Home > architecture, school, sustainability > how far does sustainability have to go?

how far does sustainability have to go?

i’ve noted in passing the idea that sustainability goes apparently to the very root of just about everything. what i’ve struggled with is the sustainability’s relationship w/ poverty. a very serious environmental concern is the disaster areas that many poverty stricken slums around the world have become, their waste products, and their environmental destruction. not only do many third-world slums pollute ground water supplies with their poor or non-existent waste removal systems (human waste, trash), they also tend to actively degrade all other components of their local ecosystems. forests are clear cut for farming or fuel resulting in massive erosion and micro-climate alteration. it is, quite clearly, a very serious problem.

but how seriously does the majority of the developed world take this problem? UN conferences pay tribute to the problem, and billions of dollars are devoted to eradicating poverty, but who’s kidding who? this problem is nowhere close to the top of any government’s to-do list. how can we make a serious attempt at making the first world (where the vast majority of climate change behavior occurs or is instigated) more sustainable when one of the acknowledged top concerns is something that nobody will ever actually address?

perhaps there should be a hierarchy of concerns within sustainability manifestos. it’s not politically correct or sensitive enough to ever become a reality, but it might certainly help a lot of people take the sustainability movement more seriously when we can see concrete goals listed in order of importance – or at least in a an order depicting what can be realistically accomplished. even if the technology is not available yet, setting goals such as increasing vehicle gas mileage or reducing building emissions would be a huge step in creating a united mentality amongst those unconvinced of or unconcerned with sustainability. although the US has decided not to adopt this idea, it has already been ratified as the ‘kyoto protocol’.

although the kyoto protocol is by no means a wonderful solution, it is a first step in recognizing and adapting to the problem. the same goes for LEED – it is not a definitive guide to sustainable building, but it is a first step. as more architects and builders accommodate LEED guidelines, the greater an impact LEED will have – thus paving the way for guaranteed acceptance of future updates to LEED. once people have accepted and subscribed to the concept guiding LEED, more stringent versions of the system become easier to swallow. such a drastic change needs to occur slowly in order to become a part of the mainstream. the only thing to speed up acceptance of sustainable design would be cataclysmic tragedy and impending doom (Hurricane Katrina, record numbers of tornadoes and hurricanes, increased cancer and asthma…).

back to my initial query: my education of sustainable development has a much greater scope than merely creating ‘eco-friendly’ buildings. it addresses many things, but my concern is that its purview is so grand that the ability to solve the problem is impossibly daunting. combatting poverty, while humane and noble, is so far removed from our everyday lives that it becomes a back-page affair – and its association with sustainability produces likewise results. sustainability must first and foremost address problems caused in our own backyard that can be fixed in our own backyard. technology has wrought the current state and must fix the current state.

this is totally open ended – i haven’t concluded my thoughts.

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