What does a climate emergency mean to me?

Priya Gandhi, Senior Environmental Designer, Atelier Ten

I have a confession to make.  I am extremely stressed out. Why?  Let me explain what it’s like in my head these days…

 (*This is an incomplete list)

 Are you feeling anxious yet?  I sure am!  This literally keeps me up at night. And it is why I am a signatory of Australian Engineers Declare. This is a climate EMERGENCY. It is urgent and life threatening. We have to stop waiting for someone else to solve it.  We have to stop thinking we’ll make changes later.  We can’t wait for building codes and governments to catch up. We need to use the power and influence we have as engineers to do something now and we need to figure out how to do even more. I am so frustrated that sustainability often gets written off as an add-on, rather than considered a central tenet of basic design.  As a sustainability consultant I recognise that the next thing I’m about to say may come across as a tiny bit biased, but here it is anyway: Sustainability is the MOST important part of any project.  If your project isn’t sustainable for people and the planet, then what are you even doing?

Okay, I’m stressed, anxious, and frustrated…and possibly I’ve now made you feel the same!  So what am I doing about it? I am figuring out how I can make the biggest impact.  This has involved a surprising amount of introspection, which has been both enlightening as well as confronting.  In general though, the best thing that I can do is – something. I just need to do something.
So here are some things that I’m doing:

  •  I am an active participant of Engineers Declare and promise to continue to be one going forward
  • I will push my projects to achieve the most that they can through creative problem solving.  And as part of my company’s commitment to the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment. I will be providing net zero carbon pathways on every single project going forward.
  • I went vegan last year.
  • I am surrounding myself with passionate, inspiring people.  As a member of Homeward Bound, a global leadership program for women in STEMM (the additional ‘m’ for medicine), I have met so many fantastic women in all kinds of technical fields being brave and vulnerable, which gives me hope and continually renews my optimism.
  • I am working on my soft skills – it isn’t enough to be technically proficient, I need to be a persuasive communicator and an effective project manager too.  Homeward Bound has been immensely helpful on this front with teaching me the science of communication.
  • I will keep looking for ways to influence a decision and make an impact, and expect more and more of myself going forward.

These are things that work for me – they may or may not work for you and that’s okay.  I’m not perfect at these things and that’s okay, too.   There’s a saying that gets floated around the zero waste community: we don’t need a few people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions (billions) doing it imperfectly.  That’s how I feel about sustainability and the Declare movements. We can all do something right now – so what will you do?

Priya is a sustainability professional and Senior Environmental Designer at Atelier Ten.  Atelier Ten is an organisational signatory to the Australian Engineers Declare movement.  Connect with Priya on LinkedIn.

Australian Engineers Declare a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency