I'm about to blog about this issue concerning sustainable infrastructure in Port of Spain, Trinidad? Is it wise to build it and "they will come," or should more emphasis be given to the infrastructure already built, one which the people already embrace and are comfortable with?
Hi Astrid, I definitely think it comes to mindset which is a result of culture. For example what is sustainable in one culture won't be in another because of their cultural beliefs. I think that we should be focusing on what is available already, talking with the individuals involved, and asking them what they want, and what they think will work. We should tread very carefully when suggesting ideas that we think might be better, to ensure we are not being ethnocentric.
I'd have to say that while everything is culturally dependent, sustainable development is usually based on measurable guidelines, like LEED building and construction certification. So, here in Dallas, for example, we're doing both. The idea is to ensure that new buildings are either silver or gold LEED certifide, and retrofit older structures to make them more efficient. The most inefficient homes are found in lower-income neighborhoods, so we're using stimulus money to do that.
That being said, the motivation behind sustainable development has a huge semiotic cutlural component. Dallas is a city that has an ethos of bigger and better. Texas actually does, but Dallas exemplifies that more than any other Texas city. So, people in City Hall actually want to lead the world in sustainable development partly because it's the right thing to do, but I think more becaue they just want to beat everybody else. There's always talk about how we compare to Chicago, or Germany, or Dubai. "What Houston did what! We have to recycle more and put in a new train system!"
I'm new to the area, but I've never seen anything like it. It shows that the motivation and rationale for sustainability is not dependent on a single paradigm. You can use hubris to accomplish anything. You know those big ideas that anthropologists have? The holistic ones that include the big picture that we think no one will ever get? They love those here. We're in the middle of a recession so they decided to start building the world's largest urban part. I didn't some checking and in 1982 during the last recession, their strategy was to grow out of it, while everyone else scaled back.