My Focus

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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 better one.


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 individuals.


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.


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?


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.