Yes we could! Why climate change is in everyone’s words but in nobody’s built environment.

Yes we could! Why climate change is in everyone’s words but in nobody’s built environment.

Markus Appenzeller

Judging the words of pretty much every company, every city mayor and every architect and urbanist, dealing with climate change is at the heart of each and every decision they make. Enterprises develop extensive and colourful marketing campaigns, showing their leadership in fighting global warming. They hire celebrities to hammer their message home and they invest in green start-ups. Mayors join global initiatives, speak at summits, and do educational programs. Finally, architects and urbanists design literally green projects with trees everywhere, develop the house or the city of the future or create circular buildings that can be fully recycled and reused. Great! There is ambition, there is creativity and there is increasing societal support. From this point of view, climate change mitigation is already under way at massive scale.

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Change of scene: If I walk around in my neighbourhood or almost any neighbourhood, there is I see little to nothing of this. In the contrary: cars become bigger and bigger, houses become bigger and bigger and where there was a green patch a couple of years ago one can find land hungry row- and detached houses. All of them have in common that more built space, power, or privacy means less climate change mitigation. To avoid us having sleepless nights, those involved tell us, that the car might be bigger, but it is more fuel efficient or electrical – compared to the same SUV of 10 years ago. The same goes for houses. And even eating green space for low density housing is unavoidable since ‘that is the way “people” want to live’ and the city stands in competition with the world and must serve the market.

Interestingly architects and urbanists usually do not say much to their defence, planning all this. Why? – one might ask. I think the profession like few others understands what is at stake. It chooses not to rush to help builders and makers because time and time again they are told that all the good ideas they have are not feasible because of cost, production processes, supply chain, business model or whatever other reason they can put forward to not do what everyone agrees is necessary. “Yes we could” instead of “Yes we can”.

The problem is that climate change has reached a point where the former is not really an option any more. If we do not put words into action now, we don’t need to waste words anymore, and we don’t need to change our built environment since it has become entirely uninhabitable in a hundred years.

by Markus Appenzeller

P.S.: The featured image is from a website that created a spoof shell advertising campaign to highlight the ridiculousness of some ads of companies essentially increasing climate change rather then reducing it.
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