Upon ending her fourth attempt to swim from Cuba to the United States yesterday, 62-year old endurance swimmer Diane Nyad said that “this sport, and this ocean, have changed.” Choppy waters, tropical depression storms, and prolific jellyfish thwarted her attempt to cross the 103-mile stretch—a lifelong dream culminating in unfettered sorrow.
From the oceans to the forests, our planet’s transformation is undeniable. Even renowned Berkley professor and climate change skeptic Richard Muller has recently come to terms with the sobering truth. Muller, who had previously publicly denounced the very existence of global warming, conducted a series of studies last year with the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project that concluded not only that global warming is real, but also that humans are almost entirely the cause.
In Muller’s own words, the project results unmistakably demonstrate that ‘the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.’
The fundamental rules of our natural environment are rapidly shifting. The eternal summer in California now begets a year-long fire season. Rapidly melting ice caps trigger rising ocean levels, which means that certain areas of previously inhabitable land are being submerged (the Maldives are just one example). Neither global temperatures nor energy prices are going down in the foreseeable future.
While we can forecast, project, and speculate, we ultimately remain entirely uncertain of what the future will bring relative to the survival of our ecosystems.
Americans seem particularly tongue-tied when it comes to discussing climate change issues. From flaccid politicians preoccupied with infighting to mainstream working people overwhelmed by basic survival, our myopic focus on daily details perpetually overshadows our long-range vision.
Although we hide in the fiction of debate, the problems are clear and the solutions are at hand. All we need is the courage to manifest the voice of reason. Climate change shouldn’t be a wedge issue. It should actually be the great unifier—a force beyond ourselves that propels us to work together and respond appropriately. It’s not gloom and doom—it’s an empirical conclusion, and we need to face the truth as consenting adults, not frightened adolescents.
In the building community, the answer is fairly straightforward. We can no longer slap together inefficient, unsustainable houses with only lowest upfront cost in mind. We can do better than that. Our structures should be built to last—constructed to endure the trials of time and nature, rather than haphazardly assembled only to become tomorrow’s ruins.
Organizations like the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) and Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) offer extensive information about disaster mitigation and building practices that are appropriate for our changing climate. There are many things that we as building professionals can do to protect our homes and buildings, and it’s beyond time that we begin incorporating the affects and nuances of global warming into our design approach.
As Mark Twain said, “I am not an American, I am the American.” If we are going to fulfill our potential as a global community, then each one of us must accept our moral duty to do what we can to develop solutions for our urgent climate issues.
What are you doing to create sustainable solutions? Write to me at email@example.com, follow me on Twitter @SaraGBM.
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Posted: 8/23/2012 7:37:55 AM by
Mary Kestner | with 0 comments