Is sustainability still sustainable – don’t take the fool’s gold and prepare for our unsustainability

20130624-190852.jpg I am still only on chapter 1 and this book is blowing my mind. This post offers a few thoughts on finishing chapter 1 as well as some food for thought about the property industry’s ‘fool’s gold’.

A kind reader pointed out that I had got the name of the book wrong in the post title – I had called it “Is sustainability still sustainable?” where as it should have been “Is sustainability still possible?”. I like my incorrect title so I’m sticking with the unintentional error.

So on with some more things I got from Chapter 1 of “Is sustainability still sustainable (possible)?”

Prepare for the consequences of unsustainability
The authors hit on a key issue in the first chapter – climate change adaptation – or in line with the message of the authors of the book – unsustainability adaptation. The differentiation is important because it’s not just the changing climate that will get us, it’s our unsustainability.

“People who survive in leadership roles at some point develop realistic strategies for likely eventualities. And now it seems pretty obvious that the time has arrived to prepare for the consequences of unsustainability, even while we refuse to give up the effort, however quixotic, to shift to true sustainability on some reasonable schedule.”

I had to look up quixotic – Exceedingly idealistic; unrealistic and impractical: “a vast and quixotic project”. Yep, I can see where they are coming from with that one!

Anyway, this quixotic sustainable future shouldn’t be forgotten while we prepare for the consequences of our unsustainability. That’s a tricky one to manage people’s behaviours around but yeah absolutely.

So, it’s too late, we have to adapt or prepare for our unsustainability. Even President Obama has taken the courageous step overnight to declare it is too late, we need to prepare for our unsustainability.

But what about creating a sustainable future?

Rigorous Definition and Measurement
The building rating systems that we have at the moment don’t really provide a rigorous definition or measurement of ‘sustainable buildings’. They were created when we didn’t have the ability to rigorously measure and so had to be general or naive in their approach to benchmarking. We now have the ability to rigorously measure the ‘sustainability’ of a development – contact me if you want to know more.

I get sense that a statement in the book may also be true for the property industry.

“The danger of rigorous definition and measurement is, of course, the psychological impact of the awareness of how distant the goal of true sustainability is. The momentum and weight of that distance can be overwhelming and debilitating.” It’s similar to what I was recently saying about the view of purists sustainability.

The authors then go on to say “But the fool’s gold that sustainababble offers is poor medicine; far better to know where we stand – and to stop standing in a space in which we will not survive.”

Properties Fool’s Gold
So what is the property industries fool’s gold? How would our buildings stand up against a rigorous definition and measurement of ‘sustainable development’?

Maybe Green Star, and the like, have paved the way for a rigorous definition and measurement of true sustainable development – it was certainly a key outcome of our Green Ratings What’s The Point survey and workshops – second highest votes was for ‘Total Impact – measurement and quantification’.

So maybe the industry already knows it’s Fool’s Gold and is ready for the next step to avoid standing still, whilst at the same time as preparing for the impact of our unsustainability.

One Comment on “Is sustainability still sustainable – don’t take the fool’s gold and prepare for our unsustainability

  1. Pingback: Is sustainability dead in the property industry? « SIMON WILD

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