MM#17 – Could Our Green Buildings Save Lives?

What is a life worth? Would $400,000 save one? How about $100,000 or even $10,000? How much would it take to convince someone to keep going?

Each year in Australia around 2,000 people take their own lives… that’s 6 a day. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, suicide rates in rural areas are 33% higher than major cities and an alarming 189% higher in very remote areas. Wherever I looked I found a similar story in other countries.

MBT_13-09-2012_ROP_06_MKY300312suicide_fct627x386x134_t460

photo credit; Rural Weekly. Click image for link.

This installment in the City Slicker series puts a face to the city-rural disconnect, and shows how our eco-offsets might contribute to lowering the rural suicide rates in Australia and indeed in much of the developed world.

It’s difficult to talk about this without sounding glib or self-serving, but I feel compelled to put the idea forward to add another dimension to our green rating tools. One of the greatest benefits of the eco-offsets concept is the upside for our rural communities.

Let’s look at it this way; instead of spending $400,000 on a cogeneration plant on a city building, what would happen if we spent that on re-vegetation in a nearby country area? The trees [about 106,000 of them!] need to be planted by someone. They need to be tended. Fences might be needed. Down the timeline someone might even be harvesting selected timber from the plantings. There is also the agricultural [or ‘agroecological’] uplift. In fact this amount of investment from one larger city building is enough to kick-start new businesses and livelihoods in the country. So why aren’t we doing this?

The point is this: by directing some of our city buildings’ investment towards the greater environmental benefit [rather than to expensive add-ons], we could also be strengthening the resilience of rural communities and sharing some hope. In our race towards ever-greener buildings we need to keep a line of sight to the social opportunities.

In the next City Slicker installations we’ll look at the mechanism for how we might tie these rural restorations to our city buildings, and thereby have them recognised in our green rating tools. We’ll then finish by touching on each of the most popular green rating tools to see how eco-offsets might fit in.

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