If the “City of Lights” can turn off its switches, the nights may darken but the future stays bright. In December 2012, the French minister for energy and environment, Delphine Batho announced plans to switch off all lights inside and outside shops, office and public buildings (including the Eiffel tower) on Paris’ Champs Elysees between 1am-7am beginning July 2013.
As Energy Minister Batho said in November, “one of our main objectives is to change the culture. We need to end the cycle of producing more because we are consuming more. There should be sobriety in energy use”. While the lights aren’t out yet, the symbolic image of a pitch black Paris is power in poetry, evidence that the seemingly insurmountable issues of our time are not static problems but evolving possibilities. Across the continent, Dane Bjarke Ingels is not such a fan of sobriety, moralising or politicising when it comes to the environment. His architecture of hedonistic sustainability is brash, yes, and BIG. According to Bjarke, “sustainability can’t be a moral sacrifice or some sort of political dilemma…it has to be a design challenge”. His approach to design and architecture places humans within the environmental ecosystem. In BIG’s world, waste is turned to energy, apartments make mountains and a power plant doubles as a man-made ski slope. Humans become part of the design solution – not separate or above nature, but part of the whole.
In AP news and also from Copenhagen, we publish an essay by doctor, public health expert and serial over-achiever Alessandro Demaio, who looks at how his adopted city is promoting urban well-being thanks to the humble bicycle, human-scale planning and the rarity (and relative expense) of a Big Mac. In other news and closer to home, next week, I’ll be in Sydney at the Cake Wines x Tropfest pop-up bar with economist turned social entrepreneur Simon Griffiths (of Shebeen and Who Gives a Crap) and social and environmental go-getter Sally Hill (of Wildwon, Youth Food Movement and Sustahood) for an Assemble Papers-presented conversation exploring visions for social good and smaller footprints. Sally first told me about the lights going out (soon) in Paris and it’s with great anticipation that I look forward to hearing, learning and sharing the collective brainpower and dynamism of Sally and Simon. If you’re in Sydney and as ever, come drink + think with us.
Image above by Louis Abate from Flickr, via CC-license.