Zombies & Climate Change: a Follow-up from Shawn Hesse

Comparing climate change to a zombie apocalypse is a lot of fun, but can sometimes have unintended consequences of leaving people focused too much on fiction rather than fact. Zombies get the headlines, but they are the Trojan horse for the main content; the point is that there is urgent work to be done that will help to reduce the causes of climate change, and also help us adapt to the changes we are seeing from it.

Sometimes in the fan-fiction world of zombie stories and apocalyptic futures, the reality of what we are truly capable of can be lost. Here’s a recap of some of the climate change and community building solutions that I highlighted in my CreativeMornings presentation:

  • Living on current local income – using only the sun that shines and the water that falls down on us for free to meet our needs. Our firm emersion DESIGN has completed multiple projects that begin to implement these strategies to create buildings, communities, and entire college campuses that generate all of their own energy needs on site from solar panels, and projects that capture rainwater for reuse in irrigation and plumbing.
  • Community gardens, urban farms, and farmers markets all create access to locally grown food that is less dependent on the massive infrastructure of more commercially produced food. There are no shortage of example programs from the Green Bronx Machine, to the Urban Farming Institute of Boston, to organizations like GreenWave in New Haven that are looking at ways to sustainably farm from the sea. All of them provide ways that we can shift our communities towards locally sourced food.
  • Preparing a community for emergency situations is a critical component of much of the planning work being done around Boston, and the world. Thinking about the resiliency of our community and our infrastructure during potential storms, hurricanes, droughts, floods, and other emergencies, helps to ensure we can bounce back better than we have been in the past. Organizations like the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program are providing funding, and comprehensive frameworks to help city leaders and planners study the critical vulnerabilities and opportunities in their community.
  • Building equity is one of the most difficult challenges that we face, in part because it is not as easily quantified and calculated as much as carbon emissions, or sea-levels, and in part because it is an uncomfortable and unfamiliar conversation for many. However, there are many examples of initiatives and programs specific to the built environment that are working to build equity into our communities. The JUST Organizations label from the International Living Future Institute is a transparency label for companies to disclose their policies and performance across multiple social justice and equity indicators, and we are currently engaged in work with the US Green Building Council to integrate social equity indicators into the world’s most widely adopted green building certification program, LEED.
  • The most critical challenge facing us today, and into the future, is how we come together as a community, as a city, state, nation, and world.  The Paris climate agreement is the first time countries around the world have committed to a set of common goals to mitigate climate change, and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The agreement marks a key moment in the story of how we have responded to climate change, signifying that the actions we each are taking as individual countries, need to work together with the others to reach a common goal. The same is true even down to individual actions like biking or walking, recycling, using less energy, and eating local food.

The only way we can really solve the problems of climate change is by taking action together… just like surviving the zombie apocalypse.