Sustainability is fundamentally about having the humility to use only what we need, live within our means, and let the specific climate and ecosystem of our region inform our daily lives. It lies in the humble acknowledgement of mistakes, and the sacrifice to change our way of life.
My generation has grown up witnessing the results of hundreds of years of arrogant consumption, the proverbial settling of our debt to the natural world. Our farms and industries have stripped the nutrients from the soil, robbed the water from the ground, and stolen life from the vibrant places on the planet. Now is the time that we must reevaluate the ways we consume, grow our food, and build our buildings.
While I acknowledge the important role that new technologies and alternative energy sources play in our path towards a sustainable future, I believe it is critical not to confuse the development of these tools with the ultimate goal. It is dangerous to believe that meaningful change will happen simply through technological means without any significant change in the way we live.
Everything we touch is connected to thousands of other systems through the invisible strings of finite supply. Pull too hard on anything, and it has real consequences for the people and ecosystems in another part of the world. By virtue of its ubiquitous presence, the built environment can be a means to teach better practices and provoke thought. The way that we design homes, offices and public spaces can inform the ways that people use energy or dispose of waste and must encourage humility and conscientiousness in each choice.
For everything we take we must give something back. The changes we push for in efficiency and performance and equity do make a difference, but the ability to change the daily actions of future generations in even tiny ways will ultimately make the biggest difference. Designers will play an important role in asking how we would like to live in the future and encouraging others to think about their own answers.