As an Architect and Activist, I felt the heat of the flames surrounding the hot topic of Climate Change at the 2014 Social Good Summit. The Environment is a subject that impacts us all, whether you wish to face it or not. For all the critics, or to those who simply pretend that it doesn’t exist, tree-huggers like me aren’t the only ones harassing you. The weather patterns and subsequent natural disasters of the last four years are attesting to you that we are destroying our planet at an exponential rate with dangerous consequences. Experts at this year’s Summit unanimously agreed on this subject.
“Science is telling us we are running out of time,” says Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program, Achim Steiner. What can and will happen within a century if we continue our current behavior towards the environment, he says, is beyond our imagination. Seth Schultz, one of several Directors at C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, has however, seen progress. C40 works with cities to identify and mitigate climate risks, and maintains a database of information provided by cities, that details their progress towards climate change. Schultz has witnessed through the program that the amount of effort that cities are placing, to alleviate such dangers, have doubled.
Personally, I was relieved to see the ‘social good’ in several business initiatives. Jonathan Wolfson, CEO of Solazyme, had a vision to make low carbon, renewable fuels. In today’s technology-fascinated world, he used innovation to create sustainable oil derived from microalgae. Michael Dell also conveyed how Dell products are created with the conscious awareness of their energy consumption, as well as the 100% recyclability of its packaging materials.
In order for change to happen, EVERYONE needs to get involved in some shape or form, even if it is as simple as becoming aware of your carbon footprint and accompanying consumption patterns. Andrew Freedman, Senior Climate Reporter for Mashable, joked about the United Nations Climate Summit this week, questioning how every expert fit into one room at the United Nations. However, I find this to be a hopeful statement, as it is clear everyone wants to get involved in the conversation to create some action! This was simply not the case a decade ago.
Niall Dunne, Chief Sustainability Officer of BT Group, boldly asserted at the Summit that ‘Sustainability Needs a Makeover’ and I could not agree more! We have to change the way we think about going green. I do not believe we need to expend more time, money and energy in developing tools. The technology exists. Rather, we need to recognize our current attitude, begin implementing existing solutions, and applying it in a larger scale. We need to start expecting “sustainability to be the new normal,” insisted Dunne. Our “conspicuous consumption” he says, needs a shift in order to abate carbon emission.
As heard during the #2030 NOW conversation, “Nature doesn’t need people. People need nature.” So it is time to start giving it the respect it deserves. Environmental Activist Kumi Naidoo declared at the Summit , “The time for words are over.” We need to act now, and, I believe, plan for the short-term, in order to positively impact the long-term.
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