Ed Mazria, FAIA, founder of Architecture 2030, held his second Web conference “teach in” January 30. His message is constant even as the global atmospheric ppm of carbon dioxide, temperatures, and sea levels rise. Stop burning coal and start converting to solar and other renewable power sources, he says. Even if you are on board, do you think there can be a real shift to wind power, or is he tilting at windmills?
Here in the Mid-Atlantic region, adjacent to some of the world’s most prolific coal sources, the mantra for years has been: Coal is king, and the U.S. can be self-sufficient in energy because we have so much of it. This is precisely Mazria’s point. He posits that if we use up all of the available petroleum and natural gas resources on Earth, we still couldn’t reach the tipping point scientists project at which the polar ice caps will melt and inundate great swaths of our world’s heavily populated coastal areas. Only if we continue to burn our massive reserves of coal will we convert enough of the hydrocarbons stored over millions of years into greenhouse gasses potent enough to change our world ineffably.
As a species, though, humans are not known for our willingness to accept uncomfortable change even if we can see a reasonable likelihood of future threat. Nonetheless, the AIA has indeed taken many serious steps toward addressing the concerns raised by Mazria. Is it too much too soon, too little too late, or the right, professionally responsible path toward protecting the public health, safety, and welfare?