“The Green Aesthetics” written by Architect Shafique Rahman published in “The Independent”
“The Independent” is a recognized national newspaper in Bangladesh published “The Aesthetics” written by Architect Shafique Rahman on 30th March, 2015.
It is not money, but the energy which keeps our civilization running. We have taken for granted the daily use of fossil fuel for our transportation system, for creating artificial environments in our houses or in the offices, for driving our factories and so forth. Only around 300 years ago, in 1709, it was the beginning of coal mining on a substantial scale in Britain. For the first time, it was possible to pumping technology to go deep underground and take fuels out of the earth for the first time in human history. That lead to a phenomenal change in the lifestyle of the people and today we are now beginning to get to the end of what we might call the age of fire. We haven’t realized that the resources are nonrenewable and extremely limited.Every year, across the world, we burn the equal amount of fossil fuel which requires two million years for the earth to generate. Cities are only 3-4% of the land areas on the earth’s surface, but these consume 80% of the resources and ultimately leaves a desert planet for future generations.
Bangladesh is no longer an exception to such exploitation culture. For example Dhaka, the image of our capital city is just an urban mayhem, thousands of cars occupying the entire street, but stacked in horrendous traffic jam. The engines are running but standing still, consuming fuel to create an artificial cooling environment inside. This is the craziest way of burning fossil fuel to make the highly unsustainable lifestyle possible here. Another means of comfort is air cooler, a very common household and office appliance has become the symbol of comfort and progress. An air conditioning system requires 65% of total electricity consumption in a medium size dwelling. It is even worst in the modern commercial buildings. The fashion of using huge glass facades, which invite the sun inside, turn the indoor environment into a heat chamber, warmer than the usual weather temperature and then we are running the largest capacity air cooling machine to make it comfortable afterwards.
We have adopted a wasteful lifestyle. We are no more interested in local products. It is tough to find a vernacular product in our markets today. Billion Dollar consumer goods from footwear to building finishes, most of them are imported from a thousand kilometers away, from the country of production to the country of consumption. There is a latent energy embedded in every foreign product we consume. 500 million containers are transported every year, which adds a percentage of fuel in every consumer goods we choose from outside of our country. Apparently, here in Dhaka, energy puts on a fantastic show every night. The days seem no more than a pale reflection of nights that turn the city into an artificial sparkling night. The more the world develops, the greater its thirst for energy. Everywhere, machines dig, bore and rip from the earth the very limited amount of reserved resources to keep running the illusion of our lavish lifestyle. But what we did to the environment?
The cost of our actions is high. Energy derived from the fossil fuel discharge enormous amount of solid, liquid and gaseous waste. Every second it is damaging our livability in this earth in an enormous scale. Life appeared on the earth around 4 billion years ago and we humans are only 200,000 years old. In this tinny segment of time, we have changed the face of our planet. We haven’t understood that we’re depleting what nature provides. The contamination is catastrophic today. Our activities release gigantic quantities of carbon dioxide. We have distressed the Earth’s climatic balance. Level of carbon emission, carbon instability, sea levels all are going up; on the other hand, it is decreasing our reserves of natural resources.
All eyes are on the poles, where the effects of global warming are most visible. It’s happening fast, very fast. The ice cap has lost 40% of its thickness in 40 years. The concentration of carbon dioxide hasn’t been so high for several hundred thousand years. Humanity has never lived in an atmosphere like this. Extreme example is right in front of our eyes. The air quality of Dhaka city has been detected as among the highest polluted in the world, according to the research of Department of Environment (DoE). According to a survey of the National Institute of Diseases of Chest and Hospital (NIDCH), nearly seven million people in Bangladesh suffer from asthma; more than half of them children.
The major driving factor behind such catastrophe–worldwide– is our uncontrolled consumption of fossil fuels and it is an extraordinary lifestyle craving for more and more to consume. Majority of the people are affected by this action without having participated directly in this extraordinary lifestyle. It’s beyond imagination what is coming to us in upcoming decades, if we continue to keep going as luxuriously but carelessly as we do today. It’s time to knock every wall. What’s important is not what’s gone, but what remains.
Recently some of the countries have broken the trend. They have set out the examples of sustainable lifestyle. It is a consensus that the demand of the time can’t be ignored, but still there are alternatives. It is the green aesthetics of life. There are alternative sources of energy that can meet the demand and also have the minimum or no environmental impact. In every hour, the sun gives the earth the same amount of energy that is equivalent to the complete energy demand of humanity in one year. Contemporary technologies offer us to capture the sustainable energy from the sun and use it to support the dynamic lifestyle.
Such an instance is “Solarsiedlung am Schlierberg”, Germany’s ecological capital, has emphasized power production from the start by smartly incorporating a series of large rooftop solar panels that also works like an effective sunshade and allows the project to produce four times the amount of energy it consumes! The village is not only surviving on sun’s renewable energy but contributing to the national electricity grid. Even the cost of renewable energy can replace the cost of fossil fuel dramatically.
A large number of regions in the world have already adopted a sustainable lifestyle and as well as environmentally friendly energy production technologies. These are no more experiments, but examples today, they testify to a new awareness. However, being a large energy driven city Dhaka has not shown yet any significant concern for sustainable development. National policies, planning and urban design sector in our country haven’t yet initiated any strong energy use standards to minimize consumption. There is no substantial initiative to make people understand and promote renewable energy for a better future for our cities. We are already running late to realize the green aesthetics of our time.