If there is one lesson to be learned from the designers, thinkers and curators presenting at Conversations in Design: A World Without Oil, it is the fact that we need the stuff for a lot of uses far more important than pushing boxes of steel around on roads.
When one realizes that we are using a cubic mile of the stuff every year (that is the Eiffel Tower on the right for scale), it becomes pretty obvious that this isn't going to continue forever, and we have to begin to think about what we are going to use it for.
When you realize what we would have to build to replace the energy from all that oil, like building four dams the size of the Three Gorges Dam, 52 nuclear power plants or 104 coal fired power plants every year it becomes obvious that switching to Tesla Roadsters and plug-in hybrids is not going to make very much of a difference.
Nadine Gudz, Director of Sustainability Strategy for InterfaceFLOR Canada opened the session; Interface was the lead sponsor for the event, but did not give the usual thank you and hello. Interface isn't kidding when it says it is trying to be a sustainable company; they have pledged to be fossil fuel free by 2020, quite a challenge for a carpet company.
As Interface founder and chairman, Ray Anderson says, getting off oil is part of an even more ambitious and challenging commitment that we have made under the umbrella of "Mission Zero"; that is, to get off ALL fossil fuel-derived energy (coal) and materials (natural gas) by 2020. That means using renewable energy, and closed loop, recycled petro-derived or naturally renewable materials. And beyond those commitments, we intend to eliminate any other negative environmental impacts our operations and products may still have, as we strive for zero environmental footprint.
More on Interface:
Interface Carpet Keeps Cleaning Up Its Act
Fritz Haeg of Edible Estates fame blames it all on Le Corbusier, who wrote in Radiant City:
"The cities will be part of the country; I shall live 30 miles from my office in one direction, under a pine tree; my secretary will live 30 miles away from it too, in the other direction, under another pine tree. We shall both have our own car. We shall use up tires, wear out road surfaces and gears, consume oil and gasoline. All of which will necessitate a great deal of work ... enough for all."
He notes that oil let us separate where we live from where we make things and grow food, and that we have to reconnect.
Sheila Kennedy wants us all to generate our energy independent of the grid, in an oil-free world. Among other ideas, she offers the Soft House, which "transforms the household curtain into a set of energy harvesting textiles that distribute renewable power, adapt to the changing space needs of living and working in a compact home and generate up to 16,000 watt-hours of electricity- about half the daily power needs of an average household in the United States.
More on Sheila Kennedy in TreeHugger:
Sheila Kennedy and the Portable Light Project
MIT Architect Develops Solar 'Curtains' for Home Applications
Bruce Mau calls himself an optimist, and doesn't think we are running out of oil, that we are all smart people and will keep finding more of the stuff. He doesn't want to live in a world without oil. Or Karim. [Rashid, Mr. Plastic Fantastic.]
About the only thing that made sense in his nonsensical and incoherent presentation was that Rachel Gotlieb did a tremendous job curating a fascinating and important conference.
Many have called climate change the defining issue of our time; listening to Conversations in Design: A World Without Oil makes one think that our oil problems are going to hit a lot sooner and a lot harder.