Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of Limits to Growth which, at the time, presented some controversial findings about our planet’s trajectory. Many of the predictions in the book have proven to be strikingly accurate – mainly, that business-as-usual growth and development would start to exceed planetary boundaries and lead to many of the catastrophes we now face. Recently, on a few of my morning walks in the hottest month ever recorded, I listened to an excellent new podcast series that recaps the lives and struggles of the researchers who published the book (primarily Dana Meadows) and it has had me reflecting on the importance of our collective work.
While progress has been painfully slow since the publication of Limits to Growth, I’m confident the authors would agree that the current momentum in the climate and justice movements is stronger than ever. Never in my career have I seen so much exciting work happening on embodied carbon, and so much energy towards creating a just and thriving future. A few recent examples include the CLF WBLCA Benchmark Study V2, a project entirely dependent on the collective action of all our participants, which now has 16 firms who have started contributing data with many more on the way (P.S. It’s not too late to sign up to contribute). At this September’s Greenbuild, there will be at least 20 sessions directly focusing on embodied carbon and decarbonization, two of which will include myself and Senior Researcher Meghan Lewis. Outside the CLF, Building Transparency is launching a seven-part Embodied Carbon Action Series, the Institute of Structural Engineers published Short Guides to Carbon Factors for Key Materials, and the Science Based Targets Initiative is working to set methodologies, tools, and guidance for companies in the building sector. I could go on…
This summer has proven how important this work is. As Dana Meadows once expressed “There is too much bad news to justify complacency. There is too much good news to justify despair”. I hope you all find the energy you need to continue this momentum, and hopefully, some ways to enjoy these final weeks of summer. I suggest ice cream.
Please stay safe out there,
Brad Benke, AIA, is a Research Engineer at the Carbon Leadership Forum focused on developing data-driven resources to help practitioners and policymakers adopt and scale decarbonization strategies in the built environment. With a background in deep-green architecture and consulting, Brad works to synthesize and improve life cycle assessment practices and tools within the AEC industry and deliver practical solutions for low-carbon building design and construction. His recent work includes leading the CLF WBLCA Benchmark Study and developing the background data and methodologies for the CLF Embodied Carbon Policy Reduction Calculator.