It was almost one year ago when Greta Thunberg galvanized the world against political inaction. She called it a “betrayal towards all present and future generations”.2 She called for immediate action to save the planet. What can we do to move away from blah blah blah and towards a sustainable future?
Blah blah blah of climate change
Greta Thunberg’s rallying cry was that those in power were not listening. Global emissions were still rising, and technological solutions to reduce greenhouse emissions were not in sight. In responding to the challenge of technological innovations, Microsoft founder and tech billionaire Bill Gates notes in his recent book that, “There are two numbers you need to know about climate change. The first is 51 billion. The other is zero.”3 The first number refers to the tons of greenhouse gases emitted each year, and the second number is where we need to be to avoid a global catastrophe. Bill Gates sees direct correlation between greenhouse gas emissions and per capita income. Higher the per capita income, bigger the carbon footprint and higher the emissions. This simple fact tells us that everyone should be conscious of their carbon footprint, especially those of us in the developed countries who cannot live without suburban sprawl, expansive lawns, SUVs and McMansions.
Carbon footprint versus human footprint
Sadhguru – an Indian mystic – argues that the question is not one of reducing carbon footprint but that of reducing human footprint.4 He notes that there are simply too many of us and that the population will continue to grow in the years to come. He asks, “Would there be a climate crisis without humans on this planet?” Human activities typically support our desire for growth at any cost with the help of deforestation, depletion of natural resources and unchecked urbanization. No other species on this planet causes so much environmental degradation and ecological devastation as human beings.
Human ingenuity to adapt
What can we do? It seems that lowering per capita income or reducing quality of life are not socially or politically acceptable solutions. Perhaps we need to trust our own ingenuity to get us out of this bind. Julian Simon made a controversial claim in “The Ultimate Resource” that natural resources are infinite and that the innovative spirit of human mind has always found new ways to adapt, and it will do so again.5 To reignite human ingenuity, we need be aware of our role in the climate crisis. We also need to commit to decarbonize our products and services.
Time for global action to make an impact
Although many believe that getting to zero greenhouse emissions will be very hard, there is still some hope that it is possible to get there if we have a global action plan. So that is what this blog is about. The goal is to identify simple concrete steps that each of us can take every day to make a global impact. Our collective actions must be in three different categories. To prevent natural and environmental catastrophes to begin with, to manage imminent natural and environmental threats effectively and to recover from a natural disaster once it has already struck. Clearly, more we can do to prevent catastrophes and shape a better future for all is better.
After more than four decades of work as an architect, planner, and building code official, I am uniquely qualified to share my insights, knowledge, and expertise on one of the greatest challenges facing humanity – that of combatting climate change. My emphasis will be on simple steps that we can take to move the needle in humanity’s favor. Hopefully you will join me in this journey and share your thoughts as well as likes or dislikes to what I have to say. Stay tuned for more.
1 Cover image: Blah blah blah sign, Mænsard vokser, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
2 Greta Thunberg’s ‘blah blah blah’ speech, Milan, 2021.
3 How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need Paperback – August 23, 2022 by Bill Gates.
4 Climate Action and Reducing Human Footprint – Sadhguru at UNCCD COP 14.
5 The Ultimate Resource, 1981 by Julian Simon