Another day another dollar. Another year, another perspective. I come back to this blog to write my annual birthday post. However, this time I come back to you after the most influential year of my life which revamped my outlook on life and sustainability. Oh, and a degree too (in fact my graduation ceremony is going on as I write to you).
Last year I focused on my dismay in how far we have come, or rather haven’t come, since the inception of sustainable design and construction principles. This year, turning 22 years old in 2013, I have a very different and more enlightened view on the green industry and the green professionals behind it. Until this year I had never left the Americas nor have I been truly exposed to foreigners’ perspectives on sustainability. After developing life-long relationships with people of all ages throughout Europe and the Middle East, I came to a single conclusion: boy did the West get it wrong. Regardless of the energy cost differential or even the left-leaning societal views of Europe, we as a people have approached sustainability in a backwards fashion. The end of pipe solutions we are formulating are simply not the answer to resolve our unbalanced consumption and production. The question is not “how can we produce more?” but rather “How can we consume less?” The experts designing green building in North America are too focused on green printed paper than they are on feasible green solutions. A pretty telling fact about Green Washing in America is the fact that the leader of the largest non profit green building certification system in the globe is not even an accredited professional but earns over $500 000. I am not suggesting I could run a better game, in fact I could not, but the industry ‘leaders’ should not be at the top and their influence can be felt trickling down to individual projects. There are too many CFOs leading the green building industry. These current leaders would be much more affective as Directors of Sustainability in firms making the transition to a green profitable business. This will leave the leadership roles to those who can understand what it means to be sustainable, and for western culture it means producing a lot more than we have consumed since the industrial revolution (A lot of catching up to do).
Prior to this day of reflection I have been one of those CFO minded people who believed the green paper was the only route to a green world. When in fact it is much simpler than that; it is just society’s outlook and what they truly value. In the historically most capitalistic part of the world we place that value on money and growth as opposed to a high quality of life for us and our children. Society drives all corporations, for without us they could not exist. If society puts enough emphasis on their demand, the world will be forced to conform to it or else society will fail. The triple bottom line, as hunky-dory as some make it out to be is true. It aptly shows the interconnected and dependent nature of the world’s major spheres, the environment, economy and society. Sustainability is not a lifestyle choice; one cannot choose how to be sustainable while ignoring the rest of the global civilizations. A sustainable life is the only choice as you either are sustainable or you are not. That is the one problem I have with point systems; how can a building be only 50% sustainable? It is a black and white affair which luckily was recognized by the Living Building Institute in their certification system, the Living Building Challenge.
On my 22nd birthday I would like to be clear with my perspective and message. A sustainable present and future is very possible. I have even seen it myself in the eyes of those who I have been thankful to encounter and befriend. However, the people at the helm of the movement are in many ways incredibly capable people, but not for their current position. I have all the confidence in the world that humans are making a generational push towards a shift in our societal mindset which will ultimately conclude in a balanced Earth.