A Moral Imperative
by RK Stewart< FAIA, 2007 AIA President
A few weeks back, Ed Mazria, AIA, had this spot to encourage us to participate in the live Webcast February 20: “The 2010 Imperative” Teach-in. Ed, founder of Architecture 2030, has been a leader and tremendous collaborator as we have worked together to alert architects and the public to the role buildings play in climate change. The AIA was proud to be a sponsor of this worldwide Teach-in. I was able to be in the studio audience in New York City for the Teach-in, watching Ed and fellow presenters, Dr. James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a leading expert on global warming, and Chris Luebkeman, ARUP's Director of Foresight and Innovation Initiatives.
I encourage you to visit the 2010Imperative.org site right now and view the Webcast. From an engaging skit by the Blue Man Group at the beginning to the concluding acknowledgements, the program was only 3-1/2 hours. And yet, it was a transforming experience.
Moderator Susan Szenasy, editor of Metropolis, noted the program was intended to be a teach-in, reminiscent of the many “-in” events of the 1960s. That nostalgia had something of a bittersweet edge as we watched Ed’s slide show, which brought home the catastrophic potential of global warming of even 2 degrees Celsius. Have we, as a profession or as a society, actually lost the belief that we can change the world? If so, when did that happen? Can we get that belief back?
The answer I took away from the Teach-in is a resounding yes! If we commit to work together towards the goals expressed in AIA's Public Position on Sustainable Practice—not just because it saves energy and money (which it does) but because it is the right thing to do for the public this profession is obligated to protect. The built environment is responsible for 48 percent of our greenhouse-gas emissions, so it is our moral imperative to accept Ed’s challenge to us—a challenge the AIA has embraced —to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to zero in all new construction and major renovation by the year 2030.
A look back over the past 150 years of the AIA reveals an astounding number of challenges that have been met and turned into opportunity by our professional forebears. I hope to see you all in San Antonio May 3-5 for the AIA 2007 National Convention and Expo where we will be "Growing Beyond Green." Join your colleagues to draw inspiration from that legacy and plot a course for ourselves, our children, and their children, on into the next 150 years. But even if you can’t make it to Texas, I hope that you will be with us in spirit.
As we prepare to convene in San Antonio, I wonder what you are thinking. Has the profession lost its belief in our ability to change the world? Are we prepared to really take up the challenge a sustainable future offers us? I would love to hear your thoughts.