Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

It was a sluggish Sunday morning..! I was sitting on my couch with a cup of coffee (Yes, I am a coffee person) and was trying to understand what is going on in this VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) WORLD…! Suddenly the doorbell rang. There was a middle-aged uncle with a grinning face standing in front of our main door. “Hello Beta. Good to see you after such a long time. How long has it been..? I guess more than 20 years..!” he said to me while trying to enter the house. After hearing the uninvited uncle’s voice my mom rushed into our living room to greet this uninvited friend of my father. “Hello ……..ji. (Well, I will not tell you his name/last name otherwise you will try to categorize and objectify him under particular religions, caste, sub-caste, section, and whatnot…!) Welcome. Good to see you after such a long time (Yes, even my mom was meeting him after more than 20 years). Why don’t you have a seat and have a chat with my son while I make you some breakfast and tea..?!” My mom attempted to glue me with him and left me in the room completely clueless while I was trying to understand who he is and what he is doing here in our house so early on a Sunday morning.

“So beta, How are you? And what are you studying?”, he asked me while trying to start a serious conversation. “I am doing my bachelor’s in Environmental Engineering”, I replied. “Great..! Just like you even my wife’s brother’s wife’s uncle’s daughter’s son is doing his master’s in Environmental Studies. I will give you his contact number so that you both can stay in touch. I haven’t met him for the last 5 years but I am sure he will be happy to help you and guide you.”, he replied with the same grin. “Well, good to hear that uncle. But I am studying “Environmental Engineering” and he is studying “Environmental Studies”,” I replied. “Isn’t that all the same..? Eventually, you both are dealing with something related to the environment right..?”, he tried to connect us both since we had the word “environment” in common. “No uncle. Both degrees are not the same. One deals with the fundamentals of the environmental problems while the other deals with different engineering aspects to solve those problems and to make the environment a better and safe place to stay and live”, I attempted to explain to him. “Ohhhh….”, he said while trying to come up with another question for me to answer. I was pretty sure that he didn’t understand a single word that I had spoken. So I made another genuine attempt to explain to him further.

“Well, partially you are the correct uncle. We both address the environmental issues but the only difference is in our approach to solve them. Environmental studies folks explore areas like climate change, pollution (air, water, land, etc) while trying to understand different areas that affect the earth’s resources. These folks usually have an analytical approach towards the problem and try to understand what caused that particular problem at the beginning. On the other hand, we, environmental engineers also are involved in trying soil, water, air contamination, and wastewater treatment but with different approaches. With our engineering knowledge, we try to find out ways to solve this problem. Using engineering principles, we try to find out ways to treat wastewater (which causes water pollution) or to treat air emissions (which causes air pollution) or to treat contaminated (polluted) soil. Basically in layman terms, one tries to find out the problem while the other tries to solve it.”

As I was about to explain further, my father entered the room and I was relieved of my duty to entertain our guest…! I am pretty sure that just like this uncle, there are many people out there who get confused with environmental “engineering” and environmental “studies”. Hence this article is just a small attempt to explain the difference between both the fields. Uncle was still glued in our house for the next couple of hours and of course, he had many other questions related to environmental engineering. But I will write about it some other time. Till then… Happy reading..!

(Dedicated to all the “distant uncles and aunties in this world” who visit you once in a blue moon, try to understand what’s going on in your life, try to give you some free advice based on their experience because of some wife’s brother’s wife’s cousin’s son life and then leave you alone till next blue moon..!)