Normally I would use this space to discuss all of the articles you’ll find in this month’s issue. But after doing extensive research for this month’s World at Large feature on climate change and resilient design , I decided it would be much more important to carry on that discussion—every chance we can get.
As Gensler Managing Principal Beth Harmon-Vaughan said at the recent policy symposium hosted by the International Federation of Interior Designers, “We need to be advocates for ourselves, because no one’s going to do it for us.” But far too often, designers do not spread their message beyond the realm of individual projects. And our voice is desperately needed.
Every global region studied in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recent “Climate Change 2014” report is currently executing plans to reduce the effects of climate change and protect their citizens—except North America. We are still assessing the need to act. We don’t need to pat anyone on the back for making incremental changes on the municipal level. We need a seismic shift to occur on a national stage.
In the name of advocacy—and the blind anger I am left with when reading damning analysis like the findings of the IPCC—I’m going out on what is sadly a limb and saying that it is a ridiculous disgrace that we have not done more; that we have allowed lobbyists for big business to propagandize a third of our country into believing climate change does not exist.
Our failures at mitigation have started to cripple our chances for adaptation. That is terrifying. We already know that no matter what we do—even if we reach our highest set goals—terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems will be destroyed. It is happening. And—despite a massive research effort—we have no way of knowing what the ripple effects will be.
I do know, however, that I am preaching to the choir here—and for that, I am grateful. On my better days (the ones that I don’t spend reading climate change reports), I am excited by the progress we are making, at the ways we are able to inch humanity back from the brink at every major point on the map. Now, how can we evolve that power in shaping the built environment into a power that shapes the minds of more of our clients and end users, or our policy makers and representatives?
It is financial suicide to let things go on as they are. It makes our national security policy nothing short of reckless endangerment. It puts the poor and disenfranchised on the chopping block—here in our country, but infinitely more so in developing nations where the very people who will suffer most from lack of food, water, or safe and sanitary living conditions are the ones who have never owned a car or a washing machine.
What are you doing tomorrow to affect change on a level bigger than yourself? Bigger than your firm or your company? Bigger than your home and your community? We don’t have time for baby steps any longer.