“To sustain” means to be aware of the factors that tend to hold up and nourish our human life on this planet. The natural system within which we live, love, work, play and learn is our environment.
Everyone’s environment is different, be it the sparse areas of deserts, ice fields and tundra, or the green areas of the European, American and Asiatic countries. In my home state of North Carolina, we live in a “green” environment. Historically, we date back to the Lost Colony of 1587 on Roanoke Island. When Captains Amadas and Barlow landed on these eastern shores in 1584, they were wont to say, “This is the goodliest land under the cope of heaven.”
As a landscape architect raised on those shores, educated at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC; well-traveled throughout Europe, North Africa and the Near East as a fellow of the American Academy in Rome for two years; apprenticed to esteemed landscape architects in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and having practiced my profession for 50 years and remained a staunch environmentalist for 76 years, I believe I have the experience to address the concept and call for the design of sustainable environments on our nation’s campuses and elsewhere. Indeed, our “seats of learning” should be beacons of sustainability.
Yet in this country, we fall dangerously low on the scale of sustainability. Possibly, we did not invent the throwaway society (until about 1940), but we certainly champion it in every way. Landfills across the nation are filled with the debris of our cultural history, with the trash of our existence, and with the possibilities of not “rebirth” but continuation of this destructive practice on a grand scale. We trash our resources, which are finite. We trash our future through overindulgence and waste. And we trash the futures of our children – our students — by not educating them as to the world they will inherit from us, a world deplete of resources and opportunities.
I believe I can speak to this issue based on a lifetime of environmentalism and five decades of professional advocacy and practice at environmental conservation and sustainable design. Indeed, I believe I must speak to this – to working diligently towards convincing others that we must embrace a “greener” world before it is too late. — Dick Bell