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Table of Contents

Review of Books on Green Buildings – Part 10

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The Sustainability Revolution: Portrait of a Paradigm Shift

(by Andres R. Edwards and David Orr)

Table of contents

Chapter 1: Preface: Illustration of a Sustainability Era

Outline:

  1. The Backbone of a Social Revolutions
  2. Revolutions and Movements
  3. The Five Indicators of the Sustainability Revolution
  4. A Revolution of Interrelations

Summary:

There is a sustainability revolution going on. This is shown by various initiatives to increase efficiency and reduce wastes. The Sustainability Revolution is changing the economic, social and ecological perspectives of global societies. The present economic system which depletes the natural resources simply has to change. This revolution presents an alternate way of supporting economic viability and healthy ecosystems by altering consumption patterns and applying a more equitable social framework.

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This revolution originated in the United States and in Europe as these industrialized nations grappled with the natural limitations of resources. There is now a global awareness of issues like climate change, ozone depletion, pollution etc. The emergence of this revolution was brought about by the technological breakthroughs in communications (emails, Internet and digital cameras), finance (global trade and international stocks), transportation (green cars, low fare travels, etc.) green buildings, and the likes. It also revolved as a reaction to the degradation of the natural resources by the Industrial Revolution.

The five characteristics of the Sustainability Revolution are: 1.) remarkable similarities among sustainability groups in its general goals and intentions, 2.) an expanding and diverse number of these groups, 3.) the extensive issues addressed by these groups, 4.) the visionary leaders behind these groups, and 5.) the varying modes of oppositional and alternate actions by the group.

The Sustainability Revolution is a dynamic approach to solving the world’s current problems. It marks the beginning of a new social ethics which link the ecological and the economic as well as the human and social dimensions.

Chapter 2: The Emergence of Sustainability

Outline:

  1. Its Context
  2. Environmentalism: The Antecedent to New Sustainability
  3. Present Day Environmentalism: The Origins of Sustainability
  4. The Development of Sustainability: Brundtland (1987) and Rio (1992)
  5. The Mainstream Sustainability Today: The Three E’s
  6. The Three E’s Plus One: Education
  7. The Methodology: Basic Principles
  8. Standards for Choosing Principles
  9. Principles as Songlines

Summary:

The purpose of this chapter is to contextualize the Sustainability Revolution so that the origin and the direction of sustainability are understood. The main precursor to it is the environmentalist movements in the 1960’s and the 1970’s. It emerged in the 1980’s and expanded during the 1990’s.

The foundation of this revolution lies in the human connection with nature. The natural world is viewed as a guide and a reflector of the universe. It was Aldo Leopold who extended the concept of nature as a part of the entire ecosystem which is tied up to our survival. Other writers and environmentalists sent signals and alarms on how the natural degradation is eating up the resources of the future generation and how it will redound to a backlash.

Then, the Earth Day emerged. It became a memorial to teach the public on the impact of industrialization on the general society. The landmark event in the sustainability revolution was the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Sweden. It marked the initial steps toward sustainability. It brought up several environmental groups and organizations and it also paved the way to practicing sustainability in various realms. The contemporary emergence of sustainability was paved by the creation of UN’s World Commission on Environment and Development and the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 in Brazil.

Chapter 3: Sustainability vis a vis Community

  1. Interdependence in Each Level
  2. Model Principles: Ontario Round Table on Environment and Economy (ORTEE)
  3. Minnesota’s Principles of Sustainable Development
  4. The National Environmental Policy Plan of Netherlands
  5. The Earth Charter
  6. International Council of Local Environment Initiatives (ICLEI)
  7. Integrating Sustainability Values in Each Community Levels

Summary:

The integration of the community and the concept of sustainability need a system perspective because the relationships of the various stakeholders are important. There are various relationship dynamics at the local, regional and national levels as well as the international levels. The Sustainability and Community principles go beyond the three E’s (ecology, equity and economy). Hence, the issues at each level must be addressed in these terms.

This chapter discussed the following principles: the Ontario Round Table on Environment and Economy (ORTEE) Model Principles, the Minnesota’s Principles of Sustainable Development, The National Environmental Policy Plan of Netherlands, The Earth Charter, and the International Council of Local Environment Initiatives (ICLEI). Its main goal is to create a strategy or approach for applying sustainable solutions to the current economic, environmental and social problems.

While the ORTEE fundamentals establish a basis for local communities to achieve consensus on sustainability agenda, the Minnesota’s Principles of Sustainable Development try to find a common ground on these values at the local front. The Earth Charter shows the global community’s attempt to draft a document outlining the sustainability themes which are parallel with the objectives of the United Nations members. The National Environmental Policy Plan of Netherlands shows a country’s successful commitment to sustainable practices. The model of cooperation is between the country’s private and public sectors.

Chapter 4: Sustainability and Business

Outline:

  1. Going Beyond “Business as Usual”
  2. Adopting Strategies of Sustainability
  3. The Principles of Precaution
  4. The Natural Ways
  5. The Houston Principles
  6. The CERES Principles
  7. ISO 14000 and The ICC Charter
  8. Environmental Evaluation and Ecological Taxes
  9. A Better Business Model

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Summary:

The concept of sustainable development has been a buzz for businessmen. It is the step beyond their usual business. They now recognize the need to extend their interests and profit motives to the notion of protecting the world’s natural and human resources as well. The strategies applied by businesses may seem revolutionary. They find approaches that will move to their three goals - ecological protection, social well-being and economic development – which happen simultaneously. Sustainable development is good business model and it creates opportunities for suppliers.

Sustainable strategies involve the affirmation of the belief that companies have a responsibility to the environment. They know that they must operate all aspects of their business as environmental stewards. They must also compromise the future resources and its sustainability.

These are encapsulated in the CERES Principle. These principles consist of a 10-point code of organizational environmental ideals which is publicly endorsed by corporations as an environmental mission statement or ethic. These principles cover environmental protection, resource preservation, risk diminution, product safety, public access to information and accountability. The principles are:

  1. Protection of the biosphere
  2. Sustainable use of natural resources
  3. Reduction or recycling of waste
  4. Energy conservation
  5. Reduction of risks
  6. Safety Services
  7. Restoration of the environment
  8. Public information
  9. Commitment of the management
  10. Audits and Reporting

Chapter 5: Sustainability and the Inherent Resources

Outline:

  1. The Contradictions of Resource Extraction American Petroleum Institute (API)
  2. Principles of Environment, Health and Safety
  3. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Principles and Criteria of Forest Stewardship
  4. Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing
  5. The Asilomar Declaration for Sustainable Agriculture
  6. Critical Challenge for the Natural Resources

Summary:

The foremost element in sustainability is the natural resources. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Principles and Criteria of Forest Stewardship defines the management of the forests which meet the environmental, social, economic, cultural and spiritual needs of the current and the future generations. FSC rules are very strict and they have the highest requirements for society and the environment.

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Principles and Criteria of Forest Stewardship is the fundamental forest management standards. It has about 10 principles, which is the foundation for its other rules, policies and standards. Its greatest impact is in implementing the basic rules an policies for forest management which are often neglected. Mentioned below are its ten principles:

  • Verification of legality – following all applicable laws
  • Demonstration of long-term land tenure and use rights
  • Respecting the rights of workers and the indigenous peoples’ rights
  • Equal utility and sharing of benefits
  • Reduction of environmental impact of logging
  • Identification and proper management of forest areas which require special protection (e.g. cultural or holy sites, habitat of endangered species, especially plants or animals)

On the other hand, MSC Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing set the standard in an independent, third party and voluntary certification program. These principles were developed by means of a wide, global consultation with various marine stakeholders.

Chapter 6: Sustainability and the Design of the Natural Resources

Outline:

  1. Incorporating Nature within the Design
  2. The Hannover Fundamentals
  3. The Five Fundamentals of Natural Design
  4. Todds’ Fundamentals of Ecological Design
  5. The Sanborn Fundamentals
  6. US and the International Green Building Councils: The LEEDing Edge
  7. An Interdependent Framework

Summary:

Ecological design refers to the application of the fundamentals of ecology to sustainable buildings’ designs, communities and technologies. It means to work or to design according to the natural elements and not against it. Ecological design adds a strong enhancement to the efficiency of water and energy resources, waste reduction, full recycling and reuse of materials, and the emphasis on the utility of renewable sources of energy.

The Hannover Principles intends to provide an avenue upon which designers can adopt sustainability into their works. Designers consist of those people who creatively change the environment. Design means conceiving and realizing human needs and desires.

The Hannover Principles is a set of declarations about designing buildings and constructions or even objects with the utmost consideration of their environmental impact, their effect on the sustainability of development, and their general impact on society. This was first created by William McDonough and Michael Braungart when they planned the Hanover Expo in 2000. The Hanover Principles can be summarized as follows:

  1. Emphasis on human rights and sustainability.
  2. Recognition of the design interaction with the environment.
  3. Consideration of the social and spiritual aspects of buildings and other designs.
  4. Responsibility for the impact of design decisions.
  5. Making sure that objects have long-term value.
  6. Elimination of wastes and consideration of the design’s overall life-cycle.
  7. Making use of the natural flow of energy such as solar power and its forms.
  8. Humility and utility of nature as a design model.
  9. Sharing of knowledge, striving for continuous development and encouraging open communication among various stakeholders.

Chapter 7: Sustainability and the Air

Outline:

  1. Human Role in the Biosphere
  2. Basic Principles of Deep Ecology
  3. Charter of Rights and Responsibilities for the Environment
  4. Principles of Biomimicry
  5. Principles of Permaculture
  6. A Biocentric Framework

Summary:

The basic principles of sustaining the biosphere can be focused on the sustainability of the deep ecology. Its principles can be summed up as follows:

  1. The development and well-being of human and nonhuman life forms have inherent value. These values are natural and it does not depend whether these life forms are useful or not.
  2. The richness and diversity of life forms add to the fulfilment of these values and are also valuable in themselves.
  3. Human beings do not have any right to limit this richness and diversity only they can use it to satisfy their basic needs.
  4. The development of human life and cultures is concurrent with a considerable decrease of the human population. The development of nonhuman life also has a subsequent decrease.
  5. There is an excess interference with the nonhuman world and the situation is greatly worsening.
  6. Policies must be changed. These policies influence basic economic, technological and ideological systems. The outcomes of affairs will vary far from the past.
  7. The ideological revolution is in appreciating the value and the quality of all life forms instead of just merely adding the standard of living. There will be a great awareness of the difference in this matter.
  8. Those who follow the mentioned points have a direct or indirect obligation to attempt to apply the necessary changes.

Chapter 8: Future Directions

Outline:

  1. Environmental Principles: Subjects, Sectors and Kinds
  2. Seven Common Themes
  3. Positive Signs
  4. Our General Dilemma
  5. Finding an Alternative Way
  6. Beyond Green: A New Way to the Future

Summary:

The seven common themes of the sustainability revolution that we have today are:

  1. Stewardship - stresses the vitality of creating ecological standards for environmental management and preservation. It involves protection of the bodies of water, soil and land forms, and the species for biodiversity.
  2. Restructuring of the economy – means expanding the opportunities for human employment without desecrating the ecosystems. The new economic model fosters interdependence and cooperation for optimum efficiency and sustainability instead of mere market competition and waste.
  3. Acknowledgment of limits – means living within the limitations of nature and consciously thinking about wastes, pollution, and the depletion of unsustainable resources. The “limits” imply the threshold of the living systems and this, if violated, will incur vast damaging effects for the species such as global warming, extinctions, etc.
  4. Interdependence – covers the ecological relationships between species and also the economic and cultural relationships and linkages at the domestic and the international levels.
  5. Equal distribution – means social equity in education, employment and healthcare since these all contribute to a well balanced ecology of the human race. It requires the innovative approaches in dealing with the weaknesses of the present economic model.
  6. Beyond this generation’s foresight – a long term orientation in making ecological choices and actions. It contextualized the resources and its sustainability for our children and future generations.
  7. Nature as a teacher and as a model – acknowledging nature as the expert in survival and preservation. This means designing and creating systems and structures that fits the natural landscape.

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