Sustainability 1: Continual Striving
Some consider design to be merely the creation of a decorative or artistic effect, a disposition of parts in such a way as to achieve or embody some aesthetic vision of a whole. I consider design to be much more: design must achieve some reasoned purpose or intention. And the highest reasoned purpose or intention we can embrace is the betterment of mankind’s lot. Design must make the world a better place.
In a reductive sense, design may be seen as simply doing more with less — more airport gates with less steel, more households with less sprawl, more industry with less pollution, more retail space with less traffic congestion, more productivity with less human labor, more bang for the buck.
However, design at its best is a maximizer: it strives to do more with less on any and all fronts. It strives to create more habitable and useful human spaces with less steel, less sprawl, less pollution, less traffic congestion, and less paved surface (not to mention less habitat loss, less consumption of fossil fuels, less species extermination, less time wasted, less human suffering, less money expended, etc.).
Furthermore, design is dynamic and changing, as opposed to static or eternal. No matter how great or grand St. Peter’s Square or the Parthenon, they hold limited lessons for us. Design must perpetually evolve to meet the demands of ever-evolving human society.
Man’s first shelters of tree and cave were among his first attempts to mediate his environment — in effect, to design a place for himself. The animal skin, fire, tree and cave stood between him and temperature extremes, rain, snow, wind and lightning, as well as predators. Man used what he found in nature to mediate nature, as do we still today. We continue to use elements of the natural world — air, water, fire, plants, trees, stone, wood, metals, coal, oil, and their derivatives — to mediate and moderate nature for our comfort and benefit. Over the millennia, we have continued to refine and adapt man’s first rudimentary attempts at ‘green design’ for ever greater utility, efficiency and sophistication. As we increasingly realize the limits of Earth’s nature and its constraints on human society, we have undertaken ever-greening design to extract more benefit at lower overall cost, to us and to the world we inhabit.
The end goal of much of our undertakings is sustainability: the ability to sustain our planet, our population, our pursuits and our happiness and our wellbeing indefinitely into the future. Whether we realize it or not, as a species, we are continually striving for sustainability.
My purpose here and in continuing articles is to present current and ongoing trends and trains of thought in this striving for sustainability throughout our continually evolving world.
- Sustainability 6: Population
Rays of hope One of the prime movers of the world’s sustainability crisis is its population. The more mouths to feed, the more thirsts to quench, the more children to clothe and educate, the more families to house, the more sick and infirm to...
- Sustainability 10: Density
To many, it seems counter-intuitive that packing the globe's inhabitants more tightly might actually be good for the planet's sustainability, but it's a fact.
- Sustainability 47: Green Labeling
Label him green? With the world’s ever-increasing concentration on environmentally sound green design and sustainability, there has been an ever-increasing set of green design standards, guidelines, certifications and labeling. Here are some of...
- Sustainability 48: the environment
We're all in this together The movement toward sustainability is a direct descendant of the social movement of environmentalism. And environmentalism, far from being a new phenomenon, has been with mankind for more than a millennium. The first...
- Sustainability 49: Rachel Carson
Save our endangered species A woman whom many consider to be a founder of America’s environmental movement, and an advocate for sustainability, Rachel Carson began as a precocious 8-year-old Pennsylvania farm girl, writing stories of animals in...
- Sustainability 50: Earth Day
Love this Earth? Little did I know, as I helped assemble display panels on environmental issues on a campus quadrangle in the spring of 1970, that I was taking part in launching a sustainability event that would resonate around the globe ever more...
- Sustainability 54: The Kyoto Protocol
Let's clear the air The Kyoto Protocol has for years been a lightning rod to anyone discussing climate change and Earth’s long-term sustainability for humans. To green advocates, it represented a best first step forward in mitigating man’s...
- Sustainability 62: Rain Gardens
In essence deceptively simple, rain gardens offer yet one more incremental method of achieving greater sustainability and improved water resources.
- Sustainability 69: Solid Surfaces
Solid Surfaces In our striving for sustainability, we are essentially pursuing four major goals: 1) maintaining our health and that of others, while 2) reducing our consumption of renewable as well as non-renewable natural resources, such as fuel,...
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