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Opening Remarks at BuildingEnergy Boston 2019

by Michelle Apigian

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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

According to many attendees, this year marked the most inspirational keynote address in the history of BuildingEnergy Boston! Conference Co-Chair Michelle Apigian of ICON Architecture set the stage for the 2019 keynote speakers: Chris Magwood, Ace McArleton, and Jacob Racusin. Read Michelle's address below:

We’re so excited to be kicking off this conference. This year, our focus was to explicitly emphasize sessions that will equip you with resources, tools, and knowledge to put into immediate action. And that is because immediate action is what is necessary.

We now have 1 decade to right our ship – to help hold mother earth to less than a 1.5 degree C temperature rise. For decades we’ve been using the sky as an open sewer, filling it with carbon, and our oceans as landfills, filling them with toxins and trash. While we’ve known this to be a problem for decades, we’ve unfortunately procrastinated and now it’s crunch time.

Climate change is radically transforming the ecological system of the earth, raising the temperature, disrupting the water cycle, because so much of the ocean’s water vapor is being boiled into the sky. Climate change is ravaging our planet and has already done irreparable harm.

BUT Climate change is also the greatest threat to human rights in the 21st century. It is having a profound impact on people across the world, and their rights to fresh air, clean water, health, education, livelihood, and shelter.

Climate shocks lead to drought, flooding, fires, and unpredictable seasons, all of which cause untold damage and suffering and cost society enormous amounts of resources and dollars. And, what we are doing to the planet affects our most vulnerable communities the most: low income populations, the elderly, our children. Many of those who are suffering disproportionately do not drive cars, do not have electricity, do not consume significantly.

So – that’s the HEAVY, bad news. This HAS to be THE decade of a sustainability revolution that has the magnitude of the industrial revolution but the speed of the digital revolution.

And in spite of the enormous task - there is some great news.

We have EVERY thing we need to create this revolution, We know what we need to do – stop using fossil fuels, reduce emissions, conserve and generate renewable energy.  We have EVERY thing we need to clean up our transportation system, our buildings, and the grid, so we stop bleeding energy and carbon.

The other great news is that the face of the environmentalist has changed because of the associated justice issues. It’s now an issue for faith-based organizations, for young people, for the women’s movement, and for communities of color. And that’s critical, because if we’re going to win, we have to be inclusive so the environmental movement looks like all of us and represents all of us.

Climate change is the greatest challenge to humanity and justice in our world, but our collective response to it has the opportunity to address both the environmental and the social justice issues that have plagued us.  We cannot leave our most vulnerable behind.  All voices must be heard.

If we want to change society, then we have to tell an alternative story. I hope that in 2030, the next generation will see a world with a full sense of renewal, thriving communities, new jobs, a healing climate, and hope in their hearts.  They will be grateful for our action and they will wonder at how we found the courage and resolve to get it done. And we will be able to say that our commitment was our power and that we came together in solidarity for our shared planet and all its people.

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.

Michelle Apigian AIA, AICP, LEED AP, CPHC, is an Associate at ICON Architecture in Boston, MA. Michelle is an architect, planner and urban designer who combines optimism and pragmatism to design sustainable environments that strengthen communities and celebrate the uniqueness of place. She has worked on a broad array of project types and scales, from large, multi-phase master plans and design and construction of new multifamily developments to strategic infill, adaptive reuse and modernization projects. Her work includes the first Passive House certified multifamily project in...

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