DESIGNING A LIFE WE WANT
Technology alone is not the answer, because technology tends to support the status quo.
Technology asks… how can we do, what we already do better? But what if what we’re
doing is heading in the wrong direction? Considering the embodied energy in
everything, using five planet’s worth of resources to support an lifestyle that is killing
us, and approaching ten billion global citizens are proof that more than technology
needs to change. Our technological capabilities have expanded, but our quality of life
and our humanity have diminished. We need to leave “life as we know it” and create a
During COVID-19 we witnessed almost eight billion people turn on a dime to protect
their well-being. People prioritized their health above personal finances. It didn’t seem
possible humanity could act to save itself. Now we’ve seen otherwise. We need to
realize eco-system collapse and climate destabilization are much scarier than COVID.
Most people don’t understand the severity of what we’re facing. This illustrates what
we have is not just a technology problem, it’s also an awareness problem. Most of us
are waiting for the government to act and fail to see the power we possess as
My career focused on building design and its environmental impact, but that narrow
focus, is a distortion of a much bigger picture. Our assaults on the life systems that
support us are the real concern. COVID taught us people react when their personal
health and well-being are threatened. Recent advancements in medicine point to a
staggering number of illnesses originating from toxic substances, environmental
pollution, and corrupted food systems that are normalized for our consumption.
Collaborating with the medical community to create awareness about the
interconnection between our health and our choices will help create the momentum to
heal the planet and ourselves.
OUR RELATIONSHIP TO NATURE
My focus has been the built environment and its impact on climate destabilization, but
many other looming catastrophes threaten our future. Plastic proliferation, pesticide use,
soil depletion, and biodiversity loss, all stem from our abuse of nature. How can we
learn to respect and manage our place in this biosphere? What needs to change?
KNITTING OUR CULTURE BACK TOGETHER
In my 35-year career, our knowledge in sustainability has skyrocketed. But
specialization makes that knowledge increasingly fragmented and difficult to access.
We need to bring all our buckets of insight back to our communities and talk about
what’s essential. A variety of professions understand our choices are making us sick
and destroying the natural systems supporting us. Communicating across disciplines
helps catalyze people. Encouraging overlap from a variety of professional insights can
create the momentum we need.
Is the best way to attain resilience in the built environment through rating systems or
through educating our citizenry? Should green and healthy buildings only be available
to the select few who can afford them? Until individuals feel part of a community and
understand how much their individual and shared actions matter and adjust to protect
our collective well-being, we’re heading in the wrong direction.