Our week 11 class was spent on a field trip to the United Nations. As a global, iconic landmark, this was a particularly exciting experience– not only having the opportunity to not only see the grounds where leaders across the world attend regularly, but being able to hear three highly-noted professionals in sustainability give a speech on their backgrounds, prospects and answer any outweighing questions from the group.

The talks were held in the Danish trusteeship council, which was built in 1952 by designer Finn Juhl who’s aim was to create a space where there would be little authority or hierarchy, ultimately allowing each nation to participate in an equal council discussion. As such, he built the seating in the hall in the shape of a horseshoe and while the integrity of the original design has remained, there have been numerous reconstructions due to the increase in the number of nations who joined the UN.

The first speaker was a Danish woman who based her presentation on the sustainable systems operating in Copenhagen, Denmark. The speech essentially highlighted the main differences between countries such as New York, with Copenhagen and other Scandic nations, demonstrating how their practices have been the most effective in reaching these environmental goals.

Given the size, geographic layout and design of Copenhagen, it was explained that these practices were implemented from the origins of the cities development. The necessitation for an effective transport system was created through the use of bike lanes, given the flat surfaces of the country and the quick and practical and efficient designs generated from the Governments lack of room to invest on anything that would be considered ‘experimental’ and wasteful, in every area of the countries industrialisation. As such, Copenhagen has prioritised strong mobility, primarily through generating what is known as ‘the best bicycle system in the world’.

These factors, along with the fundamental origins of the Scandinavian culture, allowed for a whole-hearted and combined effort towards a more sustainable and carbon neutral environment.

Another speaker was Laurie Kerr, architect Director of Policy at NYC Urban Green Council whose presentation exhibited her goals as a member of government, to work towards a carbon remission of 35% by 2025 and 80% by 2050. “There’s a moral imperative to act,” he said, calling it a significant step toward a “complete transition away from fossil fuels.” And it’s not just words because he released an accompanying 10-year plan that focuses on the city’s biggest source of emissions — its buildings. The city will pay for upgrades in private buildings if owners agree to preserve lower income apartments in those buildings.

Incorporated into NYC’s 10-year capital plan will be at least $1 billion for municipal building upgrades such as schools, hospitals, libraries, fire and police stations. Combined with private sector building retrofits, the plan is expected to produce $1.4 billion a year in energy savings while shaving off 10 percent of emissions (in addition to the 19 percent cuts under Mayor Michael Bloomberg from 2005 levels). The NYC Council is on board, announcing a package of supportive legislation.

Last speaker was the Dean of Parsons School of Design, Joel Towers, who predominately focused on the sustainability surrounding the goals and ambitions of a designer, which was significantly relative to the audience. To design for resilience and sustainability is to design with the intention of having nowhere to dispose your waste, as it essentially never disappears. We learned that there are 860 gigatons of CO2 emissions being produced, which will account for 2% rise in average global temperatures, which is an incredibly terrifying statistic.

Nevertheless, I learned a huge deal about the effects of a sufficiently opertating system, how they can be implanted, the risks and barriers involved with goals to generate a city, such a Copenhagen, but ultimately acknowledging that is infact possible.

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