Living Future Institute 2013 in Seattle, Washington

Published On: 4 October 2013


“Technology will not save us. We need to reconnect with nature as designers.” — Jason McLennan

“Life” – the four letter word that encompassed the subject theme of the Living Future Conference 2013 in Seattle: Resilience and Regeneration. Hosted by the International Living Future Institute, this annual event is rooted in the restorative design principles of the Living Building Challenge, organized by the founder Jason McLennan with a dedicated backbone of individuals who advocate for the sustainable initiative of a living future. It brought together innovators, motivators, community members, leaders and artists of the environmental, urban design and building industries – people who are aware and who see the shadow of responsibility behind the state of awareness – people who want to transpire change.

While a tradeshow, networking and educational sessions, plenary and ceremonies may be expected elements of a conventional conference, this Living Future Conference included an equal share of effort to consciously plan for the food, music, sights, places and minute details to conduct sensorial evocation and bring a holistic essence – precisely why it was coined the unConference.

“Life”, the word partnered with the theme of this unConference, is precisely what “resilience and regeneration” incur. How do we align our human induced realities and built systems, methodologies and mechanical habits of living, not only to sustain the natural living world around us, but to become of that world and become self-regenerative? How do we re-shape the economic model from dehumanized and mechanicalized linearity to cyclicality, re-positioning our notions of happiness and health as realities influenced by factors beyond access to resource, such as the quality of our environments? How do we stand on the other end and become valuable to the natural world as it has provided value for us for many generations from the role of home to resource to marvel to a reality of space and time? These were only sparks of countless questions invoked during the course of the unConference – teaching less answers for and more questions about our questions.

It can be said the word “life” in its simplistic lexical structure conveys the true fundament and end of its concept, in the way that it is strictly the simplest and most proven term of experience because it is the limit of the experience in and of itself. One of the greatest points emphasized at this conference was that what makes life worth living is an essential part of life that should be sustained. That is why Living Future advocates beauty and the aesthetic quality of things as integral manifestations for the expression of our universal existence. The reason for this is because what we view to be of “value” or “beautiful” becomes a paradigm through which priorities take stand in the ladder and pivot the scale of measure.

In the vein of the term “universal”, the unConference presented a promise of greatness by inviting uninhibited forces of inspiration to unravel the passionate spirit of this three-day journey – David McConville and Dr. David Suzuki – who gravitated to the hearts of many with a universal touch.  In precedence, David McConville, President of the Buckminster Fuller Institute, followed a riveting and silencing performance by Andrew Culver – sound sculptor, music installation artist and eleven-year John Cage collaborator. His talk largely focused the model of our existence beyond our phenomena on Earth and into the trajectory of the cosmic realm.

Framing it around the history of human desire for the escapist mission to leave the Earth to “other planets”, David allowed us to question motives catalyzed by scientific empiricism that revolved around the continuous quest for life-sustaining and Earth-resembling bodies in our Solar system as a means of sustaining our own hope on the Earth. Our quest to prove that the end our time on Earth is not truly the extinction of our biological existence, but only a leap of dimension to a whole new reality of life. As David invited us to rethink the impossibility of replacing life and speculate the inaccurate Earth-centered understanding of our position in the universe, he memorably said “We’re dreaming of visiting other planets while portions of our own begin to resemble alien landscapes,” conjuring images that speak of how our reaching hand to positive conjectures of life beyond Earth, and the search for other realities, is the very destructive hand that exhausts, neglects and fails to restore the remnant home of our biome.

“The way we treat the world reflects the way we see the world” marked some of the striking words of David Suzuki following David McConville at the keynote reception, exceeding notions of braveness. With improvised eloquence, Suzuki spoke with a passionate stance that leapt to anti-Capitalist boundaries of discourse, stating that it is unconstitutional to give up on the possibility of restoring health to our environments: “Borders around our property mean nothing to the atmosphere. Capitalism is not a force of nature. We invented it”. His statement revealed the popular opinion of the “impossibility to restore what was destroyed in a trivial light, challenging this idea that has been obligated as a standard of “rationality” in our societies. The same idea which, in the very essence, maintains our path to destruction and is an embedded message perpetuating a state of disassociation with the natural degradation of our environment, in place of more associative accountability.

Amassing the voice of hope, David closed the keynote re-emerging in the eyes of all as an ambassador for the next integral steps into action beyond inspiration when he voiced, “Give her a chance and Nature can be far more forgiving than we deserve,” paving a way to a three-day discussion and lifetime contemplation of nature’s most hopeful gift of resilience and regeneration – as hopeful as the second-by-second regenerative power of the single unit of our day-to-day existence, the human cell.