John Bullock Lighting Design
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On the Subject of Bacon Sandwiches


These are interesting times, and it's bad enough having to look after your own stuff without having to check what's going on at the next desk or over the garden wall. But the trouble with this sustainability business is that we really do need to know what's going on with things that don't seem to have much to do with us.  Because everything is connected to everything else, we do get the occasional canary-in-a-coalmine moment. Such as a new report that's been published by the Stockholm International Water Institute; Feeding a Thirsty World: Challenges and opportunities for a water and food secure world.

SIWI tells us that we need to reduce the amount of animal-based protein that we eat by 75% and give over pasture-land to arable farming if we're to stand a chance of balancing our water and food needs. And it's not just the Swedish; we're hearing the same from organisations such as OXFAM, the UN and the International Water Management Institute. Now join up a couple of other pieces of this jigsaw: commodity values for things like wheat and corn have risen nearly 50% since June of this year; agricultural land values in the UK are set to rise by 37% over the next five years, having already risen to 6000/acre but that's financial speculators for you. They want food prices to rise to justify their investments.

So, a future that's free of breakfast bacon and egg sarnies and lunchtime steak baguettes, although possibly lots of pommes frites. What is an industry supposed to do? What should we be reading into all of this doom-laden vegetarian future? As I say we need to be looking out for these canary moments, because they tell us an awful lot. The experts in the water industry are warning us of a shortage in a vital natural resource that's being created by a burgeoning global demand. Well, I think we have a similar situation developing in our own backyard, if we're only prepared to look at it.

The drive for a low-energy economy has been focused on the need to reverse the effects of climate change that has resulted from the burning of fossil fuels. The lighting industry responded wonderfully to that challenge and we've enabled enormous improvements to be made in the management of energy in the built environment. Of course, it's done damn-all to alter the global situation in respect of climate change because we have our own burgeoning global. And we haven't come up with any answers to the burning of natural fuel resources other than to destroy yet more of the natural environment to find more of the raw material.

And it's not just the energy resource used to drive our lighting that's under stress. There's the issue of what we make stuff from, like the metals and minerals used in fixtures, light sources and general electronica, as well as all that oil that goes into creating an awful lot of plastic. At some point, can we expect to read a report about the need to limit the amount of lighting equipment that we can afford to make. What will be the industry's equivalent to the bacon sandwich and the sirloin steak?

Here's what I'd like to hear about from you. Which part of the architectural lighting design palette would you be prepared to abandon? Exterior building lighting, maybe? Sports stadium lighting? Street and amenity lighting?


RIBA CPD in 2015

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John Bullock Lighting Design
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