LEED (leadership in energy and design) and USGBC statements like “certification boosts your bottom line” and goals like “to strengthen the green movement, drive jobs, grow leadership in the marketplace”, etc. do not align with my heartfelt concern for the natural world. I began struggling with architectural destruction of the landscape in the 1960s and have a somewhat different vision of environmental awareness.
I think that another square mile of urban/suburban development is a poor exchange for a square mile of nature and that Nature’s multitude of life forms is our most precious resource. The LEED positions that most closely align with my own are the call for higher performance and the reduction of waste, but I don’t pursue them for the reward of points. LEED’s lack of a truly sustainable vision is unfortunate in that it encourages many to think we are all somehow saving the planet.
Much of what is called sustainable is really just postponement at best. Using less resources does not achieve sustainability it just defers the inevitable depletion. That’s the good news. The bad news is that resource conservation can result in even greater detriment to the environment. For example, it sounds like a good idea to conserve and use less water. But this is typically less water for the user and not less water taken from the source…with the result that more people can then be accommodated. And each additional person leaves a huge environmental footprint over their lifetime including thousands of pounds of plastic, thousands of pounds of aluminum, thousands of pounds of waste to landfills…and brought about in part by having an adequate water supply.
Any serious discussion about sustainability needs to start with a discussion about limiting population growth.