The Emerging Culture of Sustainability
An Emerging Culture of Sustainability in the National Park Service
There is much change afoot in our grand park, in a word, sustainability. Sustainability is managing the Earth’s resources so they are passed on to future generations of all life in a healthy and abundant manner. “Greening” is often used interchangeably with this term. During the past 10 years, Zion has become a leader in the National Park Service (NPS) in this fledgling cultural shift. Although sustainability has been a major mission in the Parks beginning with the 1916 Organic Act, it is only in recent years that a full fledged commitment and mandate from the NPS has occurred. It touches all aspects of our operations- design, policy, management, and interpretation. Zion National Park’s history of sustainability follows.
What follows is taken from the 1993 National Park Service document “Guiding Principles of Sustainable Design”. http://www.nps.gov/dsc/dsgncnstr/gpsd/toc.html
“Sustainability does not require a loss in the quality of life, but does require a change in mind-set, a change in values toward less consumptive lifestyles. These changes must embrace global interdependence, environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and economic viability.
Sustainable design must use an alternative approach to traditional design that incorporates these changes in mind-set. The new design approach must recognize the impacts of every design choice on the natural and cultural resources of the local, regional, and global environments.”
The National Park Service’s Sustainable Design Initiative
National Park Service Vail Symposium. In October 1991, five working groups studied "the state of the parks" as part of the organizational renewal activities associated with the 75th Anniversary of the National Park Service. They found that National Park Service is being stressed by a variety of factors:
The concept of sustainable design was mentioned frequently, as it covers a wide range of topics. It integrates principles that enable humans to live in harmony with the rest of the natural world, protecting biodiversity and sharing habitats with other species.
Virgin Islands National Park, Maho Bay Resort. In November 1991 the Sustainable Development Initiative was officially launched with a workshop in MahoBay. This partnership forum included participants from the American Institute of Architects (AIA), American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), the Ecotourism Society, National Parks and Conservation Association, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Greenpeace, local representatives from the Virgin Islands, private architectural and engineering (A/E) firms, and ecotourism resort operators. Representatives from various NPS offices included professionals and managers from parks, regional offices, Washington office, and the DenverServiceCenter.
A model of the new design principles necessary for sustainability is exemplified by the "Hannover Principles" or "Bill of Rights for the Planet," developed by William McDonough Architects for EXPO 2000 to be held in Hannover, Germany.
These principles were adopted by the World Congress of the International Union of Architects (UIA) in June 1993 at the American Institute of Architect's (AIA) Expo 93 in Chicago. Further, the AIA and UIA signed a "Declaration of Interdependence for a Sustainable Future." In summary, the declaration states that today's society is degrading its environment and that the AIA, UIA, and their members are committed to:
In addition, the Interprofessional Council on Environmental Design (ICED), a coalition of architectural, landscape architectural, and engineering organizations, developed a vision statement in an attempt to foster a team approach to sustainable design. ICED states: The ethics, education and practices of our professions will be directed to shape a sustainable future. . . . To achieve this vision we will join . . . as a multidisciplinary partnership."
For more on environmental leadership at other NPS sites:
Sustainability and Cultural Resources
Technical efforts to preserve cultural resources, however, must not contribute to degradation of the environment. The use of pesticides, fungicides, and other toxins has damaged the earth, so any preservation efforts should consider nonhazardous alternatives.
In some instances toxic materials, such as lead-based paint and asbestos, are inherited. Toxic materials that exist in many historic buildings must be removed and properly disposed of. Unfortunately, some of the inherited toxic materials are significant features of historic structures or sites…. The problem of inherited toxins will need to be addressed in all proposed management and development projects in the future.
Another facet of dealing with cultural resources is the energy consumption that is required to protect them. In terms of numbers, the largest percentage of inventoried cultural resources is museum objects. Serious consideration must be given to their conservation. The use of mechanical heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems in a historic building or museum, to maintain desired temperature and humidity levels, must include not only a cost in energy/dollar figures but also the cost in resource dollars. More natural, less consumptive ways of achieving the same result must be assessed.
Did You Know?
Kolob Arch, located deep in the backcountry of Zion National Park, is one of the largest freestanding arches in the world. More...