Friday, October 02, 2009

If poetry does nothing, neither does design, or architecture


Rem Koolhaas on sustainability. I offer an excerpt here:
Against this backdrop came the first Club of Rome meeting, which talked about the limits of growth (15). It was a reasonable and dramatically illustrated argument about the limits of resources, and showed how in the next hundred years we have to be more careful and more restrained in our consumption. But then the market economy was unleashed in the mid 70s. The market economy had a devastating effect on the knowledge that had been accumulated at this point. This forced the apocalyptic streak of the polarity that I defined at the beginning.

Twenty years later, the Club of Rome is completely open about the fact that "global warming, water shortages, famine and the like, would fit the bill … In searching for a new enemy to unite us." In the same year, they even suggested that "democracy is no longer well suited for the task ahead" (16, 17). You see a perverse amplification and intensification of the arguments: seemingly rational, but actually on the apocalyptic side.

So, these two tendencies almost merge, or the evidence that they use is the same. But one continues to use the evidence for a rational and reasonable future, such as the application of atomic power. In France, about 80 percent of electricity is generated from nuclear energy. The country in which the Enlightenment began is still the most enlightened nation, in a way, with its energy policy.

Scientists like Freeman Dyson relativize the disaster of CO2 levels, saying that actually they could also, in certain areas, have a positive effect (18). He is, of course, completely vilified for these statements. But this kind of thinking leads perhaps to a school of thought that engineering can finally offer a number of strategies that could help us.

Then there is the apocalyptic streak, which portrays trains powered by coal as a holocaust (19), and which develops more and more extreme scenarios (20, 21). For example the deadline on intervention that the Club of Rome envisioned in its first report has been revised to four years, confronting all of us with a desperate time limit.

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