The most important components of restorative design are: 1) A broader bio-centric values system where people are not superior to nature. 2) Conformity to thermodynamic and steady-state ecological laws (incl. natural step conditions) such that the built environment does not exist linearly but integrates with all orders of natural cycles. 3) Adding to natural capital and social capital through building construction, operation, and decommissioning processes. 4) Ongoing ecoliteracy for persistent social engagement with ecology, economy, governance and education.
How can it be achieved? Multiple facets of the transformation from conventional to restorative design can/will (are) happen(ning) at the same time, in network rather than linear fashion. Adoption, Expression, Promulgation, Encouragement, and Celebration. Those wishing for changes will begin to adopt the new values and observe the deeper laws now, to the extent possible. Those who realize the benefits, which will depend on scale and particularities of any place, will enact restorative patterns now. Coalitions will form realizing the solution to the tragedy of the commons is group action for group restraint, and push for better laws to restrain selfishness and the irresponsibility of externalities. Those with power can lead by example, by social pressure and the establishment of new norms, and can admonish violators. Anyone and everyone can celebrate positive examples, no matter how large or small, and build a massive social wave of support for restorative action and design.
The obstacles are the habits of mind separating us from nature and the ramifications of our actions. Our daily habits will have to change – at every level – to incorporate restorative patterns. Energy and water use, the food choices we make, the travel options we have, the technologies we use. Information feedback on the results of our actions is weak and often even misleading. Labeling of products with life-cycle information, disclosure of the toxicity of plastic and other “normal” compounds, measuring our environmental impact with tools like ecological footprinting could all help. We are compromised when civics, economics, geography are all missing from our education. The greatest obstacle is our fear of change, even when staring at such horrors as global environmental destabilization. But we can and will continue to transition away from our clever foolishness. And eventually arrive where we came from, in heartful, stable, restorative communities.
[This is from a series of postings for my Sustainable Design course at the Boston Architecture College]