I was recently listening to an interview with famed primatologist and environmentalist Jane Goodall in which she was discussing her new book. At 87 years of age and having seen so many negative changes to our world over her lifetime, she remains full of hope for the future. “How is this possible?” I thought. As someone who understands the specific details of natural ecosystems and has seen so many negative impacts on those environments, how has she remained so hopeful?
Without summarizing the entire interview, I can tell you the short answer: People.
It does seem ironic that people, who are one of the main instigators of climate change, are also a source of hope for Goodall. And the idea is not about the power of people through government or large organizations, but rather how the power of the individual making daily decisions and taking action — when combined with what others are doing — can dramatically impact our trajectory. Those people also include our youth, and through Goodall’s Roots and Shoots program, children are taught about the interconnectedness of all things and how to become the compassionate leaders of our future.
I think there is a powerful message here for us as architects. The challenges that face us regarding climate change, prosperity, equity and diversity, public understanding (or lack thereof) of what we do, and keeping up with constant change can be overwhelming. It is easy to become apathetic when obstacles are large. We may feel like a mouse next to an elephant, but our individual actions can make a difference. Most of these issues are complex and cannot be immediately solved in a few short-term moves. Rather, they require patience and actions that build upon one another over time. We cannot wait to address these issues, but we must recognize that solutions will be part of a long game — a marathon, if you will — that requires the participation of every individual.
Which of these issues are you passionate about? What can you do each day to make a difference regarding that issue? Establish a recycling program in your office. Search out sustainable products to update your standard specifications. Speak to a local Rotary Club about what architects do. Hire someone from a different background than yours. Get involved in your local AIA chapter. Take an education course about a topic that is new to you. Most importantly: Do not be apathetic. You can make a difference, and collectively our small actions will lead us to win that long game.
The issues of our profession mentioned above are also targeted goals of the Society’s strategic plan. That plan was created by the Board of Directors, which includes representation from each chapter in the state. In 2022, we will continue to focus on these issues and create actionable items to move us forward. At the state level, the work will involve the board, committees, and staff, but we also need you to act at the local level, at the front line of the profession. I urge you to engage in whatever way you can and help us make a difference. Together, our collective efforts will show that we, like Jane Goodall, have hope through people for our future.
Eva Read-Warden, AIA, is a principal at The Architex Studio in Bryan and the 2022 TxA president.