As the built environment sector becomes more aware of the climate crisis, Anthony Probert says we need to move past certification and ratings systems to achieving long-term sustainability through harder-hitting, site-specific, user-focused solutions
It’s hard to deal with the news these days. Whether it’s devastating fires across Australia, California and the Amazon, or catastrophic flooding in Doncaster, it’s becoming impossible to escape the planetary emergency we find ourselves in.
But as Christiana Figueres said:
“When you have a vision of where you need to go, it sounds utopian. But when you get to the tipping point, your understanding switches.”
And I know a woman with a vision. That’s our CEO Sue Riddlestone OBE.
Last night Bioregional celebrated its 25th anniversary. For the past quarter of a century, we have been showing the world a better way to live, guided by our vision of One Planet Living.
In her speech, Sue reminded us: “We set up Bioregional because we knew there must be a better way to live.”
Throughout the years we’ve aimed to inspire people with our vision through our practical projects, from BedZED eco-village in South London which still draws hundreds of visitors from all over the world every year – to the ground-breaking sustainable tourism destination Villages Nature Paris.
Our partners like Kingfisher and Landsec are also displaying the level of ambition and leadership needed to prevent runaway climate change, and we celebrated them all last night too.
The snag is, we are nowhere near where we need to get to. And everyone in the room last night knew it. Some of them, like Sir Ghillean Prance, our Patron for the Natural Environment, have been sounding the alarm on behalf of the natural world for decades… decades where more and more carbon has been pumped into the atmosphere, average temperatures have headed inexorably upwards, and thousands more species have become extinct.
In the face of catastrophe, how do we stay focused on our vision? And if we can’t keep the vision alive in our own hearts and minds, how can we expect others to? Staying inspired is essential.
So last night we used the opportunity of having 100+ amazing people in the room to remember what’s inspiring them in the world of sustainability, and write it down on a card, which we posted on a wall.
There were a wide range of answers – from the fact that supposedly ‘radical’ ideas like veganism are becoming mainstream – to a new highly sustainable social housing project, Goldsmiths Street in Norwich, winning the coveted RIBA Sterling Prize. Others mentioned the hundreds of declarations of a climate emergency that have been made this year by towns, cities and governments all over the world.
Unsurprisingly, at least half of the responses were about Greta Thunberg and the Youth Climate Strikes, plus of course Extinction Rebellion – not to mention the general explosion of awareness among people who would never previously have called themselves ‘environmentalists’.
It was a wonderful evening. Full of people who have worked with each other in the past or are just starting to work with each other on new and exciting projects, all united in knowing that the answers to the climate and ecological emergency are out there.
My favourite card was this:
“I’m inspired that a 16 year old schoolgirl has awakened the world. It shows that everybody can make a change.“
It says it all. We can do this.