A different approach: sustainable infrastructure
I’ve been thinking about sustainability a lot lately: this concept of existing in a way that enables people and nature to thrive for a long time in their natural course. Or in an even better scenario, leaving a positive impact on others around, whether it be environment, community, or people.
This concept that was once touted by many as being “hippy” or “airy” is now an ever-growing necessity demanding attention from government, agency, corporate, and people. We simply cannot sustain our current path and methods of consumption and development. Companies are starting to take notice and to pay attention. Consulting practices like the Deloittes, KPMGs, and PriceWaterhouseCoopers of the world that were once focused myopically on financial and stakeholder stewardship are establishing social responsibility disciplines and departments.
More recently, McKinsey posted an article capturing thoughts by philanthropist, Judy Rodin, who speaks to a different way of approaching infrastructure and planning. What Rodin describes and asserts for is a more holistic approach and consideration to development. It’s not saying development won’t or can’t happen, it’s that when it does, there are other means to accomplishing the same thing, if not better. When there is a win-win, why not explore it? It’s a great article worth reading if you haven’t done so yet.
As an aside, my sister and I were in Tulum, Mexico recently. It’s paradise. Not only because of it’s white sand beaches and beautiful year-round weather, but because many of the people living there really care. Many of the boutique hotels available along Tulum beach are sustainability-minded. Solar for power, rain for water, and architecture designed to eliminate the need for air conditioning. Of course, the picture is not perfect – there are those who fly in the face of this, and unfortunately, there are more to come with enormous big box developments happening behind the scenes of this beautiful coastal town. Locals estimate that in another five years, Tulum will look and feel like its neighbour, Playa-del-Carmen up the beach: crowded, over-developed, and a shoreline eroded and ruined by ill-planned piers, infrastructure, and cruise ships. The beaches currently in Playa are man-made to repair the damages done to them, and if you take a walk down the beach in Playa, you can see where the erosion is still happening and will likely need repair in a few years down the road.
Imagine development that does not repeat recent and long-time historical errors that are not only costly to try to amend, but often irreparable. Maybe Judy Rodin is on to something.