The Initiative for Green Habitats represents a long term commitment towards providing solutions for the creation of Sustainable Built Environments. This blog attempts to provide an insight to our views, commentaries on our work, ideas that we are working on, and provoke thought where there are more questions than answers.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Survive in Style- a slogan for Sustainable living

Gluttony by Alex Falco
"Survive in Style".... don't write this slogan off too soon. The slogan can surely be bettered, but focus on the essence. This slogan has been put forth with some thought and much deliberation on what a sustainable world could be like. Over consumption, greed, mass production, clones, all seem to represent the world we live in today (at least most of us). This is no more just some Hollywood take on the 'big, bad world of tomorrow'. Any course correction or advice that may be required today to ensure that we don't slip into such a dismal abyss seems to scream 'HALT', or, 'SLOW DOWN' to arrest the rate at which we are gorging on our environment. When one ponders the ideal pace of development (or living) that could be sustainable, nothing seems more convincing than one where we take only what we need... in other words enough to survive.

'To survive' does bring images of a rudimentary existence devoid of any character. Many an argument on thriving vs 'merely' existing have been made, which demonstrate a great discomfort to change this 'business as usual' scenario. But, to survive does not mean merely existing. I feel that this is the ideal condition for human expression in the form of art and craft. It is an innate human desire to attribute oneself with higher standards of order and beauty. When applied this art/craft takes on different expressions, based on geography, natural resources, community, socio-economic forces, etc.... therefore the word 'style'.

Interestingly, when you check for synonyms for 'survive' in a thesaurus, you get- 'stay alive', 'live on', 'continue to exist', 'endure', 'subsist'..... seems to me a lot like 'to sustain oneself perennially', or, 'being sustainable'. The connotations indicate to me the wisdom of living in a manner that one meets their needs in order to see a continuity of a species.
Similarly, when one checks for 'style' you get- 'method', 'way', 'technique', 'chic', 'elegance', 'flair', 'grace', 'design', 'shape', 'comfort', 'luxury', 'grandeur'.... and so on.

Consider what it could mean from the perspective of architecture and buildings. Firstly, we would create spaces that we need, and do away with wasteful space. This could also mean less materials per square foot. In other words, a much more efficient usage of space and materials. This would free up otherwise poorly spent finances for more crucial things like infrastructure for water, for energy, and surely for better crafted components. So, more specs and better quality for the same. We have innumerable examples to show us that less need not be boring, or conversely, we also know that more does not always mean better. An architecture which is based on a 'stylish survivalism' (could not resist throwing that in), would purposefully look for a higher craft element, with better workmanship, without overdrawing from our natural resources and therefore leaving more for all. You can see that a world that does not import from far off places, would surely encourage more local solutions, creating a far more diverse and colourful planet.

A slogan like 'survival with style' (and its variants) can also be transformed into a guide or set of rules that can define the degree of environmental impact an individual, a group, a community and an institution can have. Importantly, once adopted and applied in full spirit, it influences attitudes towards various aspects of living. This collective attitude is the single most important influencer when it comes to how we treat this planet. From the simple choice of buying biscuits or veggies in a plastic wrap from a supermarket, to, why we absolutely have to apply a metal-glass face to our buildings, to larger concerns of the kinds of businesses and therefore economies (or, vice-versa) we encourage... 'stylish survival' will at the minimum ensure a reduced pace of destruction of the environment.... and just maybe, even produce a glimmer of a sustainable future.

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