Point of Beginning

Editor's Points-The Environmental Surveyor

February 1, 2007


As surveyors, I presume that most of you are lovers of the land. As such, I assume that many of you are also environmentally conscious.

These traits have a direct correlation to the effect of the surveying practice on our land. In other words, what you do during your daily field practice either protects or endangers the land on which you work.

There is little doubt that global warming exists; its causes, however, are up for debate. Is it caused by the increase in population, or industry, or development, or greenhouse gases? Some or all of the above? Many people hypothesize for and against these factors and more. Scientific evidence tips the scales both ways, depending on one’s views.

Nonetheless, data proves that our lands are changing. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2006 was the third warmest year in America on record. Globally, 2006 was the sixth warmest year on record. Including 2006, six of the seven warmest years have occurred since 2001 and the 10 warmest years have occurred since 1995. The extent of Arctic sea ice was also the second lowest on record last year. Animal, plant and bird species are becoming endangered and land masses are shifting at astonishing rates.

As this dynamic trend on our Earth continues, it will undoubtedly affect energy and living costs (including business costs and inflation) and even the nature of surveying work. While surveyors in various parts of the world experience a greater need for land management and measurement, scientists theorize that the climate changes we’re experiencing could alter the launch and orbits of global positioning satellites and radio waves. This, in turn, could affect the accuracy and precision of the data surveyors and mappers collect. In general, the impacts should hardly be noticed, save for minor results from radio signals. The degree of those errors is unknown, or at least kept in earth science circles.

And while many natural environmental causes cannot be controlled, we all can ask ourselves what we can do to protect the land on which we walk and work, and the air in which we breathe. It’s smart practice to analyze the potential effects our life choices may have on the land and how they might be sidestepped or lessened by self practice.

Even small tweaks to our daily activities can help protect our lands--and our jobs. Field crew members who live close can carpool to the office or jobsites. Upkeep on work vehicles will help as well as maintaining tire pressure levels on all survey vehicles, including ATVs. Turning off electronic devices when not in use will help, as will changing even one regular light bulb to a compact fluorescent light bulb. Of course, every bit of recycling can help the planet as well.

I raise this issue not to create a political or scientific argument but to shine some light on how we can potentially better our environment--the environment that I presume you consider important to your social and economic lifestyle.

To contact the editor, send an E-mail to hohnerl@bnpmedia.com or mail to 2401 W. Big Beaver Rd., Ste. 700, Troy, MI 48084.