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George Clarke takes another look at MOBIE and why it is important to invest in tomorrow’s architects, planners and designers.

Young people are taking to the streets in the name of climate change and so they should be. I fully support the strikes that children are taking because it is the only way that society and governments are going to truly listen to their concerns.

Of course I get the argument that they should all be in school, but the vast majority of young people I’ve met and spoken to are bright, intelligent and very passionate about the future of the planet.

If they weren’t following in the footsteps of Greta Thunberg and going on strike, but continued at school, would we really be listening?

I don’t think we would.

We have made incredible progress but still have a long way to go

George Clarke George Clarke Architect and TV presenter

The pace of change

Over the last 200 years we have seen the most phenomenal rate of change. It is actually unbelievable when you take a second to think about it.

The Industrial Revolution changed the face of the planet in the 18th and 19th centuries when we made the mass transition from hand production methods to machines.

The development of mechanised factory systems led to unprecedented growth in manufacturing while at the same time we saw an enormous rise in the rate of population growth.

On December 7th 1903 the Wright Brothers took their first flight in a powered aircraft. By the 16th of July 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took their first steps on the moon. That is a staggering rate of progress!

It’s also worth thinking how many of us depend on air travel and the boom in global business and  tourism means there are now (depending on the time of day and the time of year) up to 20,000 aeroplanes in the sky at any one time. I can now be on the other side of planet earth in just over 17 hours. That’s ridiculous when you think about!

The first commercially successful internal combustion engine was created by Etienne Lenore around 1859 which led to Karl Benz being credited with inventing the first modern automobile in 1886.

To think it is estimated that there are around 1 BILLION cars travelling the streets and roads of the world today – that is a phenomenal rate of change.

It gets faster and faster

We then have the technological/digital revolution. It is amazing to think that we have gone from the Enigma Code Breaking Computer called ‘Colossus’ that was delivered to Bletchley Park in December 1943 to the revolution created by companies like Apple who launched the iPhone on the 29th June 2007. It is incredible to think that nobody had an iPhone before 2007. That was only 12 years ago!

All of these products and inventions now need a massive amount of power.

In 1882 the world’s first coal-fired public power station was built in London, basically to power Thomas Edison’s lightbulb. There are now 62,500 power plants operating on the planet today.

Nations that were once little more than deserts, are now some of the wealthiest oil producing nations on earth. Global demand for oil and liquid fuel means we are using 93 million barrels a day!

93 million barrels of fuel per day every single day!

I can’t actually get my head around that!

The pressure of change

Then consider that the global population in 1850 was 1.2 billion. It is now over 7 billion.

So in the space of 200 years we are now putting a staggering amount of pressure on planet earth. We are destroying it at the most frightening rate.

Thankfully we are now entering the Ecological Age. Better late than never!

And it is young people who must have the greatest voice. Extinction Rebellion has also joined the chorus in singing for a greener planet. I have to say that I’ve joined green choir too.

I feel guilty every time I do anything that may cause damage to the planet and that guilt is no bad thing because it makes me want to change how I live my life.

But, I’m so far off being totally green. Yes, I have an air source heat pump on my house, I drive a fully electric car and I’m eating vegan sausages and plant based meat, but I still fly long haul and I still ride a petrol powered motorbike.

I’m not living anywhere near green enough and I give myself a hard time for this every day. But, I do live a much greener life than my parents did and I know my children are a lot greener than I am, so change is happening and its happening quickly.

But I need to do so much more! I admire the strength and determination of young people today who have had enough of the damage being inflicted on the world. My niece goes to a school where the only ‘god’ they teach is Mother Nature. It is incredible how aware she is about climate change at the tender age of 4 years young. It’s amazing stuff.

Incredible young people

And it is because of the passion, enthusiasm and energy of young people that I started my educational charity MOBIE (Ministry of Building Innovation and Education) in 2017.

We work with incredible young people to transform the way we design, build, manufacture and live in homes across Britain. The way we build today isn’t green at all. The way we live in our homes over our lifetime isn’t green at all.

The UK construction industry produces 136.2 million tonnes of waste every year which is way more than household waste (27.3 million tonnes) and commercial waste (41.7 million tonnes), yet we continue to build (at best) average quality homes across the country that cause devastating damage to the planet.

MOBIE is set up to change that.

We now run our courses with many universities and colleges across the country and we are rapidly expanding. Our first cohort of MSc students graduated from Teesside University this summer, which was a proud moment for the MOBIE team.

Many of these students are now taking jobs in a home building industry that must change. Our MOBIE DESIGN CHALLENGES, which we run throughout the year with schools, have seen inspirational 14 year olds design some of the most amazing housing projects imaginable and we are challenging the market by working with government and industry to create homes that are not only beautiful places to live, but reverse the damage caused to the environment.

A long way to go

We have made incredible progress in the 2 years since MOBIE has been formed but we have a long, long way to go to reverse the damage caused by the last 200 years of unsustainable development.

We need to be building, beautiful zero carbon homes and retrofitting our 27 million existing homes to be ecological and it is only by engaging with young people that we will have any chance of doing it.

MOBIE is one of the green vehicles available to take young people on that sustainable journey, but they need to be in the driving seat

George Clarke is an architect, writer, lecturer and TV presenter, a founder of TV production company Amazing Productions, and creative director of George Clarke + Partners