This “Oldie but Goodie” will also be archived to its original post date of January 1, 2011 at the end of this month.
It is about as difficult to find a contemporary magazine void of the S word (sustainability) as it is to find the word used with much, if any, thoughtfulness. Its most common usage seems to be as a buzz word by those trying to sell something. Usually the implication is that if we reduce our environmental impact by some small percentage (say 10%?) then we will have paid our dues and can feel OK about continuing with our (now reduced) destructive impact. It’s probably good to be thoughtful and reduce waste, but passing this off as being sustainable is misleading if not deceitful. Sustainable means continuing without end – not reducing impact. Meanwhile, the human population continues unabated, exacerbating the need for ever more resources.
Reducing our impact on the planet is just easing off the throttle – it slows things down but our increasing numbers will surely catch up with and surpass whatever ecological gains we make. It’s just a gamble to assume that future technological development will mitigate or solve this dichotomy – maybe it won’t. The combination of increasing population and diminishing resources is an unfortunate event waiting to happen. This is not sustainability – but rather something much more like Postponement (the P word).
My view of sustainability includes continuity – continuity of all things important to life, with life itself being at the top of the list, followed by all the inanimate stuff that allows life to exist. Continuity of movement is one of these (continuity of movement for all life). Architecturally, our all too common approach to development is to disrupt continuity by fencing properties and introducing exotic species. This not only plays havoc with life requiring a range in which to exist, it also fosters to the mindset that property is little more than a placemat to set buildings down upon. In this scenario both building and occupant typically withdraw farther and farther away from any connectedness to the larger landscape and farther and farther away from any sense of place in the larger scheme of things.