Dangerous Four-letter Words and more

Jason McLennan has a potty mouth. The head of the International Living Future Institute, which recently hosted the Living Future conference in Portland, Oregon, says that he regularly uses his keynote to christen the conference’s four-letter word. Last year, there was a lot of talk about composting toilets, so “shit” was the word. This year, he challenged the nearly 1,000 conference participants to find ways to use the most complex one of all: love. “This is the most dangerous word of all,” he said. “My challenge to you: Use this word liberally with meaning and heart. Try to use the word love at least once every 30 minutes. It is essential that we open our hearts to awaken the human spirit. It’s going to take a lot more than PVs and FSC wood to change the world.”

The theme of the conference this year was Women Reshaping the World, which McLennan noted can be uncomfortable for men (and some women) to talk about. But he’s fine with that. “We have to be uncomfortable to make change,” he said. “This is not about ‘women can do it, too,’” he noted. “This is about the fact that women and their leadership are essential to this movement, which will not advance without more equity in political, business, and design leadership.”

He told a great story about the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, Kathrine Switzer. She registered as K. Switzer and was physically attacked by the race organizer when it was clear that she was a woman. But her follow up was to get in touch with that organizer and talk to him. Which wound up changing his mind, and he became instrumental in opening the race to women. “She used love and communication,” McLennan pointed out. Without which, he added, “the green building movement is bullshit.”

Kira Gould, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, is director of communications for William McDonough + Partners, an architecture firm with studios in Charlottesville, Virginia, and San Francisco. She is also co-author of Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design.

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