2020 AIA/ACSA Intersections Research Conference: CARBON

The Low-Carbon Life: The Pandemic and the Ponzi Scheme

Fall Conference Proceedings

Author(s): Thomas Fisher

The global events of 2020 – the Black Lives Matter protests, the climate-change-related catastrophes, and the COVID-19 pandemic – are all part of a collapsing, 500-year-old Ponzi Scheme with the planet that has enriched half a billion people across the globe (probably including everyone reading these words) through the exploitation of people of color, the extraction of finite fossil fuels, and the extinction of species and the increase in zoonotic disease. That Ponzi Scheme has also led to Jevons Paradox, in which well-intentioned efforts to reduce fossil-fuel use have led to an increase in the use of fossil fuels globally. The pandemic, in turn, has accelerated us into the future (as all pandemics do) and enlisted us all in a global experiment of living a low-carbon life, in which the demand for fossil fuels has greatly diminished as a result of our increasingly moving bits rather than bodies around the world. This challenges assumptions in the architectural profession about the value of single-use buildings or districts at a time when 2/3rds of the economy now occurs in people’s homes, about the need for new buildings in the face of a vast amount of empty space in existing ones, and about the need for more carbon-based construction given the enormous amount of carbon already embedded in the built environment. The low-carbon, post-Ponzi-Scheme life will require a new architecture ethic around multi-use buildings and mixed-use districts as well as a new architectural aesthetic around the reuse of existing buildings and the reimagining of neighborhoods.


Volume Editors
Corey T. Griffin & Erica Cochran Hameen