On 8 October 2018, the United Nations called the “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” (IPCC) reported to the billions of humans that by 2030, that is within the next 12 years, the earth’s energy, water, food, oceans, transport, agriculture and financial systems will collapse. The skies and oceans are being filled by the invisible carbon pollution from the cities and countries.

Carbon pollution is not only breaking the earth’s weather but is also collapsing food production, causing scarcity, drought and flooding in cities and farms. The transport and infrastructure facilitating billions of humans is weakening more often and on a larger scale. And let us tell you, these are not just the daily “disruptions” to the routine life. They’re causing much more damage than the benefits.

It is the IPCC who is making the humans on Earth aware of the situation and the need to curb carbon pollution from the atmosphere and the oceans by 50% within the next 12 years, that is, before 2030. That means, everyone on this earth needs to do it and those who don’t do their part, someone else have to reduce theirs by more than half.

Now here is one question. Can the citizens, farmers, architects, designers, builders, planners, engineers, developers, consultants, councils and governments, and the transport and food growing systems halve their pollution in the next 12 years?

On 3 December 2018, Sir David Attenborough said: “Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.” 

If you believe you can change the moral focus of the world by writing and saying, please note, it is not going to be that easy.

For years you have been keeping your excreta on the land where you lived. None has left even an inch from the place you live. Millions of litres kept in what once was clay soil, now amended by your excreta and retained rainwater to be friable and productive, something hydraulic “experts” said could not be done. But in case if you live in a typical building with a lot many apartments/flats. Now your excreta gets mixed with another 2 billion litres of excreta pouring daily into the ocean which the whales drink off the coast. Feeling awkward to even think about sending your toilet waste into the tummy of whales? Well, that the helplessness of someone living in such apartments!

Well, now that you realise that living off grid in the city has grown new sensibilities in you, you are trying out the new solutions. So, what you can do is, bring an unused brick of 1 litre volume of water and put it in the cistern of your toilet. Now every time you flush the toilet, you use 1 litre of less water from the dams brought through over 23,000 kilometres of pipes to be sent into the tummies of the whales.

Well, in front of the amount of waste wastage that happens, this would be a very atom-sized savings that you can do. Another thing you do is to put your diluted urine into the new compost.  However, everyday you have the control of what you eat. That is where you can make your individual impact on the environment by reducing the intake meat and dairy products.

Last week you saw the new building that delighted your eyes and you warmed to it. Then when you saw that mass of concrete and steel and glass, your entire perspective towards that changed. Floor after floor of Olympic swimming pool sized loads of sand, cement and concrete possibly from the now gone Kurnell sand hills and beyond. A mass of masonry and steel, the heat absorbing footpath barren of green exists because the developers chose to create fresh carbon pollution into the city. Well, we agree most of the building was recycled, but a lot of materials was new too.

And we have not yet the energy used for imported and exported water, sewage, stormwater and all the to and fro of construction. The best you can do is to be honest with yourself regarding the same.

Cement leads to 5% of the earth’s carbon pollution and damages rivers, oceans, vegetation, soil.  Still, there are awards given to the architects for using new cement, steel, glass. In reality, the industries like the cement, steel, and other industries are the ones who sponsor architecture, engineering, planning associations and their awards, conferences, magazines. The practice and heart of such services completely depends on money received from industries creating carbon pollution. They just know to buy and sell carbon.

However, the typical city-making professions have codes of conduct that they need to adhere to in order to sustain Earth and are obliged by laws to achieve sustainable use of materials.  An example can be Engineers Australia’s code of ethics. It obliges the engineers to:

4.1. 

  • engage responsibly with the community and other stakeholders
  • be sensitive to public concerns
  • inform employers or clients of the likely consequences of proposed activities on the community and the environment
  • promote the involvement of all stakeholders and the community in decisions and processes that may impact upon them and the environment

4.2 

  • Practise engineering to foster the health, safety and wellbeing of the community and the environment
  • incorporate social, cultural, health, safety, environmental and economic considerations into the engineering task

4.3 

  • Balance the needs of the present with the needs of future generation
  • in identifying sustainable outcomes consider all options in terms of their economic, environmental and social consequences
  • aim to deliver outcomes that do not compromise the ability of future life to enjoy the same or
    better environment, health, wellbeing and safety as currently enjoyed.

Same is the case with the code of professional conduct for the Royal Institute of Architects which, given the IPCC’s recent news, and as (like the Engineers Australia Code) it appears to be one of Australia’s least read documents, is also extracted here:

“Principle 1 obligations to the public 

Members have obligations to the public to embrace the spirit and letter of the laws governing their professional affairs, and should thoughtfully consider the social and environmental impact of their professional activities. 

1.1 Standard: Members must respect and help conserve the systems of values and the natural and cultural heritage of the community in which they are creating architecture. They must strive to improve the environment and the quality of life and habitat within it in a sustainable manner, being fully mindful of the effect of their work on the interests of all those who may reasonably be expected to use or enjoy the product of their work.”

After the IPCC’s report, are most codes, professions, laws about finance, including about sustainable development and carbon, directing in the wrong direction? Do these expensive investments offer a false sense of security? May be, because in the last 50 years, these laws and codes have grown and with ironically, an increase in the carbon pollution too.

But is today’s governments, professions and laws moving in the right direction? We fear that while we keep focusing on making laws, we loose the opportunity to implement them even. Have you ever seen any architect, builder, council or anyone else thinking like that? Most of us believe that we cannot make any difference, and thus, why should any another carbon-polluting building should matter. Or, worse still, we feel that this calculation of 12 years is all rubbish and that this science is definitely the less than the science behind the construction of skyscrapers, take-off of planes, computers, AI, etc.

The IPCC’s report is all about risk and how can we manage it by curbing down the pollution. And who better than the investors, banks, superannuation fund managers, stockbrokers  can estimate the carbon pollution and invest their money only in projects that are the most risk-free or at the most likely profitable places.

The stability of an economy depends on the readiness of the financial institutions to adapt the increasing risks of the breaking climate change. Well, the Earth’s top banking watchdog has just declared the world’s banking system to be unstable and vulnerable to systemic breakdown due to financial practices, and the report ignored the risks defined in the IPCC report.

According to the Deutche Bank , 83% of the world’s top 500 companies perceive climate change as a business risk. Australia, ranks 55th of the 60 countries ranked by the IPCC on taking action to cut carbon. Still, the carbon pollution in the country is increasing. There is just no government or council asking out any financial risk due to the catastrophic climate change before 2030.

Well, what we would like to suggest is watch your carbon footprint and do what you can do for maintaining a sustainable yet clean environment. What everyone faces, you also will. Atmosphere is no person’s property. Each one of us would need to do our part. Gear up and keep your eyes on the sky. Do your part!