This past Monday, President Obama made climate change and sustainable energy the focal points of his Inaugural Address when he declared that choosing to ignore these key environmental issues “would betray our children and future generations.” This is the first time in the last few months that the President has taken a firm stand for the future of our Earth, a direct result of Super Storm Sandy and a smart choice to reveal controversial policies only after re-election. Although Monday morning was not the time to outline a specific political strategy, President Obama made it very clear that this time around, denial of scientific judgment and Congressional opposition would not be reasons for failure to act.
Since this is a sentiment easier said than done, there is doubtlessly a long and difficult road ahead for the President and his administration. The White House has revealed that it plans to focus on what it can do to capitalize on natural gas production as an alternative to coal, on “reducing emissions from power plants, [increasing] the efficiency of home appliances and [on having] the federal government itself produce less carbon pollution” (NYTimes). According to the New York Times, they aim to adopt new energy efficiency standards for not only home appliances but for buildings as well, something that should spark the interests of architects and urban planners already committed to designing with climate change and sustainable energy in mind.
More after the break…
In Bangladesh, where rising sea levels are having profound effects on the landscape, one nonprofit organization called Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha run by architect Mohammed Rezwan is fighting back by adapting, a true quality of resilience. Rising water levels and the tumultuous climate is displacing people by the thousands; a projected 20% of Bangladesh is expected to be covered in water within twenty years. For a country that is one of the densest populated state on the planet, this figure has disastrous consequences for a population that has limited access to fresh water, food, and medicine. In response to these conditions, Shidhulai has focused on providing education, training and care against the odds of climate change by adapting to the altered landscape: moving schools and community centers onto the water – on boats.
Last week I asked how architecture can ramp up its efforts to do all it can to help limit climate change. Sandy is a turning point. It will take action on the part of the profession and its members to make this turning point meaningful. Turning points are easily forgotten after the panels have been convened and the articles written. The vicarious thrill of crisis abates and everyone returns to business as usual, feeling better for having contributed to the discussion. If we listen to the scientists, we must not lose that sense of crisis and we must do more.
The recently-released World Bank report “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided” indicates the magnitude of the problem. It is so vast and deep that it easily overwhelms individuals. As they discuss in the report, only collective, international action will lead to measures substantial enough to make a change in the trajectory the planet is headed for. Architecture can be a powerful collective in the face of such a challenge.
Continue reading The Indicator after the break
“…clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.”
Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World
Hurricane Sandy painfully clarified the deadly implications of climate change. In fact, the superstorm was so forceful as a reminder of just what climate change means in real terms that it played a decisive role in the presidential election.
Here in the US, the issue defines political divides. A recent Pew Research Center survey shows 85% of Democrats believe climate change is a scientific fact, while only 48% of Republicans believe so. Another poll shows 68% of Americans believing climate change is a serious problem and 38% believing it is a very serious problem.
The impact of Sandy may have played a role in bumping these numbers up but there is still no slam dunk on the issue when roughly 30% of the population still believes climate change is not real. For those of you outside the US this is your cue to roll your eyes and say, Stupid Americans.
Continue reading The Indicator after the break
In light of the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy, as politicians quabble over the existence of climate change, we cannot escape the reality that our cities are vulnerable to natural disasters. Coastal cities face the threat of flooding as sea levels rise and storms, as we’ve seem over the past few years, have had more severe impacts on our cities. The duty of architects, planners, and leaders is to build resilient cities with infrastructure that can stand up to the forces of natural disasters.
Join us after the break for a list of some of the largest port cities vulnerable to coastal flooding…
When driving between SFO Airport and San Francisco on the edge of the Bay Area, I have always wondered what would happen when the sea level starts to rise.
Recently, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) organized an ideas competition (open to any professionals, not just architects) to address the sea level rise in the Bay Area, looking for innovative and creative solutions to bring forward a vision of a future estuarine shoreline applicable to the San Francisco Bay and beyond. 130 entries from 18 countries were submitted.
Six teams were announced as the winners, splitting a cash prize of $25,000. Among these entries we find interesting ideas, such as Faulders Studio’s laser light barrier that measures the sea level, powered by tidal energy, Kuth Ranieri Architects’s ventilated levee to balance the sea/bay water levels, or SOM’s smart membrane under the golden gate bridge.
But, as usual in some competitions, the honorable mentions bring more disruptive ideas, embracing a vision on a post-flood city instead of preventing it. There’s also humor among the honorable mentions, “Failure: Bring your boots” or “About Rising Tides: It´s the Delta, you stupid”.
Will our future be amphibious?
All the awarded entries after the break: