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  • In 1962, with Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring,"

  • I think for people like me in the world of the making of things,

  • the canary in the mine wasn't singing.

  • And so the question that we might not have birds

  • became kind of fundamental to those of us wandering around

  • looking for the meadowlarks that seemed to have all disappeared.

  • And the question was, were the birds singing?

  • Now, I'm not a scientist, that'll be really clear.

  • But, you know, we've just come from this discussion of what a bird might be.

  • What is a bird?

  • Well, in my world, this is a rubber duck.

  • It comes in California with a warning --

  • "This product contains chemicals known by the State of California

  • to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm."

  • This is a bird.

  • What kind of culture would produce a product of this kind

  • and then label it and sell it to children?

  • I think we have a design problem.

  • Someone heard the six hours of talk that I gave

  • called "The Monticello Dialogues" on NPR, and sent me this as a thank you note --

  • "We realize that design is a signal of intention,

  • but it also has to occur within a world,

  • and we have to understand that world in order to

  • imbue our designs with inherent intelligence,

  • and so as we look back at the basic state of affairs

  • in which we design, we, in a way, need to go to the primordial condition

  • to understand the operating system and the frame conditions of a planet,

  • and I think the exciting part of that is the good news that's there,

  • because the news is the news of abundance,

  • and not the news of limits,

  • and I think as our culture tortures itself now

  • with tyrannies and concerns over limits and fear,

  • we can add this other dimension of abundance that is coherent,

  • driven by the sun, and start to imagine

  • what that would be like to share."

  • That was a nice thing to get.

  • That was one sentence.

  • Henry James would be proud.

  • This is -- I put it down at the bottom,

  • but that was extemporaneous, obviously.

  • The fundamental issue is that, for me,

  • design is the first signal of human intentions.

  • So what are our intentions, and what would our intentions be --

  • if we wake up in the morning, we have designs on the world --

  • well, what would our intention be as a species

  • now that we're the dominant species?

  • And it's not just stewardship and dominion debate,

  • because really, dominion is implicit in stewardship --

  • because how could you dominate something you had killed?

  • And stewardship's implicit in dominion,

  • because you can't be steward of something if you can't dominate it.

  • So the question is, what is the first question for designers?

  • Now, as guardians -- let's say the state, for example,

  • which reserves the right to kill, the right to be duplicitous and so on --

  • the question we're asking the guardian at this point is

  • are we meant, how are we meant,

  • to secure local societies, create world peace

  • and save the environment?

  • But I don't know that that's the common debate.

  • Commerce, on the other hand, is relatively quick,

  • essentially creative, highly effective and efficient,

  • and fundamentally honest, because we can't exchange

  • value for very long if we don't trust each other.

  • So we use the tools of commerce primarily for our work,

  • but the question we bring to it is,

  • how do we love all the children of all species for all time?

  • And so we start our designs with that question.

  • Because what we realize today is that modern culture

  • appears to have adopted a strategy of tragedy.

  • If we come here and say, "Well, I didn't intend

  • to cause global warming on the way here,"

  • and we say, "That's not part of my plan,"

  • then we realize it's part of our de facto plan.

  • Because it's the thing that's happening because we have no other plan.

  • And I was at the White House for President Bush,

  • meeting with every federal department and agency,

  • and I pointed out that they appear to have no plan.

  • If the end game is global warming, they're doing great.

  • If the end game is mercury toxification of our children

  • downwind of coal fire plants as they scuttled the Clean Air Act,

  • then I see that our education programs should be explicitly defined as,

  • "Brain death for all children. No child left behind."

  • (Applause)

  • So, the question is, how many federal officials

  • are ready to move to Ohio and Pennsylvania with their families?

  • So if you don't have an endgame of something delightful,

  • then you're just moving chess pieces around,

  • if you don't know you're taking the king.

  • So perhaps we could develop a strategy of change,

  • which requires humility. And in my business as an architect,

  • it's unfortunate the word "humility" and the word "architect"

  • have not appeared in the same paragraph since "The Fountainhead."

  • So if anybody here has trouble with the concept of design humility,

  • reflect on this -- it took us 5,000 years

  • to put wheels on our luggage.

  • So, as Kevin Kelly pointed out, there is no endgame.

  • There is an infinite game, and we're playing in that infinite game.

  • And so we call it "cradle to cradle,"

  • and our goal is very simple.

  • This is what I presented to the White House.

  • Our goal is a delightfully diverse, safe, healthy and just world,

  • with clean air, clean water, soil and power --

  • economically, equitably, ecologically and elegantly enjoyed, period.

  • (Applause)

  • What don't you like about this?

  • Which part of this don't you like?

  • So we realized we want full diversity,

  • even though it can be difficult to remember what De Gaulle said

  • when asked what it was like to be President of France.

  • He said, "What do you think it's like trying to run a country with 400 kinds of cheese?"

  • But at the same time, we realize that our products are not safe and healthy.

  • So we've designed products

  • and we analyzed chemicals down to the parts per million.

  • This is a baby blanket by Pendleton that will give your child nutrition

  • instead of Alzheimer's later in life.

  • We can ask ourselves, what is justice,

  • and is justice blind, or is justice blindness?

  • And at what point did that uniform turn from white to black?

  • Water has been declared a human right by the United Nations.

  • Air quality is an obvious thing to anyone who breathes.

  • Is there anybody here who doesn't breathe?

  • Clean soil is a critical problem -- the nitrification, the dead zones

  • in the Gulf of Mexico.

  • A fundamental issue that's not being addressed.

  • We've seen the first form of solar energy

  • that's beat the hegemony of fossil fuels in the form of wind

  • here in the Great Plains, and so that hegemony is leaving.

  • And if we remember Sheikh Yamani when he formed OPEC,

  • they asked him, "When will we see the end of the age of oil?"

  • I don't know if you remember his answer, but it was,

  • "The Stone Age didn't end because we ran out of stones."

  • We see that companies acting ethically in this world

  • are outperforming those that don't.

  • We see the flows of materials in a rather terrifying prospect.

  • This is a hospital monitor from Los Angeles, sent to China.

  • This woman will expose herself to toxic phosphorous,

  • release four pounds of toxic lead into her childrens' environment,

  • which is from copper.

  • On the other hand, we see great signs of hope.

  • Here's Dr. Venkataswamy in India, who's figured out

  • how to do mass-produced health.

  • He has given eyesight to two million people for free.

  • We see in our material flows that car steels don't become car steel again

  • because of the contaminants of the coatings --

  • bismuth, antimony, copper and so on.

  • They become building steel.

  • On the other hand, we're working with Berkshire Hathaway,

  • Warren Buffett and Shaw Carpet,

  • the largest carpet company in the world.

  • We've developed a carpet that is continuously recyclable,

  • down to the parts per million.

  • The upper is Nylon 6 that can go back to caprolactam,

  • the bottom, a polyolephine -- infinitely recyclable thermoplastic.

  • Now if I was a bird, the building on my left is a liability.

  • The building on my right, which is our corporate campus for The Gap

  • with an ancient meadow, is an asset -- its nesting grounds.

  • Here's where I come from. I grew up in Hong Kong,

  • with six million people in 40 square miles.

  • During the dry season, we had four hours of water every fourth day.

  • And the relationship to landscape was that of farmers who have been

  • farming the same piece of ground for 40 centuries.

  • You can't farm the same piece of ground for 40 centuries

  • without understanding nutrient flow.

  • My childhood summers were in the Puget Sound of Washington,

  • among the first growth and big growth.

  • My grandfather had been a lumberjack in the Olympics,

  • so I have a lot of tree karma I am working off.

  • I went to Yale for graduate school,

  • studied in a building of this style by Le Corbusier,

  • affectionately known in our business as Brutalism.

  • If we look at the world of architecture,

  • we see with Mies' 1928 tower for Berlin,

  • the question might be, "Well, where's the sun?"

  • And this might have worked in Berlin, but we built it in Houston,

  • and the windows are all closed. And with most products

  • appearing not to have been designed for indoor use,

  • this is actually a vertical gas chamber.

  • When I went to Yale, we had the first energy crisis,

  • and I was designing the first solar-heated house in Ireland

  • as a student, which I then built --

  • which would give you a sense of my ambition.

  • And Richard Meier, who was one of my teachers,

  • kept coming over to my desk to give me criticism,

  • and he would say, "Bill, you've got to understand- --

  • solar energy has nothing to do with architecture."

  • I guess he didn't read Vitruvius.

  • In 1984, we did the first so-called "green office" in America

  • for Environmental Defense.

  • We started asking manufacturers what were in their materials.

  • They said, "They're proprietary, they're legal, go away."

  • The only indoor quality work done in this country at that time

  • was sponsored by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company,

  • and it was to prove there was no danger

  • from secondhand smoke in the workplace.

  • So, all of a sudden, here I am, graduating from high school in 1969,

  • and this happens, and we realize that "away" went away.

  • Remember we used to throw things away, and we'd point to away?

  • And yet, NOAA has now shown us, for example --

  • you see that little blue thing above Hawaii?

  • That's the Pacific Gyre.

  • It was recently dragged for plankton by scientists,

  • and they found six times as much plastic as plankton.

  • When asked, they said, "It's kind of like a giant toilet that doesn't flush."

  • Perhaps that's away.

  • So we're looking for the design rules of this --

  • this is the highest biodiversity of trees in the world, Irian Jaya,

  • 259 species of tree, and we described this

  • in the book, "Cradle to Cradle."

  • The book itself is a polymer. It is not a tree.

  • That's the name of the first chapter -- "This Book is Not a Tree."

  • Because in poetics, as Margaret Atwood pointed out,

  • "we write our history on the skin of fish

  • with the blood of bears."

  • And with so much polymer, what we really need

  • is technical nutrition, and to use something

  • as elegant as a tree -- imagine this design assignment:

  • Design something that makes oxygen, sequesters carbon,

  • fixes nitrogen, distills water, accrues solar energy as fuel,

  • makes complex sugars and food, creates microclimates,

  • changes colors with the seasons and self-replicates.

  • Well, why don't we knock that down and write on it?

  • (Laughter)

  • So, we're looking at the same criteria

  • as most people -- you know, can I afford it?

  • Does it work? Do I like it?

  • We're adding the Jeffersonian agenda, and I come from Charlottesville,

  • where I've had the privilege of living in a house designed by Thomas Jefferson.

  • We're adding life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

  • Now if we look at the word "competition,"

  • I'm sure most of you've used it.

  • You know, most people don't realize it comes from

  • the Latin competere, which means strive together.

  • It means the way Olympic athletes train with each other.

  • They get fit together, and then they compete.

  • The Williams sisters compete -- one wins Wimbledon.

  • So we've been looking at the idea of competition

  • as a way of cooperating in order to get fit together.

  • And the Chinese government has now --

  • I work with the Chinese government now --

  • has taken this up.

  • We're also looking at survival of the fittest,

  • not in just competition terms in our modern context