A Historic Opportunity
by Edward Mazria
In reflecting on Earth Day 2007, my role as a steward of this planet has become strikingly clear. I believe we are now all very seriously being called to action, as stewards, to reclaim and restore our planet – to find the strength and the leadership to
face the most critical issues of our times: global warming and climate change. These issues will challenge each of us to reflect, reconsider and find resolve, to join together to confront these daunting tasks.
It is an unusual concept - for humanity to be held environmentally accountable. We have enjoyed many years of substantial personal fulfillment with few strings attached, and we will enjoy many more gratifying years, but they will not be defined by reckless consumption on a road to happiness. I believe we will find our ideals once again, like college students entering a new world where anything is possible. We will take pride in leading by example. We will again find confidence in ourselves and discover the means to achieve our goals because we are determined, because we truly care and because it really matters, now more than ever. We will be working together to literally save the inhabitants of our planet.
A scientist once said to me that “the planet will survive as it has for geologic eons, but we and other species may not be along for the ride”. However, while the threats are great, solutions and actions to counter global warming and climate change are well known, available, and in fact, not that difficult to implement. In this wired global information age, groups are self-organizing, and as new information becomes available, like-minded people all over the world are moving to take action. Each action can set an example and we can all make choices that will have positive consequences. Our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be affected by what we do today. We can touch their lives and make them proud of our efforts, and in doing so, make this planet more bountiful and prosperous than ever before.
For me, and potentially for thousands of design professionals across the globe, this crisis represents a historic opportunity to recreate the structure that will sustain our civilization for millennia to come. As designers we know we can, with little or no additional expense, design and construct buildings that consume half the energy required by buildings of similar type, and with some additional cost, we can design and build carbon neutral buildings and developments. Given that, we can now take design and planning to another level and begin to make a substantive transformation; we can be part of a movement that redefines the built environment for the next decade and beyond.
Today, in the US and globally, buildings and developments are responsible for almost half of all the GHG emissions fueling global warming. Tomorrow’s buildings and developments must be the solution to the problem. To begin to realize this, we must think about how buildings might operate if there were no fossil fuels available, what they might look like, what they could provide - the possibilities are endless when we are resourceful, innovative and diligent. There are no cookie-cutter solutions; the slate is clean and the best techniques and design strategies will quickly materialize. Carbon-neutral is where we are headed, and included in the benefits are a worldwide economic boom, positive health implications and an incredible potential for increased productivity.
Today, we must take advantage of the many opportunities that will allow us to begin to redefine the Building Sector’s role in this crisis. By doing so, we will also begin to reconnect to the world around us. Options that might otherwise be overlooked will become apparent, and the tendency to create environments that deplete the finite and rapidly diminishing resources of our planet will no longer be acceptable. We can demand the changes necessary to propel this movement forward. We need a national building code standard that reflects our ambitions and targets. We need federal, state and local incentives to offset the initial reluctance (so common just before a dramatic shift occurs), and we need the leaders of our country to step forward, set an example and put these goals into legislation. We must, as a nation, also not forget those less fortunate. We must do all in our power to address their plight, as they are not responsible for the situation we find ourselves in today. We, as individuals, and as one of the most prosperous nations on this globe, must seize this day as the day that we accept our responsibility and our role – as true stewards of our planet.
Edward Mazria, AIA
Architecture 2030, Founder and Policy Director
Edward Mazria is an internationally recognized architect, author and educator. Since forming the architecture and planning firm Mazria Associates, Inc. in 1978, Edward Mazria has completed a diverse number of award winning architecture and planning projects.
Mazria is the Founder and Policy Director of Architecture 2030, a non-profit organization committed to protecting our global environment by using innovation and common sense to develop and quickly implement bold solutions to global warming.
He is the architect of both the AIA’s position statement and the US Conference of Mayor’s Resolution #50 adopting The 2030 °Challenge as a means of dramatically reducing building sector greenhouse-gas emissions.
I was lucky enough to hear Mr Mazria talk at the building energy 07 conference put on by NESEA (north east sustainable energy assoc.) It was sobering and inspirational, you can find a run down of it here.
His ideas are desperately needed in this world, and I hope that everyone perks up and listens.