"Sustainability can't be like some sort of a moral sacrifice or political dilemma or a philanthropical cause. It has to be a design challenge."
― Bjarke Ingels
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT (SD):
"Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."(1)
As we can see, nothing complicated: meeting the needs of present without eating our children's bread. The problem begins when we are not aware that it is time to redefine some concepts:
1) Home: We tend to think that our home end at our threshold.Nevertheless, our home is Gaia, Earth spaceship in which EVERYONE and EVERYTHING travel, and we simply cannot afford to get off.
2) Everyone: All human beings + all living beings: animals, plants, funghi, algae and bacteria, the 5 kingdoms of nature. In only one dissapears, life is not possible.
3) Everything: The web that makes life possible: the water cycle, the carbon cycle, the ecosystems, to biotopes. Human intervention: agriculture( fertilizers, insecticides, gmo's..), meat and fish ( fodder, cafos,lixiviation,soja...), water management ( deforestation, desertization, contamination, aquifers... ) Oil peak, global warming, global dimming...
4) Re-lecture, re-design: Knowing the past contributes to a better knowledge of reality and to a possible redesign scenario. Three small stories:
- History I: Formerly, after harvesting, the ears of wheat were tied together in vertical bundles, that were let dry at the field for a couple of weeks. The reason was to avoid the storage of fresh grain, that will gather moss due to its high moisture content. The anternance of dew and sun favoured a light grain fermentation that, in turn, produced enzimes.Those enzimes made a more digestive grain. Nowadays, grains are gathered and dropped straight into an industrial dryer place, and powdered in high speed metalic flower mills, overheating the flower. The result : digestive difficulties and a growing number of gluten intolerant people.
- History II: In 1910 there were 20 millon horses in the United States: All transport, goods and people was made with animal drawn vehicles. Today, with all biotechnological advances, gmo's and so on, there is not an extra kilogram of animals than in 1910. And this was made possible withoud quemical fertilizers, insecticides, fodder or overseas imported grains, something doesn't add up. The reality is that water shortage is linked with meat production and that actually 50% of crops around the world are not for human consumtion.
- History 3: Any school kitchen thowns away hundreds of peelings, that have to be transported with oil to a recyclyng center that works also with oil. Meanwhile the kitchen buys eggs also produced and transported with oil. Why do not try to grow hens at the school, fed with fresh peelings and producing fresh daily eggs?
A FINITE WORLD:
At this stage of the game it is a bit booring having to argue something so obvious as "we live in a world of finite resources". We all understand that if we have only 10 remaining breads and we consume one per day, in 10 days we will exahust the reserves. Therefore, from day 1, we should desing and implement a system to produce a bread per day, for the rest of our lives.
To believe that we can consume an infinite number of resources in a finite world can only mean two things: ignorance or insanity. Einstein said that "there are only two infinite things: Universe and human stupidity. And I am not quite sure about the former".
BIODIVERSITY AND MONOCULTURE:
Cultivating different plants at the same plot offers several benefits: on one side, pests get disoriented by dozens of different smells, and have difficulty finding the plants they are after. On the other, the so-called companion plants not only do not disturb each other, but stablish symbiotical relationships. The result is that you may have more plants in a smaller area. Being closer to each other, the soil os shadowed and protected from sun and wind. Therefore plants need less water...
At Artifex we believe it is imperative to recover the traditional building techniques and local materials, combined with bioconstruction. We can use agricultural ( straw, rice husks, almond hulls...)and Industrials ( Iron, steel, glass...) byproducts. Also city waste to be recycled at the building or rehabilitation site. In order to achieve this we need to develop prototypes and essays, fighting with public administrators that shield themselves behind am umbridgeable fence of prohibitions and regulations. To innovate almost becomes an heroic feat, against everyone and everything. Conventional building is also a monoculture, and facing a horizon of peak oil and economical deceleration, it is obvious that we'd better start to explore other alternatives. Biodiversity does not only relates with agroecology but also to different experimental proposals, including the recovery of forgotten building techniques.
Life in this planet is the product of millions of years of evolution, and it is based on the living soil, the humus. Humus is the product of organic decomposting by bacteria and small animals, an extraordinary slow process. In natural conditions, up to 100 years are needed to create a single cm of humus. With the passing of time, the humus layer grows downwards, enriching and loosening the soil, alowing the growth of new species that couldn's thrive on a poorer substat. Liches and algae gives foot to plants and trees. The strong roots contribute to break the rocks and the subsequent colonization of deeper strata. The first european settlers were amazed on their arrival to America: they found 1 meter deep humus wood soils.
From the moment that trees are cut and the plough opens the soil, humus generation stops. Soil needs the protection of the dry leaves and grass layer as much as we need the skin on our flesh. Without roots, the soil is not anymore anchored and erosion and dehidratation comes into play. It is devastating to learn that since 10.000 years we use a destructive technique to generate our food, although the Bible had already told us that God throw out Adam and Eve from Paradise and condemned them to earn their bread with the perspiration of their foreheads...
To regain a balance, we have to return to the soil what we take out of it. Firs we take take of the soil, and he will, in turn, take care of us...
- Therefore, for the last 10,000 years we have been consuming more resources that the ones the planet is able to generate. Agriculture then Mining, Fishing, the galloping deforestation, climate change... ¿How on earth did it come to this? How have we been able to squander such a fabulous heritage, one that should last forever?(Img: www.tankonyvtar.hu/hu/tartalom/tamop425/0032_kornyezetiranyitas_es_minosegbiztositas/ch04.html)"
Having said so, we have to remember that the growing majority of people living in poverty, can barely consider the issue. They want to have a beautiful house, a car, fancy clothes, money, "progress"... They will not doubt working at a dangerous and contaminated coal mine if they earn more than fishing or cultivating organically. They will accept pesticides, fertilizers and serious heath hazzards in exchange of a possibility of reaching what we have sold them as "progress". Ecology or Sustainability are meaningless words unless you can feel safe and achiving self-realization. It is a luxury they cannot afford.
See Maslow Pyramid
As a result of this disastrous resource management, we are not only forced to be sustainable, but to return to the Earth a part of the exhausted. That is it, a sustainable economy is not enough: we need a regenerative economy.
An energetically efficient building sector, using natural and local materials is not enough. We have to find new uses for what once came from distand places, and now is waste. This is why we think there is still much to be explored and redesigned in terms of matching social and environmental issues. Any proposal not having a positive impact in the three areas has to return to the design table.
1)ONU's Brundtland report definition "Our Common Future".
2) "Every generation needs regeneration."
Charles H. Spurgeon