AFFORDABLE AND CLEAN ENERGY BY DESIGN: Beyond Net Zero to Climate Positive

Micène Fontaine, May 13, 2020

On my last visit to Havana, I went to the Fine Arts Museum to learn more about Cuban Art. In the lobby, I was greeted by an art installation that simply stated: It's now or never (Ahora or Nunca) in colored lights. I stared for a while. I took it as both an indictment for not doing enough (about an absurdly long list of things) and also as a gentle reminder to act and do what I can. What was I waiting for?

"It's Now or Never" Art Installation, Havana, Cuba. Photograph by Micène Fontaine

When COVID-19 took over our lives, choices became limited to whether or not to use a Zoom background.  Worrying about climate change (let alone doing something about it) seemed like a fading memory amid a global health and economic crisis. Yet, the art installation kept invading my thoughts and whisper: It's now or never. I soon realized that there are valuable lessons to learn from COVID-19 and apply to future pandemics and to how we are choose to handle the climate crisis. To me, the current global disruption felt like a grim and accelerated dress rehearsal for how climate change plays out if we don't do something about it. If not now, then when?

Ironically enough, earth gets to take a deep breath while we are gasping for air. Of course, that’s short term and not the way we want to tackle the environmental crisis we are facing. Yet, it goes to show that we can reverse course if we set our minds to it. We are at an inflection point when rather than trying to get back to business as usual (an understandably tempting proposition), we could not only heed the warnings and strive for business better than usual. Why not take this opportunity to tackle the things we’ve not had the time for or have been afraid to tackle? What’s preventing us from providing financial support to industries that will need it and do it in a way that nurtures climate-positive design and business practices? If we can try to achieve zero hunger by design and are taking on the fight against COVID-19 then why not tackle the climate crisis? If we don't do it now, then when?

The same goes for our buildings. Why not aim beyond the status quo, beyond net-zero to positive energy buildings? Why not? What would it take? These are the types of issues we address in our “Change by Design” series. 

We will be out of our comfort zone for a while. As Alvin Toffler suggests; it will require us to unlearn and relearn. Yet, I have no doubt that, with the help of the brainpower of each one of you reading this, we can design a way to cope with the climate crisis and the current crisis as we find our way to a new - dare we dream better - normal. 

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. 
- Alvin Toffler

Here is to learning, unlearning, relearning, achieving change, by design. Think about it.

:Change by Design