sustainability technology wealth

Sustainability – a concept on thin ice

I heard an intriguing lecture earlier this year from David Fleming, an independent mind if ever there was one. He claimed that he had abandoned the idea of ‘sustainability’ long ago. He compared sustainability to the Titanic, trying to create something unsinkable. Far better to create something that is resilient, that has inbuilt flexibility and can adapt to the demands of the future.

I was reminded of the shortcomings of sustainability again this week through this building, a monster of a building that combines two of my pet hates: false green credentials, and the crazy ego-architecture of  Dubai. Here it is:

If it looks like an iceberg, that’s because it is. Some delusional prince has looked with envy upon the ice hotels of Scandinavia and Canada, and decided that despite its desert location, Dubai should have one.

The scheme becomes doubly stupid when you hear that the designers claim it is sustainable, because it will be self sufficient and generate all the electricity it needs for keeping the ice cool. In other words, it sort of meets the law of sustainability, but not the spirit.

We need to ask a broader set of questions. Is it efficient? does it use resources wisely? is it necessary? Clearly not. Just because something is technically ‘sustainable’, doesn’t make it environmentally responsible.


  1. this is [one of] the reasons this century will be terrifying in many ways.

    stupidity beyond measure.

    i agree with regard to dubai. the ‘hotel opening’ party was an example of pornographic greed, vapidity and waste on an epic scale.

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