sharing economy is a scheme to shift risk from companies to workers, discourage labor organizing, and ensure that capitalists can reap huge profits with low fixed costs.”

Read more: Against Sharing. Thanks to Sarah.

Medieval Fairs and Market Towns

medieval fairs and market towns

After quitting Soberton Down, we came up a hill leading to Hambledon, and turned off to our left to bring us down to Mr. Goldsmith’s at West End, where we now are, at about a mile from the village of Hambledon.

A village it now is; but it was formerly a considerable market-town, and it had three fairs in the year. Wens [large overcrowded cities] have devoured market-towns and villages; and shops have devoured markets and fairs; and this, too, to the infinite injury of the most numerous classes of the people.

Shop-keeping, merely as shop-keeping, is injurious to any community. What are the shop and the shop-keeper for? To receive and distribute the produce of the land. There are other articles, certainly; but the main part is the produce of the land. The shop must be paid for; the shop-keeper must be kept.

When fairs were frequent, shops were not needed. A manufacturer of shoes, of stockings, of hats; of almost anything that man wants, could manufacture at home in an obscure hamlet, with cheap house-rent, good air, and plenty of room. He need pay no heavy rent for shop; and no disadvantages from confined situation; and then, by attending three or four or five or six fairs in a year, he sold the work of his hands, unloaded with a heavy expense attending the keeping of a shop.

Quoted from: “Rural Rides“, William Cobbett, 1830.

Tax Resources, Not Labour

“In our society, high taxes on labor drive businesses to minimize the number of employees. Resources remain untaxed, so we use them unconstrained. This system causes both unemployment and scarcity of resources.” Read. Via Femke Groothuis.

Workers of the World Relax !

We work too hard. Thanks to Leah Temper.