that small perturbations may have, such as an annual El Niño whose effects persist for 10 years.
New applications of technology and engineering must come to terms with the social and ethical values of the society in which they are to be made. Engineering must be applied in such a way that innovations make proper contributions to the greater community at large. The development of sound engineering practices can help conserve and restore the environment through a proper balance between engineering principles and environmental considerations. Principal among these considerations must be a strengthening of engineering accounting to include properly the value and costs to the affected ecosystems. Over and above that, societies must avoid becoming technologically overcommitted. It is preferable if engineering know-how is applied sparingly, with the goal of simplifying tasks and enhancing the quality of life. Engineers should not be encouraged to pursue the application of complicated and ingenious devices for unimportant functions. The appropriate criterion for the ethical application of engineering within ecological constraints is conservatism, while operating within the natural system rather than infringing on it or overcoming it, having a sense of the whole of the environment, and abstracting no more than a particular function warrants. Systems should be developed to be as flexible and forgiving as possible to avoid drastic and irreversible consequences when something goes wrong. This is counter to the traditional Baconian view, often held even now in some segments of our society, that nature should be conquered.
An ecological approach to engineering must take into account that nature responds systematically, continuously, and cumulatively. In support of these concepts, ecologists should make available to the engineering community as much knowledge as possible on the ecosystems that could be affected, their vulnerabilities, and the specific technical reasons for caution. Perhaps the ecological community should develop a new applied subject area in which consideration is given to engineering applications of a specific type and the resultant stresses, costs, and effects on related ecosystems are evaluated, using various generic cases. It is beyond the capability or intent of the average engineer to become both a creative technologist and an ecologist.
As alluded to earlier, when engineering applications are planned, care should be taken to consider the social and ecological costs. Today much depreciation of environmental capital is going unrecorded. For example, Passent (1994) states that between 1970 and 1989 Costa Rica's forest, soils, and fisheries depreciated by more than U.S. $4 billion. He goes on to say many authors believe that resource depletion would be obvious if ecological accounting were included within the national income accounting framework. Such depreciation takes an