Getting Personal about Climate Change
Planning for the future is hard work. Let’s face it, the demands of today can make even the day after today a challenge but we plow through. We persevere because as humans we possess a fierce natural drive, an innate need to create our future, not just experience it. We are not lemmings. On the whole, we are creative, driven and inspired to make things happen. Or so I like to think.
If you haven’t had a chance to read the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), you should (find it here in three parts). Contributed to by 259 authors from 39 countries the report offers our collective conscious some severe indigestion. As someone who works hard both professionally and personally to educate and elevate awareness toward a more sustainable future, my takeaway is simple – we need to work harder; much, much harder. Climate change is kicking our collective butt.
If you are anything like me, your initial reaction to this report and the runaway progress toward a drastically changed climate will set you on your heels. It should; it can be depressing and overwhelming. The unfettered rise in CO2 in the atmosphere, temperature increases on land and in the oceans, rates of sea ice melt, the rate of sea level rise, and other indicators all point to a very different future for us fragile humans. Greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations have recently exceeded 400 ppm, levels “unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years” per the report. Further, confidence associated with current climate models has risen significantly as they have improved and now predict current climate impacts of past events more closely than ever. Without question, we are staring at a future that will be experienced by our children and even ourselves, as remarkably different from anything we have ever known.
Remember though, we may be fragile but we are not lemmings. To simply accept the experience of a future we don’t like is not in our nature. The time to demonstrate what we are made of is definitely now.
As architects, stewards of the built environment, our opportunity to affect change is remarkable. The building industry accounts for nearly half of U.S. CO2 emissions and consumes more energy than any other sector of the economy (www.architecture2030.org). The opportunity to educate and lead our clients, strongly, toward more sustainable solutions benefits the broader environment as well as our clients in ways they often don’t even recognize. ‘Green’ buildings are being implemented as cost effectively as so called ‘traditional’ buildings. Not only do they not cost more, the positives in terms of improved indoor environments, reduced energy costs, reduced operating costs, reduced waste and environmental impact, and reduced contributions to atmospheric green house emissions have all been studied and recognized. As architects, we and our clients are all out of excuses.
As humans, we are all stewards of our future. The power of choice is a remarkable thing and through that power, we can affect positive change one decision at a time. Small steps lead to big results. Replace a bulb with an LED, choose the bike over the car, recycle and buy recycled goods, all of which provide benefits but require conscious, smart choices to be made. Find your natural drive for a better future and expose it to others – educate yourself and those around you about what is possible. Challenge yourself and others to act, create and inspire a better future rather than accepting the dire one currently painted before us.
A better, more sustainable future is within our power to create. Having digested the IPCC report, the current state of the environment and my own efforts, I am resolved. Resolved to work harder, reach farther and be more creative than ever to achieve a positive impact.
I am not a lemming. I will not settle for just the experience of this future. I am determined to experience and inspire the creation of a better one – how about you?