London West, UK - For better or worse, when a term becomes politicized, people perceive it differently. In our increasingly polarized world, certain terms are so loaded they can end a conversation before it begins.
Unfortunately, climate change is one of those terms.
It would be a real shame if large groups of people became alienated from sustainability, green building, architectural salvage and even antique furniture because the language became too strongly associated with a controversial ideology or political party.
Sound paranoid? Consider my uncle in California who takes special pride in avoiding organic food. I have literally heard him joke about liking the taste of pesticides. He obviously doesn't actually want chemicals in his food. The organic "movement" is deeply associated with environmentalism, hence global warming, hence liberal thought and the Democratic party. As a staunch Republican he is reflexively against it. Convincing him of the (supposed) benefits of organic farming is an uphill battle simply because of that linguistic association.
Does that comparison still seem miles away from discussion of sustainable building practices?
A recent survey found six in ten Britons believe climate change exists and is mainly caused by human activity. Which of those ten do you think is more likely to pursue green design?
But if you believe sustainable housing will help combat climate change, isn't it cowardly not to speak your mind? Not necessarily.
What's more important, being right or getting what you want? The goal, hopefully, is to achieve change, not simply express one's views. If referencing global warming when advocating green architecture automatically turns off half the country to the message, how does that help?
Luckily, most benefits of sustainable architecture and furnishings make sense to everyone, no matter their politics. Waste reduction and water conservation are both uncontroversial environmental benefits. Economic benefits like increased property value, longer property lifespan, and reduced energy consumption are difficult to argue with.
As a recent import from the US, I know too well how people with different values talk past each other. Omitting sensitive buzzwords can make a world of difference. To advance the cause of green design, it helps to be mindful of our terminology and use language everyone can hear.