Eric Corey Freed
Eric Corey Freed
August 12, 2021

The IPCC Says We Have Time to Save our Planet and Humankind: We Must Do the Damn Thing

Eric Corey Freed
Eric Corey Freed

I will admit, I struggled immediately with where to turn when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest findings on the state of our climate earlier this week.

The headlines that followed were equally staggering and expected. It’s real. It’s us. It’s bad. The science is indisputable. The planet is going to keep getting hotter.

In truth, we’ve known all this for decades. The numbers change, the projections amplify in severity, but the truth has always been there: human emissions cause climate change. If the planet is to remain habitable for the next generation and into the future, we must live and act differently.

So, in the wake of the report, I did what I usually do. I authored a long post on CannonDesign’s intranet for the team. I shared resources we can turn to, and actions we can take to family, friends, neighbors, pets – truly, any person or creature who would listen. But, I also know, I’ve done this before, too.

Then I found inspiration in a single tweet from energy policy expert David Pomerantz who said quite eloquently, “Imagine getting to be alive during the vanishingly thin slice of history where we understand the full gravity of the climate crisis and still have time to do something about it.”

Imagine that! Because, well, that’s the moment we now squarely live in. David then added that he felt grateful, fired up and ready to do the damn thing. How can you not love that attitude, in the face of an existential threat to mankind…gratitude?! Excitement! 

And we must, because if we don’t do the damn thing in the face of this climate crisis we face a literal dead end. As designers that means we need to approach so many more, wait, essentially every decision we make through the lens of sustainability. The AIA 2030 Commitment really shouldn’t be a goal but rather a necessity. A stepping stone to bolder, bigger, even more impactful positive climate contributions.

We have all the tools we need. We can design net zero solutions today (see Ohlone image below). Heck, we can design net positive solutions today. We can create better buildings and spaces that slash carbon emissions and benefit the experience for the inhabitants. We need to unleash these tools to their fullest capability. Any less moving forward is to not heed the challenge in front of us.

Beyond design, we are also going to have to change how we live, work, travel, eat, and more if we’re truly going to curb climate change and leave a reasonable future for our children, their children, and their children’s children’s children.

Look, it’s easy to feel depressed and doomish when you read about the climate change we’ve already affected. It’s so large that we call it an “out of context” problem. We are already locked into a certain level of climate hardship and tragedy. There are still so many people who don’t get it, who are misinformed, who are unwilling to change for the betterment of society. There are hard times ahead.

But, to be depressed is to miss the most critical message of the IPCC’s report. There is still time. As the New York Times said, “While a Hotter Future is Certain…How Hot is Up to Us.” There is still time. Time to act. Time to change. Time to save humanity. Time for gratitude.

While it was a tweet from a person I’ve never met that inspired me earlier this week, I’ll leave you with a quote I know well. “Societies grow great when people plant trees in whose shade they know they’ll never sit.”

That’s what we must do. Most of us living today won’t personally know if the planet warms by 2 or 4 or 6 degrees C by 2100, but we must do all we can now to ensure it’s as little as possible. We’re going to need to plant trees. We’re going to need to design to net zero and better. We’re going to need to shout about it from the rooftops – maybe even the streets. And we must…

Because we still have a sliver of time. Time to save ourselves. Time…to do the damn thing.