Energy to Change the World

               Wicked problems like the unsettling correlation between poverty and environmental degradation can mitigate and, income cases, resolved when the problem itself is reassessed. By looking at the statistical and logical implications of a problem those implications can be targeted like symptoms and move towards remedying those symptoms. Treating the results of wicked problems as symptoms will require those committed to solving the problem to be bold and honest without placing blame on a scapegoat group or figurehead can begin to help break the problem down. This strategy may also allow for two birds to be killed with one stone (not to advocate for bird genocide), making sure the original problem is firmly put to rest. In the words of James Madison in the stage play Hamilton, “maybe we can solve one problem with another”, compounding the incentives of an environmentally positive solution. In the case of poverty as a cause of environmental degradation, providing jobs for the impoverished focused on improving the environment can increase their awareness on the subject, add to their available income, and improve the communities they live in. The efficiency of solving one problem with another is greater than solving two problems and maximizes the energy of our efforts.

               Biophilic design has huge potential in moving the agenda of energy and material conservation forward. At the most basic level, nature has survived for hundreds of thousands of years with similar designs and processes that have adapted to many geographies over dozens of geologic time periods. Obviously, they must be doing something right. The natural biological patterns we live in and came from may provide many answers to our most complex design problems. Nature has innovative processes and patterns that should be capitalized on for environmental and economic benefit when they are adopted into convenient design solutions. From an architectural standpoint, the triangle is the premier structural tool for its proportionally, nature takes this to builds on the idea of proportionality to create strength. The repetition and proportionality of a spider web can withstand projectile insects, the force of wind and interference of other species. Webs have long been the metaphor for disorganization and overcomplexity; however, they are simple tools nature has utilized to accomplish the simple problem of catching food. This product of the lowly spider is adapted over multiple geographies, while different species have varying “brands” of the product. Biological design such as the spider web hold great architectural potential in building design, construction, and composition of materials. Not only do the ideas of biophilic design provide structural and environmental efficiency, they also possess a valuable aesthetic when used correctly. Architects such as Fay Jones continue to explore this relationship between the environment and our place in it. The Thorncrown Chapel in Arkansas designed by Jones, illustrates an effective example of these stipulations.

               In a way, these abstract solutions to multiple problems can be seen as a design problem. Leyla Acaroglu advocates that design is the answer to many environmental problems. Because society is hyper-focused on convenience, the redesign of everyday products to be environmentally conscious can lead to a brighter future. Strategic environmental design will trump “green materials” products. By making it inconvenient to be harmful to the world around us through design, we begin to chip away at our negative impact. Taking this further, design research on products of consumption may also be an answer to lowering human impact through the products we use. The idea behind products of consumption is to close the loop of waste. This is directly related to the notion of a post-disposable future. I believe society has a lot of room to improve by moving towards a less cluttered future. Now, according to the Law of Conservation of Energy it is physically impossible to reuse and item or material an infinite number of times, however by reusing a specific material just once lessens the waste related to that product by 50 percent! If every product were able to be broken down and the material reused to become another product the amount of global waste would be cut in half. On that note, the idea of a post-disposable future may be slightly idealistic, but that does not mean we should give up on improvement. By definition, a wicked problem has no clear ending. Therefore, there is infinite amount of improvement to be made.

               Many small changes can add up to a big difference. My high school Cross Country coach focused on making us the best runner we could be by making us the best people. He focused on our form, diet, and social exposure to take half-seconds off our times. The direct approach of “get faster by running more” was one-upped by our miniscule incremental changes that added up to a conference victory.

About chrbrack

I am an Architectural Engineering student at Oklahoma State University.
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