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Managing these times of Reckoning, with Justice

by Henry MacLean

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Monday, September 7, 2020

As America launches into the final eight weeks of the 2020 campaign, there is an overriding sense of a reckoning in the air, a quickening in our collective unconscious for coming to terms  with past mistakes or misdeeds. One could say, this is what transformation looks like, or the Chinese word for crisis (Weiji), which really means an opportunity for a “changing point”.

Of course, the tendency in many is to recoil from the outer world or find a way to adjust to the daily bombardment of incessant news, underscoring gross ineptitude and perhaps even willful negligence from national leaders scarcely imagined,  even just one year ago. Looking back on the relentless norm breaking revelations of this past year, we ache for a chance to catch our breath from the daily jaw dropping allegations involving this president, who “we” theoretically put in place, to represent and protect us.

On the brink of 190,000 fatalities from the COVID 19 pandemic in the US, this crisis has helped spark (and compound) a renewed understanding of what 400 years of endemic racism means in our culture. African and Native Americans communities are not only disproportionally vulnerable to the brutal effects of this pandemic, they are also more susceptible to the third existential crisis unfolding in our lives, climate change and the accompanying environmental degradation, pollution and accompanying health disasters. All of this adds to the 4th crisis, our worst economic drop on record, and the growing wealth disparity that undermines and fuels the growing sense of injustice, and of course anticipation circling around this upcoming election.

Working to secure a climate friendly future is something all NESEA members are committed to, as an investment for this and the next generation of all races on this planet. Yet, we live in a country that is still deeply divided on the subject of the Climate Crisis that our members have been focused on for almost five decades. A 2010 Yale study on Americans Knowledge of Climate Change “found that 63 percent of Americans believe that global warming is happening, but many do not understand why. In this assessment, only 8 percent of Americans have knowledge equivalent to an A or B, 40 percent would receive a C or D, and 52 percent would get an F."

Ten years later, this 2020 Pew Research Center article confirmed the sad news that “partisanship is a stronger factor in people’s beliefs about climate change than is their level of knowledge and understanding about science.” In October 2019, roughly nine-in-ten Democrats with a high level of knowledge about science (89%) said human activity contributes a great deal to climate change, compared with 41% of Democrats with low science knowledge, based on an 11-item knowledge index. By contrast, Republicans with a high level of science knowledge were no more likely than those with a low level of knowledge to say human activity plays a strong role in climate change.

To further back up this study, a Cornell Alliance for Science article from 2018 shows that this strong polarization around climate change might be largely an American phenomenon. They cite a 2018 study in Nature Climate Change, examining the links between conservative/liberal beliefs and climate skepticism across multiple countries. The researchers found another correlation: …. between the dependency of a country on fossil fuels — and its resulting high per-capita carbon emissions and climate skepticism, suggesting that perhaps fossil fuel industry vested interests could be skewing political conversations in some nations.  "…conservatives in countries with high carbon emissions have more of a vested interest in rejecting climate science, due to the fossil fuel industry’s investment in that country.”

The research also took a hard look at correlations between climate skepticism and beliefs in such conspiracy theories, like the 9/11 attacks, allegedly covered up by the American government and avoided by the press. “They found that the more Americans believed conspiracies generally, the more they also thought that climate change was a hoax,” and also confirmed that.. “This relationship was not found in the vast majority of countries.”  The team also stated: … one could reach the pessimistic conclusion that the debate around climate change is deeply mired in conspiratorial thinking and /or politically polarized ‘culture wars’. However, a broader narrative emerging from our data is that there is nothing inherent to conspiratorial ideation or conservative ideologies that predisposes people to reject climate science.

In the midst of this perfect storm of existential concerns; the pandemic, endemic racism, the climate crisis and economic injustice, we now approach another familiar annual tradition of reckoning, for the somber events of 9/11. This coming Friday through Sunday, Sept 11-13, I encourage my NESEA colleagues to drop in on some of Justice Rising, a free online conference focused on the continuing struggle for the truth about the events of that day, and the destructive trajectory of the post-9/11 world. The extensive evidence researched by the Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth has unfortunately uncovered a very troubling pattern of willful negligence, hiding in plain sight, just below the veneer of false nationalism, for almost two decades now.

Back in the spring of 2019, a petition to the Boston Society of Architects (BSA) Board was signed by 25 NESEA and BSA colleagues over the severe restrictions placed on a BSA Sustainability Education Committee event entitled, Re-evaluating the 9/11 World Trade Center Disaster. It was voted down unanimously, even though the 3 principal petitioners (including this author) were barred from presenting our arguments in person. We were hoping to share the expectation bias of the Official Theory for the collapse of Towers WTC 1 & 2, a collapse scenario fully challenged by Newton’s laws of gravity, as outlined  in the 7 minutes of this 2013 documentary (beginning at minute 3:12.58).

Just one year later, in March 2020, one of the two invited speakers for that BSA-SEC event, Leroy Hulsey, Ph.D., PE, SE, and chair of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), completed his team’s 4 year study publishing their final report, A Structural Reevaluation of the Collapse of the World Trade Center 7. One of the presentations on September 12 will feature Dr. Hulsey and the UAF team’s work through film Director Dylan Avery’s new documentary SEVEN due out this fall, also previewed on PBS this summer.

Whistleblowers play a central role in ensuring that government funds go to their intended purposes, as outlined by the National Whistleblower Center. We need to make sure that the waste, fraud, and abuse that accompany large-scale government investments and investigations are fully addressed as these compounding crises continue. As stewards of our natural and building environment, we should embrace accountability at all levels, and demand justice on all fronts as we move through these turbulent times. Bringing a Green New Deal into reality, will demand the kind of honesty and transparency we are now due, and expect from a new Biden / Harris administration.

Dearly departed John Lewis made it abundantly clear, making Good Trouble was not an option but a necessity for him, and should likewise be for us. As an Associate Chaplain at Yale in1959, my father Burton was proud to help welcome a 29-year-old Martin Luther King Jr. to Woolsey Hall. Among other things, MLK asked the 2,000 in attendance that day to join him in “his maladjustment to the madness of militarism,” adding that “the salvation of the world lies in the hands of the maladjusted.” As Black Lives Matter has shown us these past few months, moving from a fringe group to the mainstream can be quick indeed. We owe it to this next generation to support the “hands of the maladjusted” as we join to address the injustices of our time, and help fulfill those prophetic words from MLK, 6 decades ago in New Haven.

Our Mission

NESEA advances sustainability practices in the built environment by cultivating a cross-disciplinary community where practitioners are encouraged to share, collaborate and learn.

Henry MacLean AIA, LEED AP is an architect, educator, and principal of his firm Timeless Architecture. Promoting green design in the northeast since 1987 as an active member of the Boston Society of Architects, he has developed curricula and taught at the Sustainable Design Institute (at the Boston Architectural College) and the Architecture Dept. at Wentworth Institute of Technology. He chaired the Town of Milton Alternate Energy committee between 2006 and 2015 (where he lives and works) and has has been an active member of NESEA since 1992.

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