A Vision for the Future

In my most recent action to incorporate policy and sustainability, I entered the Global Energy writing contest. In a letter to the UN Secretary General, we were to describe the future we hope to see, and how to achieve that through sustainable energy. While posting the entire 10 page letter might be over kill for a blog, I hope the excerpt below shows the vision I was portraying in my letter:

Here on this brisk October night, I write to you from a quaint corner café. From this café, I can see two different scenes; one from the left and right window. The left window shows the city that resonates deep in the soul. It is the city that has motivated my pursuit of architecture; it is the one to that has inspired so many to call the Twin Cities their home. Looking down the gridded street, I see the center lanes being occupied by public transportation, outside them the bicyclists swerve around traffic, and beyond that, parks form an envelope for the community, of both children and adults joyfully playing and exercising. With a quick shift of my head, from the right window, I see the deteriorating neighborhood. The only residents are seen through the windows of their cars; the light of the street crackles from the fluorescent open signs, and in the distance, the smog stands thick over the abandoned industrial zone.

    Its no secret our world is changing. With a quick 360 glance of one neighborhood, we can see both the past, and sadly the possible future of where of our actions have led us. But let us remember, there is still a left window. Society, like myself, it sitting at the intersection of two different futures, and there are crucial choices to be made .The obstacles are high, but the outcomes are too great to do nothing. Because this fight requires action and knowledge in almost every field, let us begin with the most pertinent issue, energy. 

……

Recently, I was talking to a fellow student about my ambitions to pursue landscape architecture and urban planning. He, to my surprise asked me if I was more interested in helping humans, or the environment. Me being an optimist, said without thought, hopefully both; and looking out the right window at the people thriving in the environment that caters to the natural world, I cannot help but think that by helping one, we are helping the other. This balance of ecological and human systems won’t come easy, but the premise of our current situation is that there is hope. There is hope in educators to teach students basic ecological principles, in engineers to further develop energy that is wholly renewable, for designers to create buildings that push the limits of how little energy is consumed, and for policy makers to be held responsible to create and uphold laws that adhere to our ecological capacity.

            Here in this café, in this warm and well-light space, the world outside seems grim. The cold has just set in, and as the leaves pile high for the impeding snow, the unadjusted civilians bury in their coats searching for warmth. A scene that may seem uninviting to some, resonates differently with me. It tells me that there is some pattern in our world; that here in the northern state of Minnesota, the drastic seasons of the year still remain. In the coming decade, as shifting of political and economic global unrest will undoubtedly continue to grow, we hopefully will continue to possess some dependency on the earth’s natural cycle. While, because of our actions we are at stake of losing nature’s reliability, we also in the next decade have the opportunity to alter the path we are heading, and maybe one day, someone from the future generation will be sitting where I am at, and see the blissful scene from the left window, in all directions.

 

        

 

 

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PowerShift!

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PowerShift!

The weekend of October 18th, I was privileged to have the opportunity to attend PowerShift in Pittsburg, PA. The conference consisted of workshops and keynote speakers, in a plethora of fields. I left the conference inspired to bring the goal of moving our energy sources, to as Michael Brune said, “Beyond Coal, Beyond Oil, and Beyond Gas.”

Put Yourself Out There

One of my first acts in altering the system we live in was to participate in the Minneapolis Park(ing) Day, on September 21st. A brave soul started this event in San Francisco in 2006 by occupying a parking space for the entire day, to make a statement about the way we use urban public spaces. Now this is an annual tradition, every year having citizens take private city space and make it their own. For my parking space I decided to make a statement about Minnesota’s coal use, while of course promoting for Students of Sustainability. Image

It was really great to see parking spaces to be used creatively by different resides. Especially for myself, who is interested in tactical urban design, it was note worthy  how people can make streets livable by taking away the emphasis of the automobile. It was a little difficult through to talk to people because of the notions people have about sustainability and the political ties it has. However, we did have a conversion with one student, who was so inclined to dance on the street with our signs, chanting, “Cut that coal, ” which is anything anyone could ever hope to have in their day.

I have never been one to put myself out there and vocalize my opinions, but through my involvement in the sustainability movement, I have found it refreshing to talk to others about how our society and environment are so intertwined.

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Reaffirm, Refuse, Reform

 

How  can us individuals alter a component our lives to make ourselves more sustainable? When posed with this question in class, I felt a nudge of discouragement. Having previously taken sustainability courses I have also taken the ecological footprint quiz before, and thus had the displeasure of seeing my enormous impact on the earth. In response to my education and passion for the environment, I have taken individual steps to decrease my personal impact; I started a compost bin for my apartment, buying only regional and local food, unpluging electronics not in use, etc. But still, my consumption amounts soared compared to global use and my individual emissions remained high. By simply living in the United States, the calculation of my normative consumption use was deemed ‘unsustainable’. What shall we do then? Sail off and make a life as a eco-friendly European, or take up a simple rural life in South East Asia? As professor Arnold said in class, “We are who we are.” Simply discarding our home and culture is insufficient in solving this global environmental crisis. Then, shall we give up hope and let business flow as usual? As many obstacles and monumental feats that lie ahead, the answer is still certainly not. I love the swimming in lakes in the summer, the crisp cool fall morning air, the way lush green mountains contrast against the vast blue sky. I love this world too much.

After talking with a friend about a concept I learned in a class about how we can either reaffirm, refuse, or reform our environment and society, we agreed that refusing the actions of our society might be a good first step, however, if we ever want to see a pronounced change in society we need to go further, we must reform. For this challenge,  let me (attempt) to alter system we live in. On a local level, both in the university I study and city I live, I will try to both educate others and move our system towards one focused on environmental equity. With a global perspective in mind, this change in our system begins for me with working with local issues.