Questioning Sustainability

Again the question of what we mean by sustainability has arisen from various directions, and will, no doubt, continue to do so … Prompted by reading Lloyd Alters recent post in Treehugger, here are my thoughts …

Lloyd Alter in his TreeHugger post What’s a Better Term for Sustainable Design, calls for a vote between Sustainable Design and Responsible Design, citing standards such as One Planet Living, Living Building Challenge that go beyond sustainability.

I have long hooked on to a comment from Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia, The Responsible Company) that we should not be using the word sustainability until we give more back than we take, and that’s more back to the environment, but also to the place and culture in which we are based, the people we live and work with, those who work for us, and the society & communities in which we live work and play.

I am co-editing chapters for the forthcoming RESTORE Regenerative Design publication that also borrows much from regenerative standards, whilst embracing ecological perspectives, such as Commoners four laws of ecology. I would offer regenerative design as an alternative to sustainable or responsible design.

Listening to Bruce Springsteen’s brilliant Broadway performance I was struck by his piece on 1+1=3 – this is regenerative sustainability. It’s where the magic happens, it’s the magic of rock and roll, classical music, poetry where the sum of parts is far greater than the parts. Currently buildings and products struggle to make 1+1=2.

RESTORE 2018 publication (Sustainability, Restorative To Regenerative) defined regenerative sustainability as enabling eco and social systems to flourish but also pushed thinking forward, to embrace a Seva approach, where we design as part of nature, rather than apart from nature (the Eco stage). It requires a paradigm switch in how we see ourselves as part of nature.

This was highlighted on my recent visit to Future Build where more than one green building supplier used the expression of giving nature a home within our buildings. Seva thinking would reverse this, to promoting green build products that nature would tolerate in its home.

It is when the capacity of a place to sustain itself becomes ruptured that the human mind is forced to reflect upon ecology. Only then do most of us consider the interconnections between plants and animals and their environment. Ecology teaches that you cannot damage one part of a system without causing knock-on effects elsewhere. From Soul and Soil by Alastair McIntosh (a book I am currently reading described as ‘extraordinary, weaving together theology, mythology, economics, ecology, history, poetics and politics as the author journeys towards a radical new philosophy of community, spirit and place)

The abstract and papers for the forthcoming American Geographers event Nature’s New Urban Worlds: Questions of Sustainability perhaps reflects the current zeitgeist, where nature is being used in the design and forging of new urban worlds.

Within FutuREstorative: Towards a New Sustainability I flagged how the language we use is important, for clarity in what we are describing and attempting to achieve, but also in the often combative adversarial expressions we use, (of competitions, wining, beating etc) adopted from business and no doubt Sun Tzu’s Art of War thinking, and that we rarely, (although I must admit more increasingly), hear words of love, caring and compassion within the sustainability lexicon.

Is it ok to use the word sustainability?

My view, at the moment, is that it is ok to use the word sustainability, but not as something we have achieved, but as our striving for a tipping point (as per Chouinard’s quote). In this thinking we do not have many, if any, sustainable products or buildings. With perhaps exceptions such as natural, nature-based, building materials and buildings like the Bullitt Centre (not only for what it is today but also the ethos and philosophy on the way it was envisaged and designed)

I will be describing the work of RESTORE and the thinking behind Ego, Eco, Seva at the Living Futures 19 conference in Seattle on 2 May.

Advertisements

Towards a Responsible and Sustainability Construction Economy

Increasingly we hear more and more on emerging sustainable, responsible, collaborative economies. For example:

Patagonia, following on from Chouinard’s Responsible Business have launched their Responsible Economy initiative, and wisely, not having the answers shape the programme with the mission to start the debate – and ‘catch the wave‘.

Recently the TSSS and Earthshine launched an interesting and influential paper, BluePrints for a Sustainable Economy whose aim is to share a journey with people around the world, to help generate greater awareness of the issues and possibilities, to promote debate, to provide a sense of hope for what might be, and how we could all make the transition towards a more sustainable economy.

In the introduction to Towards New Innovative Collaborations  I wrote “Our built environment collaborative working journey is now venturing into new territories. The future for a responsible built environment will increase both  pressure and opportunities beyond collaboration and partnerships to co-collaborate and co-create hybrid projects, moving to open innovations that in turn stimulate further opportunities. 

So, what would a responsible, collaborative and sustainable economy for the construction sector look like?

Lets have the conversation.

How do we move from being the 40% negative sector to the 40% positive sector? How do we heal the future?

Untitled

“We can not call it a sustainable construction economy when we take more from nature than we give back”

We are seeing a number of excellent initiatives emerging, particularly in the area of restorative sustainability, converging on a sustainable construction economy – but what are the barriers, where are the leaders and drivers who will get us there?

This is just one of the topics planned in our Sustainability Leadership Conversations – join our Google+ community and participate in our twitter based conversations. The next conversation on Nov 5th with Eric Lowitt explores the Collaborative Economy.

From Greendeal to Mindfulness in Sustainability

My More than Just a Green Deal keynote to the Merseyside Construction Conference March 13th 2013, making the case to see Green Deal as part of the Green Build and Sustainability agenda, and the need for doing the right green thing every time.