Economic growth, welfare conditions and sustainability

Today, economists say there is more to worry about with regard to how, in an interconnected world, countries, governments and companies can be transparent because people can see how things are done: how they do what they do, how they keep promises, how they make decisions, how they relate to customers, environments, and the communities where they are inserted. And, although “we” have been separated from those “hows” it is necessary to act in old fashion and make decisions based on how and not just in terms.

Therefore the question to be considered is more than the “measurable” relationship between gross national product and population welfare. The criteria used to assess improvements or developments in a country or situation should the cost of environmental degradation and social exclusion.

Today`s global economy demands an equally global consideration, including calculations of cost-benefits ratio and the cost of natural capital replacement that “growth” implies.

Many economic “development” policies are not only environmentally destructive but have no significant impact on the central problem of unemployment, as they are not structurally connected with polices of social promotion.

The issue of promoting social progress today is closely related to the concept of quality and the sustainability of a “pourable” development of a whole society, which implies the use of multi-disciplinary and multi-criteria evaluation in order to consider a large number of variables and stakeholders simultaneously. With this, the demand for a concept of evolution capable of responding to the demands of the present without compromising the development of future generations increasingly emerges strongly.

Today the relationship between economics (production, consumption, and resource management), social capital (cultural diversity and the rights of others) and the environment (biodiversity, water, and energy) requires consideration of the interrelationships between what is feasible, fair and livable, with a sense of sustainability.

Therefore the relationship between production, consumption, resource management and “welfare” has clear ethical implications.

Not only quantitatively measurable, welfare involves many values, and from the point of view of an architect-planner, there is an idea of complex harmonies that come into play, figuring out what contributes to the loop and guiding it in a direction that promotes “working together for the future”.

In view of this, we must also think about the intangible assets and the value of each civilizing proposal for each project.

The architecture and urbanism of the twenty-first century should be based on considerations of human beings and other living things first, assuming that we are intervening in a fragile world.

Therefore sustainability has to do with the history of constitution-accumulation of urbanization, which requires understanding the logic of existing sites and sedimentation process. Understanding this, the basic reason for historical cities being so captivating is the fact that they were built on countless stories.

Clearly, the issue of sustainability is more than energy consumption. It is a cultural issue, that involves a number of "unquantifiable" factors related to consumer habits, social behavior, movement, location, respect for cumulative memory, the establishment of places and the relationships that people and buildings hold with each other and with the common space; with transitions between the individual and the collective, between the public, semi-public and private. It is an intricate web of interactions between objective and subjective factors, the real and the imaginary, between the material and immaterial when it comes to sustainability.

Therefore it is not just a matter of "specialists" or "consultants", but all inhabitants (permanent and temporary) of a given territory and the consequences of actions on it.

Thus, generated through quality of life, welfare conditions and sustainably transform environmental projects, presenting challenges that demand a very caring attitude and a generous view to think socially.

Jorge Mario Jáuregui
Translated by Jennifer Kinnunen