Good News, Bad News, and the Living Building Challenge

Steve Farrell

Since Emily and I are presenting at this weeks GreenDrinks (5:30 Wednesday at the Green Sage y’all) I thought I’d flesh out the format of our presentation here.

There’s a great abundance of bad news and a smattering of countering good news.

First the bad news. Twenty plus years of LEED Buildings and the unmistakable take away (as discerned by the folks at the Living Building Challenge) is, “Its not near enough”. Carbon emissions continue to climb to dangerous levels and the entire world seems hellbent on following the carbon intensive lead of the US.

Some good news. Twenty years of LEED Buildings and another take-away is that it is possible to effect positive change through the marketplace.

Bad news again. It would help tremendously if the true cost to society of pollution, carbon emissions, loss of habitat, loss of topsoil, etc. were given value rather than written off as “externalities”. Until this happens we are “Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic”.

Good news. Technology may soon advance enough to begin to mitigate the damage done by, you guessed it, technology. Its a stretch to imagine that the means that got us in trouble (fire and its progeny) will get us out of trouble as well but we don’t have any other options (as far as I can tell). While we can slow the pace by doing our green building and local living best its hard to imagine the exploding population freely passing on the comforts of modern living. I’m a pretty green fellow and I happen to like my central heating and air.

A finally some more good news. We have all the pieces of a sustainable future at our disposal. We know what we have to do and we know how to do it. We also know from experience that if the leadership exist the rest is possible and even likely. The US used to lead the world in innovation and we can (in fact we must) be the worlds leaders in clean energy, water conservation, sustainable materials harvesting, and social justice.

The Living Building Challenge imagines a future that is Ecologically Sustainable, Socially Just, and Beautiful. This may or may not be the way forward but it is inspirational to contemplate.

The final piece of good news comes from the LBC founder, Jason McLennan. Imagine a world where our actions are not only “less bad” but actually restorative. Creating energy, building habitat, cleaning water, creating sustainable economies and creating beauty.

To me that is what the future is going to look like.

Stephens Smith Farrell

Asheville