11/17/2016

New View: Carbon Is Not the Enemy

Carbon dioxide is bad—it causes global warming. Carbon dioxide is political—U.S. democrats want regulations to reduce emissions into the atmosphere and republicans, led by president-elect Donald Trump, want to scrap such rules. But William McDonough says all that is wrong. “Carbon is not the enemy,” he said in a keynote speech at the recent SXSW Eco conference. The same phrase headlines his new commentary published today in Nature. “It is we who have made carbon toxic,” he writes. “In the right place, carbon is a resource and a tool.”

McDonough, founder of William McDonough + Partners, is a world-renowned architect, designer and urban planner. He has spearheaded several design movements—reflected in titles of his bestselling books such as Cradle to Cradle, and The Upcycle—as well as the idea of a circular economy. They all champion smarter ways to design products, buildings and communities to use resources more sustainably, generate less waste and create positive impacts rather than just minimize negative ones.

His latest point is that citizens and their politicians have to change the conversation about carbon. Climate change, he maintains, is a design failure, a breakdown in the natural carbon cycle caused by humans. By rethinking how we design things, especially cities, we can restore the natural carbon cycle and exploit it for human gain, creating positive environmental impacts rather than harm.

He claims that the focus of carbon regulation is also out of whack. “Striving for less pollution means we will do less bad,” he noted at SXSW Eco. “Instead we should ask, what can we do that creates more good?”

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