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December 2008

Evolution & Revolution

Our July issue focused on NeoCon and the greening of our industry. I talked about it framed as an evolution. Slow change over time is evolution. And certainly the greening of the built environment has been evolutionary. Many professionals have worked throughout the history of the built environment as lone wolves so to speak within their practices applying green principles on an individual basis. Their ranks have grown. Still, the slow rate of change in behavior within the industry as a whole has been matched by the slow growth of concern, of awareness, and of interest in the need for alternatives.

This month's issue focuses on the USGBC's annual Greenbuild conference and trade show. This year it was called Revolutionary Green: Innovations for Global Sustainability and it was held in Boston. Last year's Greenbuild set the stage by ending with the playing of the song "Revolution" by the Beatles. While this year's location is symbolic, the reality is comparable too. In the 1700's, the future of our existence as a nation was at stake. Today, the existence of our planet and life as we know it is at stake. It's easy to see in hind sight that our nation had a revolution. There was complete and fundamental change. But, the shift in our ways of thinking and working needed today to achieve sustainability are just beginning. It's difficult to say if it will result in complete and fundamental change. Certainly, the existence of the USGBC is revolutionary and they along with many of us are doing our part to move our industry in the direction of sustainability.

And, I hope we are in the beginning stages of a revolution. Especially since climate scientists now consider their predictions of the pace of global climate change to be much faster than their earlier predictions and if we implement the urgent action needed to resolve this crisis, that will be a revolution. Thankfully there are abundant signs even outside the USGBC to support the idea of a young revolution. Green products and stories are all over the media. Even oil companies claim to be green. So, we know there is economic value in the marketplace for being green (or claiming it). Still, perhaps the biggest sign of a possible revolution is the election of a change candidate for President of the United States; one that talks of inclusiveness, environmental concerns and repairing the economy all as integrated issues. What if all together we do address and begin to solve our most urgent problems with a systems approach? What if the we is within the United States and throughout the world? Now, that would truly be revolutionary.

It's certainly exciting to call this a revolution and to feel the burst of energy that is a natural part of drastic positive change. But, I think it is also important to remember that we need both evolution and revolution. Once we achieve the necessary fundamental shifts in the structure of our professions and culture, we'll need to value continued evolution to truly keep moving forward. And even within this young revolution involving fast paced changes, we need some slow evolutionary changes as well. It's wise to remember that the core of sustainability is about balance. We can balance both evolution and revolution, using whichever best helps us meet our goals.

I'm all for both revolution and evolution as we reach our goals of truly living sustainably on this planet. I can say today sure looks like a revolution, it feels like a revolution and I'll do my part to help make it a revolution. But, the day is in the future when I can say with confidence, "This is a revolution." And the day I truly hope to experience in my lifetime is the day I can say, "That was a revolution."

Joyfully, Sue Norman
Sue Norman, Managing Editor
Associate IIDA
Allied Member ASID