Mind & Matter


The Number One Earth Day Concern: Us

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"Pharma in the Plumbing." Photo by James Day for Time.


As the fortieth anniversary of Earth Day approaches, sustainability advocates take stock in the status of our current environmental scorecard. Four decades ago, headlines included news of toxic pesticides as well as urban smog—and the polluted Cuyahoga River caught fire.

As a recent Time article indicates, the biggest problem now is not the state of the environment; but of the state of our own health. In "The Perils of Plastic," Bryan Walsh exposes the extent of damage caused by the many synthetic polymers developed since World War II, which have largely gone unregulated by the U.S. government.

In a recent lecture given at the University of Minnesota School of Architecture, McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC) environmental chemist Michael Werner corroborated the inadequacy of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, which has allowed manufacturers to keep information about their materials a secret. As a result, endocrine-disrupting pollutants like Bisphenol A and phthalates have proliferated unchecked, leading to increased levels of many diseases.

Fortunately, the Obama administration comprehends the extent of the problem and intends to make positive changes. According to New Jersey senator Frank Lautenberg, "It’s obvious that the system doesn’t work. We can’t permit this assault on our children’s health—and our own health—to continue."



Comments (9 Total)

  • Posted by: thegreenchick | Time: 2:30 PM Friday, April 23, 2010

    Amazing! Are all architects born with there heads next to their colons? Or, does that come with the degree? If half the energy you are all using to war with one another (and dispute your education, expanse of or lack of) was used to research, solve, drive and motivate for positive change, the job would be checked off of the to-do list for mankind. Get a grip guys. Get your head out and use your big heads to solve the problems rather than having a pissing contest on some blog.

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 1:05 PM Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    Improving our environment is one of the most conservative things we could ever do.

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 12:34 PM Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    Some of you appear to need a basic primer in environmental issues. It's too easy to label those of us serious about making the earth safe for all living creatures as liberals, but maybe that's because we are liberal and progressive, and we simply have a higher level of education and understanding. This is the only earth we have, and we need to take care of it. If that means reducing the number of humans on the planet (or all humans) to allow the other species to survive, so be it.

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 11:33 AM Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    No doubt, Bob, you are retired from some sort of gubmint job, like teaching. I'm sure 'school' is where you got brainwashed, too, so no wonder you want those other posters to go back to school to 'get their brain right', so they'll think as you do. Since you now have so much free time on your hands, being retired and all (unless you're spending your days as a 'community organizer' LOL), maybe you should read "Atlas Shrugged" again. Stop the hand-wringing and chest-thumping, you pious little dweeb. If you want to REALLY help the earth, go to a third world country and make THEM stop their harmful ways, which make anything we do look like a grain of sand on the beach. Of course, if you you try to stop/damage their economies the way you march against ours, they'll probably have their own way of telling you to mind your own business. It is much safer to protest here, especially from up in that tower. I have to admit, though, at least the first few posters made me laugh out loud.Your problem, Bob, is that you obviously have a thin skin and no sense of humor. Like most liberals.

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  • Posted by: bobreedaia@yahoo.com | Time: 8:49 PM Monday, April 19, 2010

    Anonymous #1 - Congratulations on your commission; You are going to need to kiss a lot of other bureaucratic behind long before the federal government imposes any harmful sanctions on your client; Your client's lobbyists have more power and influence than you will ever know, and rather than allowing your project to be influenced by regulations, design a solution that is environmental example rather than a drain on the environment. Anonymous #2 – If you owned enough land that you could be so environmentally insensitive as to strip mine, well you would be part of the problem, wouldn’t you. Sounds like you might be part of the problem anyway… Learn how to research & specify materials, methods and materials that will help your firm market. Anonymous #3 – Not all building materials require extraction of minerals, nor do all factories spew filth. To all three ‘Anonymous’ posters, or posers, go back to school and learn how to be a real professional. Robert Reed, 1974 architectural graduate, retired Architect and proud observer of Earth Day.

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 5:06 PM Monday, April 19, 2010

    wow. it seems you guys are out of touch and have been playing ostrich for too long. do some research and get your answers, and don't rely on a small summary article to provide all the details. not that i am an obama advocate, but i am an ecologically minded individual from childhood. i have been a lifelong conservationist and neither party has done our earth any favors. unfortunately politics from either side of aisle boils down to grandstanding and not addressing the real issues.

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 2:33 PM Monday, April 19, 2010

    ".....leading to increased levels of many diseases." Where is the proof of this assertion? Oh, right. With Obama-types, you don't need no proof. Our firm was just commisioned to design a new building for a pharmaceutical company, but I bet Obama will put a stop to that now. Evil pharma.

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 2:27 PM Monday, April 19, 2010

    Well, I guess I can go to an Earth Day parade this year, for the first time since High School. I can go because our architectural office has no work, so I might as well go outside for the day. Way to focus on our REAL problems, people. I'd dig a strip mine myself if I thought it would put food on my family's plate.

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  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 2:04 PM Monday, April 19, 2010

    The best way to svae Mother Earth is to STOP building things. Absolutely stop. We'd have no need for mines extracting minerals from the earth, or factories spewing filth into the air. Oh, wait. I'm an architect. What will I do for a living? Please save us, Mr. Obama.

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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.