Is autonomy really the goal?

Over at Design Oberver’s Places journal, William W. Braham writes about the current trend towards environmentalism as a form of survivalism. This movement is characterized by the type of autonomous, resilient net-zero buildings in voque today. Yet, such approaches are Braham suggests misdirected. Drawing on the writings of George Bataille on a planetary scaled general economy, Brahan questions whether any kind of desirable survival can be achieved through total autonomy.

In an important sense environmental design these days can be seen as the scaling-up of survivalism — as moving beyond the purchase of a backup generator, some tanks of water, or a photovoltaic panel to the conceptualization and design of autonomous, self-powered buildings. All of which raise critical questions. First: how independent can a household (or building or business) really be? And second: to what degree is environmental design just another form of disaster-preparedness, dedicated only to matters of survival? Or can it offer something different?

He goes on to contend that we must make our environmentalism go beyond this sort of design survivalism. The answer he believes is “to attend to the waste — not just to what is discarded but also to what is expended in the production of the things we buy and use and eat, and to understand this expenditure as the key to the prosperity of our larger ecosystem.

Such an approach I would suggest looks at the linkages and networks of a more natural, cyclical form of autonomy, which rather than simply seeking to further atomize and disconnect from contemporary conditions, increases connections and deepens them to become more ecosystemic, regenerative and distributed infrastructurally…

Read more (here)


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