Earth Day at 50

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Earth Day at 50


   Never before in our lifetimes has the daily flood of urgent things been so firmly dammed up. Treasure these most surreal of days for their greatest gift: revealing the most important things that in the endless stream of everydays get obscured in the fog and the flow.

   If these days do not change me, then the only thing I’ll carry forward is a lot of economic pain. But if they help me see more clearly the things that are most important and act upon them, the benefits that flow from that awakening can last a lifetime... and beyond.

   This pandemic has caused too much death and pain not to cause good change. The worst thing we could do now is get back to normal. Let’s get to work soon building a new normal based on the important things revealed in these awe-full days. The worst thing to do now is shut my eyes.

   And let’s face facts: what’s happening now is just nature being nature. We have built an industrial illusion that we have overcome nature, but nature tests every construct. And in this test, our financialized industrial system has been found wanting. In the words of the President of the United States on March 23 “Our country wasn’t built to be shut down. This is not a country that was built for this.”

   No kidding. Since the Sustaining Economy this county and every nation before it was founded on was discarded and replaced with the Consuming Economy a century ago, the lifeblood of the country was ever-increasing consumption, as measured each quarter by Wall Street. The Consuming Economy values things by how quickly they’re used up; the Sustaining Economy values things by how far they’re handed down. I’ve written about this in detail in the new edition of A Living Tradition [Architecture of The Bahamas].

   But this Great Pause hasn’t been just unmitigated disaster for those of us still alive; it has also opened a window into a view of earth almost as profound as Earthrise, the first view of our home from space a half-century ago. Today it’s a view, however fleeting, of what earth would be like in just a few weeks if we quit spoiling it! Blue skies over Los Angeles, Beijing, and cities everywhere in between. Nature returning to places from which it had been exiled all over the world. Families spending time with each other, going for long walks or bike rides. People finally having time to think about the things that matter most.

   Obviously, this all can’t last. The financialized industrial system is raring to come roaring back as soon as possible, hoping to get things back to normal. But can we make at least some of it last?

   Think about what we’ve seen: cleaner skies and waters than we thought we’d ever see in our lifetimes even if all nations complied fully with all the agreements. They haven’t, and not by a long shot. So this is little short of a miracle that we’re seeing what we’re seeing now. What might we do to preserve some of this without completely wrecking economies around the world?

   The next posts over the coming weeks will look at several aspects of how we build our homes, workplaces, towns, cities, and lives to consume a lot less but live a lot better.  Better rather than more. Quality of life over standard of living. But for this one day, just cherish this miraculous view of something we never imagined we’d see, especially since it has come at such a great price to so many, almost 180,000 of whom have paid the ultimate price.


   ~Steve Mouzon


The COVID Collapse of the Office Park

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© Stephen A. Mouzon 2020