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Audubon House: From Here to Sustainability

Jeffrey Syken

In 1962, a biologist/author named Rachel Carson wrote a landmark book entitled: Silent Spring. In it, she outlined the damage being done to the natural environment by chemical pesticides. Hounded by her critics but supported by the Kennedy Administration and the power of government, harmful chemicals such as DDT were banned as a result of the awareness Carson’s book brought to the public consciousness. It demonstrated well the ancient proverb: A journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step.

In many ways, this was the beginning of what later came to be known as the “Environmental Movement.” A few years later, in 1968, a famous Apollo-mission photograph entitled “Earth Rise” was published. With the moon in the foreground, the beautiful, delicate blue marble we all call home: the Earth, was seen for the first time from the perspective of the heavens by all of mankind. This single photograph seems to have triggered a growing awareness of the fragility and harm we were collectively causing our planet. By 1970, the first “Earth Day” was celebrated and the environmental movement began in earnest.

Through the 1970s and ‘80s, the natural environment was the focus of environmentalists. However, by the late 1980s/early 1990s, a growing awareness of the impacts of the built environment was taking root. Ironically, it would be an organization dedicated to the preservation of birds and their natural habitats that would begin the “Green Building Movement.” With the purchase and gut-renovation of a century-old NYC building, the National Audubon Society’s national headquarters: Audubon House, would become a test-bed and reproducible model for others to follow. Its success was unprecedented, setting the role model for environmentally sustainable/responsible design and construction to the present day.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of course materials.

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