The Tyee Interviews John "Dr. Sustainability" Robinson

John Robinson is a professor at the Institute of Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia. He's involved with the Center for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS), a "bleeding-edge lab dedicated to sustainability research and, by extension, the challenge of global warming" that will be completed in Vancouver in 2008. The building itself deserves its own article and will be "one of the greenest structures on Earth", eventually producing surpluses of energy and being a research test bed for sustainable building technologies and services. Back to John Robinson, you can read The Tyee's interview here.

Picture above: Architectural rendering of CIRS building at the Great Northern Way Campus

A few particularly interesting quotes from the interview:

On why we need to get regular people talking about global warming:

"Politicians can’t act without constituents, and markets can’t deliver without customers. If we don’t engage citizens at a level that has never been done before, we are not going to lower greenhouse-gas emissions, because the politicians won’t be able to act -- they will be cut off at the knees. Having lunch with the deputy minister and convincing him that we need to act now is great, but without the constituency, you’ve got nothing."

On how building inspectors might save the world:

"If I convince you to retrofit your house for energy efficiency, you can save maybe 50 per cent, but you have to do this approach person by person by person. Getting the building code changed, on the other hand, changes every single new house. The costs wouldn’t be noticeable. If you are paying five or six hundred thousand for a new house, how much more is it going to add to make it energy-efficient? Potentially nothing, depending on the design, but say it’s a couple of per cent, are you going to see that? The bathroom fixtures cost more than that. If the building code changes on every single house, or if you can’t sell your house without putting a label on the door and showing what the operating costs are, and having some minimal retrofits done, then the whole market changes."

On why you should have yourself a nice day anyway:

"If you don’t have any optimism, why bother? There is an irony of history that we always seem to figure out a way to do things at the last minute, and we are at that last moment in terms of certain consequences. Mother Gaia doesn’t care -- not at all. The cockroach future is fine for her. So it’s us. Is that the world we want?

::Dr. Sustainability: UBC’s John Robinson on fixing the climate, winning converts, and staying upbeat. via ::DeSmogBlog