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"Ecodesign" film shows benefits of green construction
courtesy of Telluride Times-Journal

This week we are featuring a review and summary of a movie that will be screened at Mountain Film this month. The movie is called "Ecological Design," and it is about brilliant and courageous humans that have pioneered ideas on the development and integration of mankind's cities, energy systems, transport, and industry, with our planet's natural ecosystems. The film is primarily about design and architecture but also about much more. The main underlying theme is that our current industrialized world is depleting the earth's resources and introducing tremendous amounts of toxic wastes to the ecosystem, thereby endangering the planet's ability to sustain into the future. We must change our obsolete views from the post-industrial revolution era, and shift to a new vision in order to ensure our survival.

I saw this movie when I attended The First International Sustainable Building Conference in Tampa, Florida in November of 1994. The producers, who were at the conference provided me with a video copy. I gave it to Rick Silverman of Mountain Film. As it turned out, it sat on Rick's shelf unwatched until, coincidentally, Rick happened to see this film at the Sundance Film Festival and was impressed by it just as I had been. He returned home and noticed it on his shelf and finally put one and one together and recalled that I had given it to him last November. So now it is being shown at Mountain Film and you have the opportunity to see it right here in Telluride. I strongly urge all of you who are concerned about the current and future ecological state of our planet to see it. This movie will challenge you and give you hope, perhaps even inspire you. I hope you catch one of its two screenings at Mountain Film.

The movie asks how can we invent a more comprehensive way of designing the systems in which we live so that they will integrate the "built world" with our larger ecosystem, the biosphere, and can we find a way of life that will create a harmony between nature, technology and humanity? Who amongst designers today will bring about the psychological revolution to have us see nature in a new way; how should we really be doing things? Images of natural environments, city skylines, trash dumps the size of a town, futuristic vehicles, solar-powered airplanes, and enclosed self-sustaining biospheres are presented with high-quality 16-mm film. Notable quotes from various experts are given here to help you understand the movie's message.

James Wines, Architect: "The Earth is a bank account except we only take out. You have to replenish, you have to put back in. Western civilization in the twentieth century has done virtually nothing but take out,; when are we going to start pulling back in?"

Buckminster Fuller, geodesic dome designer: "You don't try to persuade, you don't try to sell anything. You see what needs to be done and you go out and do it. The only way we can possibly take care of everybody is through a design revolution doing more with less."

Jay Baldwin, Design Teacher & Editor of the Whole Earth Catalog, does experiments on the ecological frontier: "Tools are the extensions of your body; a whole group of tools are an extension of your mind in that it enables you to bring your ideas into physical form. You're adding so much energy to the idea that other people can see it."

Amory Lovins, Energy Expert: "We have great deal to learn from traditional peoples who did know how things work and who had extremely sophisticated sustainable agriculture and efficient buildings. We are not yet as sophisticated in solar design s the Anasazi were. I think that resource efficiency and renewables are therefore not only profitable and good for the earth, they are really a moral imperative." Mary Catherine Bateson, Anthropologist: "The problem that we face with the huge size of population and the tremendous potency of available technology... means that every problem is interconnected with every other. We have to find a way to adapt in the context of those problems and that's never been done before." Paolo Saleri, Architect: sacred architecture and ecology. Archosanti fits into its surroundings. Thick walls moderate temperature, arches trap sunlight in winter, remain cool in the summer."

Hazel Henderson, Systems Theorist/Futurist: "The place we are in now is that the planet is teaching us directly. It's as if we are coming up to graduation time, and that the planet has all the negative and positive feedback signals... If we can hear them the signals are for us to change our belief systems and our value systems. We need to have a more correct view of our place in nature and realize that we are part of an orchestration of species, and unless we think of the entire planet as a living system we will not be able to survive and keep our place in it."

William McDonough, Architect: "What we are actually talking about is prosperity, bringing value to things, so we're leaving behind something better than the way we found it. We can actually design things that give more than they take... As people who are responsible for designing, which means we are imagining the future, we may actually be doing things which in the end are more destructive than they are productive, and that's a design problem like no other design problem."

In this movie your will learn more about:

  • Biosphere 2, "the controversial experiment, an attempt to build a miniature world out of steel and glass machines and 3,800 species including four men and four women.
  • A living machine in Rhode Island cleans the wastewater of 150 families without the use of chemicals or machinery.
  • The Dymaxium House, designed by Buckminster Fuller, that could regulate its own temperature, clean its own air, conserve water, recycle human waste, and could itself be recycled when obsolete. A remarkable man, he believed we could design our own world to model nature's own way of doing things.
  • John Todd and Jay Baldwin's self-sufficient structure that provides its own sustenance and treats its own waste.
  • An ecologically-designed community in California that works culturally and financially where the developer states: "The amazing thing is that once we started building it people wanted to buy it."

The movie also enlightens us about the success story of Curitiba, Brazil, known as this country's ecological capital. A more comprehensive vision has begun to emerge in this city of 1.5 million people. With very limited sources (they have rejected federal funds), the people of Curitiba have transformed their city, turning barren land into lush parks and nature preserves, an abandoned quarry and recycled telephone poles into an open university (you have to see the visual image to understand this one), and congested city centers into pedestrian promenades. An inexpensive and practical transit system was created. City planners from around the world are traveling to Curitiba to study its successes. Jaime Lerner, the city's three-time Mayor and architect says: "There is no challenge more noble than to achieve a collective dream, and when a city could improve its quality of life when it respects the people who live in that city, when it respects the environment, when it prepares for the n4ext generation, this is a kind of - and the people assume that kind of co-responsibility. And that is the only way to achieve that collective dream.."