Green Events and Wrap Up

22 Dec

Sorry for the late post, my last days in Europe were spent away from the ship and in a hotel/airport floor with no internet available.

With most of our delegation not allowed into the Bella Centre after Monday the 14th, I decided it would be a great opportunity to check out everything else environmentally related in the city – and trust me there was a lot!

The most memorable of the environmental events/museums were the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art which had a “Green Architecture for the Future” Exhibit, the Canadian Reception that hosted all Canadian Youth, David Miller, Jack Layton and many other well-known Canadian figures, and lastly, the various photo exhibits all over the city.

Walking into the Louisiana Museum for the first time, my group took a left into the contemporary art exhibit “The World Is Yours“.

One installation that stuck with me was a video of protesters, but not type of protesters that all of us had encountered in Copenhagen. These individuals were not carrying placards with message; instead, they carried mirrors through the city. Quite a powerful message I would think.

After popping through the rest of the “The World is Yours”, I continued into the actual environmental exhibit.

“Green Architecture for the Future” highlighted various urban design styles, city planning techniques, and the cradle-to-cradle practice. All over the walls of the exhibit were wise quotes from architects, political leaders and engineers. I couldn’t resist writing some down.

“As architects we no longer work only with the visible, but also with the invisible, with climate, with time, with the seasons.”

– Philippe Rahm, architect, Switzerland

Another one that touched me, as a Systems Design Engineering:

“Consumption is a matter of needs, and needs depend on design. Your need for petrol depends on the design of your car, and your need for your car in turn depends on how the city you live in is designed. So if you can change the design of your city, you can change your needs, and in the end your consumption”

– Stefan Behling, architect, Foster+Partners, England

The exhibit continued on with focuses on different aspects of architecture, urban planning and building design. Through a timeline of energy I learnt that 40% of the world’s energy is used for heating, cooling and lighting buildings. I also learnt about the depths of the cradle to cradle practice. For those not familiar with the philosophy (first of all shame on you), but the idea rethinks the way we make our products and buildings. Instead of conceiving our products from cradle to grave, for raw materials to waste, we must conceive the whole lifetime of a product as a cycle where nothing goes to waste. To quote McDonough and Braungart, the two men behind the idea, “If humans are truly going to prosper, we will have to learn to imitate nature’s high effective cradle-to-cradle.” The idea is crucial and highly underused. The exhibit highlighted three implementations of the cradle to cradle methodology. First, the United_Bottle; second, the Mirra Chair; and third, Nike’s compostable and recyclable shoe.

My next stop was architecture of a grander scale – buildings. As I had learnt in class, one-size-fits-all actually fits nobody. The same applies to architecture, “If architecture is to be sustainable throughout, from the smallest screw to the roof of a skyscraper, it is not possible to reproduce a particular style and spread it all over the world like modernism’s white cubes and quadratic spaces.” Architecture is very dependant on the location, climate and many other factors, the exhibit showed various building designs in different parts of the world.

Lastly, the exhibit showcased urban planning and the design of municipalities. Masdar, amongst other cities was highlighted as a sustainable community. Paris, Copenhagen and other cities were also showcased. I was intrigued by a design of Curitiba, Brazil where the city is build upon its transportation routes. There are five transportation lines that connect in the city centre (altogether form a star), and all of the buildings are built up around them, as seen below in my Paint illustration. Building height decreases with distance from the transportation. Essentially, land-use legislation and right to determine public transportation allowed this city to be so effective in it’s use. 85% of the population uses public transportation!

Coming out of the exhibit I dropped by a room which had a lot of “What if?” statements that were sent in from people across the world. Some memorable ones include:

WHAT IF city planners planned for shrinkage as they did for growth?

WHAT IF city and building design planned for the transition from fossil to renewable energy?

WHAT IF urban areas made us socialize, leaving space between our headphones?

It would be great if all of such WHAT IFs were taken into account! I also bumped into an interesting video which I listened to several minutes of, it provided some good insight into the energy of our world:

In the pre-industrial era people only used the amount of energy that the sun provided them each year, as they would collect energy from the sun through heating, agriculture, and other means. At that point, the population capped at 1 Billion people. Within 130 years of the industrial revolution the population had doubled to 2 Billion inhabitants on the planet. How? We as humans tapped into oil and other energy – energy stored from the sun over millions of years. Now here’s a question, what happens when we run out of the energy that we had stored from the sun for millions of years? If we go back to year-by-year energy we won’t even survive 1/2 a day!

The Canadian Reception was rather fancy and I was upset that I had arrived late. It commenced with a performance by a Canadian artist, then proceeded into an awards ceremony for green leaders in Canadian politics. Amongst them was our very own Mayor Miller (clearly I come from Toronto). There was an impressive political presence there, the only thing that upset me was that this had to happen in Copenhagen and not our own country (think of the environmental impact). I had the chance to speak to Miller very briefly prior to being rudely told to shut up and listen to the musical performance. There was also a rather large presence of Canadian youth at the reception including of course UWaterloo, U of T, Edmonton, Manitoba and various other Universities.

Of the various Photo Exhibits found on city streets of Copenhagen I most enjoyed 100 Places in Kongens Nytrov. It showcased 100 places across the world and some of the struggles that each location had with the already present or upcoming change in climate. Check out the website for the photos and information.

What now? Well, I’m sitting on my butt in Toronto doing conference follow up – uploading videos, obviously blogging, but also thinking about what to do next. This experience has definitely given me a lot of motivation. It also has taught me to dream big and well, oddly enough, don’t put too much emphasis on school (not that I ever did). There’s just so much more to life. I’m considering taking a year off and doing some real life work – getting outside the university bubble! Travelling, and figuring out what’s really my place in the world (and where). Definitely going to involve environmentalism & climate!


One Response to “Green Events and Wrap Up”

  1. eaboyeji December 24, 2009 at 4:30 pm #

    I have been watching your experience thus far and it has been exciting following your blogging (and I must mention your good sense). Being a veteran of UN conferences (I have been to far too many to count), I expected the disappointment. However, I am happy with the impact it has made on you (especially as far as school is concerned). Believe me, if the world revolved around knowledge, we’ll do better.

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