Welcome to another January, this time in the year 2019. The month, of course, is named after the Roman god Janus, who has two faces, one looking backward, one forward. Because, you know, to really know where you’re going, you have to understand where you’ve been. 2019 may be a brand new year, but it’s not a blank slate. We arrive here with full knowledge of what has come before (even if some of us might not have full knowledge of what we did at that New Year’s Eve party).
This looking back thing is actually quite important. For example, you look at that photo at the top of this article and see a fire with fireworks exploding in it. But what else is there? Is there more meaning to it than a simple bonfire with fireworks?
Maybe. We can gather more evidence to find out. That’s what the FBI and local police and scientists do. They see evidence of something that is (or was) and investigate to find out how it got that way. In that case of that sparkly fire, here’s a slightly earlier photo:
Oh, my. What’s this? Some object has been put onto the fire. It looks like it’s hanging from a chain, too. And is that person on the other side of the fire holding the other end of the chain? Yes, I think so.
Looking closely at the fire, the fuel beneath the object seems to have branches with little needles. Could it be a Christmas tree?
And what about that object? It has a shape. There’s a pinkish extension hanging down onto the stones around the fire, a bigger section in the middle, and… is that a mouth on the other end?
Hmmmm. Let’s see…
Why yes. That’s a giant possum dressed up as a sorcerer. Because, of course, this was the Possum Drop party that I attend each New Year’s Eve. We crowned a new Possum Queen (it wasn’t me). We dropped the possum onto the fire at midnight. The possum exploded for more than three minutes (below). We held the parade and heard the new Possum Queen’s speech. And then we danced and partied into the wee hours! It was great fun, as always.
But looking backward and forward applies to building science as well. We’ve come a long way in our understanding of how buildings work and how to design, build, commission, and maintain them for optimal comfort, healthfulness, efficiency, and durability.
We also understand that buildings contribute 40% or so to the carbon emissions that keep raising the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. We’ve watched and watched as the CO2 level climbed higher and higher and now has topped 400 parts per million. The Environmental Protection Agency issued a report in November showing how dire the situation is now.
I’ve been reading The Madhouse Effect by Michael Mann and Tom Toles lately and I highly recommend it. The writing makes the issue easy to understand and lays it all out there. I’ll review it in this space later this month.
So, let’s look back and see how we got here. But mostly, let’s look forward and find a good, sustainable path to a healthy planet and happy future.
Happy New Year!
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