Raising Sustainable Awareness

This week, we read an essay that spoke on the parallels between the tragic history of Easter Island and a possible result of our irresponsible living. Before this reading, I had an extremely shallow knowledge of Easter Island and its origins. This essay explained how it developed as early Polynesian tribes began settling here. I was surprised to read that even though those who discovered it were of voyaging descent, they decided to stay in a region that was already so scarce for resources. In doing so, their development as a society faded along with the resources available to them. These highly advanced tribes turned against one another and brought each other to ruin despite evidence of an extremely civilized culture. 

Though it might be difficult to compare an event almost completely lost to history, it’s still important to acknowledge its causes and prevent its effects from repeating. This is a much smaller scale than we are currently dealing with, but given current technology and current demand, it’s not entirely unperceivable if we don’t take the actions necessary. The problem with the people who existed centuries ago is still dominant today, and therefore the outcome is still possible. In order to fix this age-old issue, our approach to maintaining such high demand from an earth no longer able to replenish will become our demise if we aren’t careful. Becoming mindful and resourceful regarding our future and generations after us is of the utmost importance- especially at this time. 

This week we also started research into a Wicked Problem which correlates much more specifically to our fields of study. For me, this meant looking into many of the problems caused by and related to architecture. I’ve learned so much about the impact that buildings have on the planet and I’ve really started to realize the urgency with which we should approach sustainable design techniques. Along with what I’ve been learning on my own, we were also able to spend some time with our LC groups and consider some changes we’d like to see in our related studies. With other architecture students, we curated a list of things we’d like to change about this industry. 

One issue we focused on was a lack of awareness for renewable energy and recycled or local materials. When we don’t advocate for the changes we want to see, or for available substitutions to harmful practices, the problems that we face within our industries won’t change either. We want to press for stricter EPA guidelines for larger industrial companies, requiring them to pay more attention to sustainability and focus more energy into reducing the pollutants they release into the atmosphere. Sustainable buildings and sustainable practices are only as out of reach as we allow them to be. As a group, we agreed that when more people and corporations show excitement for sustainable architecture, it will only lead to more and more responsible practices. For example, a recent design technique allows for industrial buildings to have a skin that captures and breaks down many of the pollutants from these factories before they reach too far into the air. I hadn’t heard of anything like this until it was brought up in our discussion and it made me realize how little sustainable solutions are talked about in these industrial settings. I think it’s so important to realize the dependence architecture and everyday society have on one another. If sustainability was in high demand by people, it would be practiced more often in these settings, and once it’s practiced in these settings it’ll have such a profound effect on the way that people live on a normal basis. The balance between industry and society is an extremely shaky one, but it’s so important to recognize the roles they play in each other’s success- and clearly, it starts with awareness. 

This awareness can easily apply into everyday life. Raising demand for sustainable products and practices by shopping secondhand and engaging in dialogue about solutions that might still be unknown to many- like the carbon neutralizing skin mentioned earlier. 

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