Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hope or despair?

Reading Page 305 -351 “Geography of Hope” by Chris Turner

Hope or despair…. that is the questions. When it comes to these two words, and relating them to sustainability, I am on both sides of the fence. I am very hopeful for sustainable development now and in the long term, but I feel in the short term sustainable development will not be implemented into our society sufficiently or quickly which puts me on the side of despair.

With these different opinions that I have, I believe that change will occur and hope that it does and try to make a difference everyday with all aspects of my life. Only being one person in such a vast world it is hard to make a difference and this is what leads me to despair which is defined as a state in which all hope is lost or absent. A change in our basic way of living and producing products must change in order for sustainability to fully take charge. With being in a society of people with such a vast array of knowledge and experience, we are noticing day by day of new ways that we are harming our world. Instead of sustainable development sounding like a priority we need it just to be a way of life. This would help drastically towards long term thinking and will likely no happen anytime soon, considering the current situation. I believe when the world starts to actually see major crisis’s and disasters start affecting each family, something will be done to save the world, but it will be too late in my eyes.

After taking this sustainability class and reading the book the “Geography of Hope” by Chris turner it has truly opened my eyes to many vast aspects that I have never realized are going on and makes me want to tell others so that we can make a change before disaster occurs. In today’s world I hear so much talk about making a change for a better world and cleaner environment, but it makes me wonder how much of this is actually happening and not just being spoken. Chris Turner outlines many different types of positive change in his book that makes me hopeful, we just need people today to implement these aspects and turn the idea into reality. In order for all countries and people make a change in the world for a more sustainable world we need to implement change now. Don’t get me wrong, I see lots of people and companies making changes for the better which is a step in the right direction, but it also takes a long time to get more people on board. If we start getting more governments on board and implement stricter laws or set goals it will help in this process. We need governments to try and accept all of these external environmental impacts into their economic assessments and start to show some plans for long term thinking.

I understand that this is all a bit farfetched, but I do see a change in the world slowly happening right before my eyes. Things such as plastic bags not being used anymore which helps eliminate garbage in our landfills and in the oceans. It might be a small step to this major problem of ours, but every little change for the better will help in preserving the amazing world we live in today and will ensure that our children will have good healthy lives as well.

My stuff and consumption habits

This week’s blog post is on “My stuff and consumption habits” and a reading of the sermon by William Mcdonough titled “The design, ecology ethics and the making of things”. After reading the sermon by William Mcdonough it showed me that when many products are manufactured they do not necessarily reflect sustainability. This is why companies have to start looking at and taking the quote “cradle to cradle” in to mind so that the materials and energy that is taken from the earth to produce their products is then returned in one form or another, so that anything that is taken from the earth can be given back or put back without any harm to the environment. If companies can stick to this, then it would help eliminate potential problems such as creating extra sewage or emitting green house gases.

Every day, every hour, every second companies come out with new and improved products that influence society today. I am not going to lie, I am pretty influenced by new technologies and product as I am very good with using these new technologies and they interest me. When a new product comes out, I am never the one that is there first to buy it, I usually wait for a year so that all the bugs and errors can be fixed and the price drops and then I usually buy the product after I do research and really want it. The thing wrong with this is big box stores such as Wal-Mart’s, Superstores, and Costco’s produce the cheapest product and prices to the buyer to buy and everything works all fine and dandy for the first while but usually breaks after a year. Then it just has to be thrown away and people go right back to that big box stores and purchase the same thing over and over. This creates massive amounts of unneeded garbage going to the landfills, and is a never ending cycle. This is especially true with electronics as there has not yet been much of a recycling program set up for these products so our landfills just keep piling up. I have realized that after moving out to Victoria B.C and living on my own as a student big box stores like this appeal to me a lot more because as a student I am on a very tight budget and therefore usually go to the Wal-marts and superstores to save my money. If I wasn’t going to school and had a steady good income I would probably care a little bit more of what I am buying and do extra research on it to see what I am getting out of the product I am purchasing. I know that I am just one person in a world of many people, but for the most part the people I talk to do exactly the same thing. After class today, it opened my eyes; I had no idea of all the things that go on behind closed doors. I am defiantly going to start checking into and researching products a lot more before I make purchases so I can help in the process of helping with sustainability. I know this is just a small step in making a big change but I will do what I must. If we want a big change to our environment we need a huge shift to happen, which is not very likely, unless we do it a community at a time and influence others to do the same. In the time of a recession, I don’t see this happening very quickly as everyone is always looking for the best bang for their buck.

ReferenceMcDonough, William. (1993). A Centennial Sermon: Design, Ecology, Ethics and the Making of Things.

Synthesis of presentations

After the 9 groups presented their presentations of the different chapters of “Geography of Hope” by Chris Turner, we are suppose to write a blog wrapping all of this fantastic information in to a summary of all the presentation. The presentation topics were energy, transportation, urban planning, green buildings, international development, smart design, making change, economics, and sustainable communities. Although, all these topics are different there was a lot of overlapping in the ideas presented towards sustainability. The main points that I will be touching on are power, housing, transportation, design, urban sustainability, and economics and how they are all related to sustainability.

In the book “Geography of Hope” by Chris Turner, each chapter heading refers to different ways to become more sustainability and goes over different aspects and environments and explains ways to improve on the living in these places or what to do if you are starting from scratch. I’m going to dive into these ideas and summarize them so that we get a better understanding of what we have to do to be more sustainable to make for a more efficient world. The next six topics are the main topics that we must focus on as a community, city, province, or even country to make a major impact today.

Power is a crucial part in the starting process of being more efficient. I never realized it till my power went out the other day how much humans now a day’s rely on power for everyday living. When our power went out for 2 days we felt like we couldn’t function properly, we had no internet, TV, microwave, or lights. It was awful, but it made me realize how bored or screwed the world would be without power. To help in conserving power we need to come up with alternative energy sources, a few of the alternate energy sources mentioned in the presentations were mainly solar panels and wind farms. These are great idea’s and are starting to get used more and more places which I hope is a step in the right direction.

Transportation is a huge part of society today; we need transportation of some sort to get from place to place in our everyday lives. With all the different ways to get around, it is hard to steer away for the fastest and easier way of getting around, the automobile, the automobile is a major contributor to green house gases and as we learnt in the presentations there are many other modes of transportation which are not harmful to the environment at all and are starting to be implemented and encouraged more. The use of buses, carpooling, biking, and walking are starting to be used more by everyday people. The galloping goose trail is a good example of how different ways of transportation are being encouraged. A case study that our group presented was on a building in Sidney B.C. that was LEED certified. The way that this business encouraged more environmentally friendly modes of transportation are that they had a parking lot for the employees with only 15 parking stalls for 65 employees. This encourages car pooling or taking other ways of transportation. They also supplied a car that run strictly on electricity to people that need a vehicle, the business is also on a main bus route, which encourages bus transportation.

Housing/Design – when starting with the design of a new building or house it is important to try to make a building or community that provides its own energy and wastewater treatment plant. A local example that was shown in the presentations was Dockside Green, this is a new community of condos that is pretty well self sufficient. Dockside green creates its own energy and has their own water treatment plant. Each of the units is equip with monitors that tell the tenant exactly how much energy or water they are consuming at any point in time. Dock side green is platinum LEED certified and always striving to get better. The use of “Green Roofs” was also mentioned a number of times, green roofs are roofs that have vegetation growing on them to help in the cooling and heating of the buildings by natural occurrences. I believe that green roofs will be seen more and more throughout the world in the next number of years.

Urban sustainability is important because it the backbone to making a community come together and working as a team towards a sustainable community. Urban planning helps keep money within the community and helps with the design of sustainable living in mind. Some things that were mentioned in the presentations for urban planning were to build everything that is needed within a community as best as possible so everyone can support the businesses within the community and not have to venture out of the community to get supplies, this also helps in the transportation aspect as people would not have to travel far places to get what they want or need.

Economics is starting to be a new line to achieve when it comes to building a new building, improving the efficiency of an existing building or just want to continuously improve. As Royal Roads, Dockside Green and other major organizations here about all the different models, they want to strive to be the best so people will see they are trying to do better and thus might get more credit and sales. It also helps in the social aspects of the reputation of the business or building. Bigger businesses might be more know to do this to help improve sales but letting the community know that they are the greenest business but still give you the best product, lots of big businesses just to this so they look better.

All of these topics and examples encourage sustainability or a sustainable environment in some way or another through alternative ways of approaching regular everyday topics such as power, transportation, and development, urban planning and economics. The different ideas are a good start towards more sustainable solutions and hopefully more great ideas are still on the horizon.

Sustainable Design A Little Closer to Home

Today were presented with listening to a variety of different presentations on sustainability. My group was given the privilege of presenting on “Smart Design”. The presentation went well and we talked about two different case studies about smart design, one from the book “Geography of Hope” and a local case study. After researching and finding information on the local case study which was the “Gulf Islands National Park Reserve Operations Center” in Sidney, B.C. it caught my attention and made me super interested. This building has been designed to be very efficient and LEED certified. LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system that promotes Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The “Gulf Islands National Park Operations Center” is a first of its kind that I have seen with my own two eyes that blows me away. This three story building located on the water front of Tsehum Harbour houses many remarkable features for sustainability in conserving water, saving energy, materials and resources, sustainable site, and indoor environmental quality. This outstanding building is Platinum LEED certified, which is one of the highest certifications that can be achieved. The innovative features that this building has are as follows:
Site considerations:
• Close to public transit system
• Limited Parking - 15 parking spaces for 60 employees to encourage carpooling or other ways or transportation to help decrease carbon emissions.
• Native Garden - was designed with drought resistant plant species which do not require irrigation

Conserving Water:
• Rainfall Collection - Rainfall is collected on the roof and drains into a storage tank underneath the building. The rain water that is collected is then used in the bathrooms for the duel flushing toilets and for use in the marine operations area for washing equipment. Surplus rainwater passes through a sediment and oil separator before being discharged into the ocean.
• Permeable parking lot - which would consist of paving blocks or cobble stones to help water infiltrate back into the ground so that there is no stagnate water pooling on the surface.

Saving Energy:
• Windows and skylights - for natural lighting, the building is designed so that natural light shines in on every work station in the building.
Heating and cooling system - The only heat source for the building is the ocean. Ocean water is piped to a heat exchanger and heat pump system, Heat is then extracted from the water and transferred by the heat exchanger to the buildings heating system and to a domestic hot water tank.

Indoor Environmental Quality: Natural ventilation, and each employees working spaces have a thermostat to control the temperature in that space and have access to open the windows for a breath of fresh air.

Overall, the “Gulf Islands National Park Operations Center” was build and designed with sustainability of all aspects in mind. The development and design, has a cradle-to-cradle mentality in mind for the site, with using environmentally friendly building materials and supplies and incorporating efficiency of water and energy into their building design, they all contribute to a cleaner and greener environment. The limited parking spaces for the mass amounts of employees and the close proximity to the bus routes has helped in carpooling and promoting greener solutions. This design and development of this building is a great example of sustainability within a community and business area and will be a new standard or leader for when future developments are in the planning stages, these considerations should be taken into mind to help in a more sustainable world.