Blog Post 19

SLS-France Fall 2023 Student Blog

November 17, 2023

Gia Bao Tran

Frugal Architecture, Life Cycles, and Life Lessons 

Last Friday, during our trip to Strasbourg, we visited the Seismology Museum. There, I learned that we have tools to measure and detect earthquakes and their magnitude throughout the world. This is even more impressive given that the study of seismology is relatively new compared to other scientific fields. Parallels could definitely be drawn between the growth journey of sustainability and seismology. With the right information, we have the potential to all implement aspects of sustainability into our life and all contribute to protecting our Earth. Although the Atlas de l'Anthropocène is accurate in saying that "the Anthropocene is a jump into the unknown" (p. 18), most cycles in life tend to resemble one another. This could be seen in the Buddhism cycle of Samsara or in literature where heartbreak is described as "a copy of a copy of a copy." Our job is to learn from these cycles, implement what made them successful and buck the trend of what ultimately leads to its demise. We are just at the very beginning of this new cycle and it’s important to get everyone on board and striving towards the same goals. 

The highlight for me of our visit to Strasbourg was the Danube "Eco-district." It is an innovative concept that I think we could implement in other cities around the world. It was very interesting to learn that the district's method for discouraging and minimizing the use of cars is to provide fewer parking spots than the number of inhabitants. The logic behind this is that residents should utilize "greener" modes of transportation and parking is just for those who work in the neighborhood. Another genius piece of architecture is the use of solar panels in place of traditional walls. This plays into the concept we learned in class of "frugal architecture," where every last bit of material is utilized without sacrificing the build quality or aesthetic of the building. The solar panels in the Danube Eco-district generate more electricity than the district consumes. The leftovers are sold to an electric company and the revenue is distributed among the renters. It shows that an environmentally sustainable lifestyle is not necessarily expensive. It could even be cheaper - we can save while saving the planet!

The "Eco-district" has other sustainable components that can be implemented far and wide. There is a farm with animals and sustenance within the district. Rainwater is used to water non-edible trees, plants, and flowers that improve the air quality as well as the ambiance of the "third-place." This shows that the goal of sustainability is not only to protect the planet, but also to increase the quality of life holistically in this moment. These processes are complementary, and not necessarily a trade-off.

Combining this experience with my volunteering experiences at the permaculture garden 1 Terre et un jardin pour 2 mains, I've learned a lot about the benefits and rewards of at-home farming as opposed to industrial farming. We can protect ourselves by consuming non-chemical, non-processed food, whilst also protecting other ecosystems that would be impacted by the by-products of industrial farming. One example of the harmful effects caused by the by-products of industrial farming is the green algae phenomenon in coastal Brittany. The toxic gas that is released off these blooms, hydrogen sulfide, can be deadly. In addition to having a negative impact on different ecosystems, different methods of farming could also impact the climate of the world. As stated in the Atlas, "The change in the usage of soil enormously influences the Earth's climate" (p. 69).

In conclusion, the extracurricular learning that I did beyond the classroom this semester has really helped concertize and put into perspective my in-class learning. Moreover, it has given me ideas for solutions that I can implement in my own life and actionable steps I can take to help spread the message and live a more sustainable life.

Works Cited

Gemenne, François and Aleksandar Rankovic. Atlas de l'Anthropocène. Paris: Les Presses de Sciences Po, 2021.