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Mindful : August 2018
the frustration. I note it, and my mind instantly goes to What’s the solution, what’s the option, and Where can we move? But I deeply recognize how quickly we have to move, how dysfunctional things have become—from an ecological point of view and from the point of view of human suffering and well-being. Our current systems are failing or are insufficient to the challenges ahead of us. You’ve been doing this work for almost 40 years. How has it changed for you? Have you had to adjust your vision from what you were you think- ing when you started out? My vision has continued growing much stron- ger over time, and I’ve learned a lot more and a lot more is possible. I first tried to develop a green building in 1979, the American Thread Building in Tribeca. Back then I would go to a lumberyard and say, “I would like a sustainably harvested wood,” or “Did this wood come from a rain forest?” And they’d respond, “ I don’t know where the wood came from; it came from the supply at the wholesaler!” They were basi- cally saying, “ Leave me alone!” Perhaps I would want paint that doesn’t have toxic chemicals and they’d say, “ What are you talking about?” There were no standards back then for how you measured environmen- tal health. There were no standards for the green-ness of a product. They didn’t exist. Things like passive-house design were some- thing a bunch of hippies in New Mexico would do, but it was very unlikely that the green- building initiatives of the day were going to scale up to large apartment buildings in major cities. Now they have. The building-science knowledge we have now, and the availability of the green materials, is so much greater, and that makes it much, much easier. What do you see as possible now that you couldn’t even imagine back then? I’ve seen fantastic growth in the world of data and connectivity. It has its drawbacks, but it also has enormous benefits. We can now sense what’s going on in our built systems in real time in ways we never could before, and can create much more dynamically adaptive communities than I thought were possible when I started. 72 mindful August 2018 society