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DBA Climate and Housing Reading Group

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This Climate and Housing Reading List is in two parts, each accompanied by a few discussion questions. The first part helps us build a common attitude about how we, as a community, want to respond in the face of dire uncertainty. The second part is more of a ‘meat and potatoes’ selection to build a broad, common literacy on climate and housing solutions. Read and learn with us!


Part 1: Reflections on "this moment" and how we find courage to imagine a positive futrure.

All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis

Edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson | 2020 | Link

To change everything, we need everyone. Intermixing essays with poetry and art, this book is both a balm and a guide for knowing and holding what has been done to the world, while bolstering our resolve never to give up on each other or our collective future.

We must summon truth, courage, and solutions, to turn away from the brink and toward life-giving possibility. Curated by two climate leaders, this book is a collection and celebration of visionaries who are leading us on a path toward all we can save.

Also check out:

The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable

By Amitav Ghosh | 2016 | Link

The acclaimed Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh argues that future generations may think we were deeply deranged. How else to explain our imaginative failure in the face of global warming? In his first major book of nonfiction since In an Antique Land, Ghosh examines our inability—at the level of literature, history, and politics—to grasp the scale and violence of climate change.

The extreme nature of today’s climate events, Ghosh asserts, make them peculiarly resistant to contemporary modes of thinking and imagining. 

"Entering the Bardo," Emergence Magazine

By Joanna Macy | 2020 | Link

In this op-ed, eco-philosopher and Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy introduces us to the bardo—the Tibetan Buddhist concept of a gap between worlds where transition is possible. As the pandemic reveals ongoing collapse and holds a mirror to our collective ills, she writes, we have the opportunity to step into a space of reimagining. 

"Under the Weather," The Believer

By Ash Sanders | 2019 | Link

Sander reflects on how we respond to the mental illness crisis within the climate crisis, with insights into the creative solution of building a common language to talk about things that are hard to discuss.

"As psychiatrists and philosophers begin to define a pervasive mental health crisis triggered by climate change, they as who is really sick: the individual or society?"


Part 1 Discussion

As we explore the resources on this list, we stop to consider and discuss the following questions, and how these topics impact the way we think and feel about the climate crisis. 

  • Has your personal, emotional response to climate change shifted at all after reading any of these ideas?
  • What ideas are relevant to how we show up in our work or how we build community?


Part 2: Build a broad, common literacy about housing and climate justice solutions. 

“Is the Green New Deal Realistic? Two Sympathetic Authors Weigh In,” The New York Times

By Jeff Goodell | 2019 | Link

This New York Times book review showcases and compares the perspectives of two leading authors and policy leaders on the Green New Deal: Naomi Klien and Jeremy Rifkin. 

Further reading:

  • The Green New Deal: Why the Fossil Fuel Civilization Will Collapse by 2028, and the Bold Economic Plan to Save Life on Earth | By Jeremy Rifkin
  • On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal | By Naomi Klein

"Environmentalism's Racist History," The New Yorker

By Jedediah Purdy | 2015 | Link

This New Yorker article provides a perspective on the history of environmentalism in America that reveals how many environmentalist priorities and patterns of thought came from an argument among white people, some of them bigots and racial engineers. 

“CarbonPositive: A Zero-Carbon Building Sector by 2040 Is Within Reach,” ARCHITECT Magazine

By Edward Mazria | 2021 | Link

Learn why Architecture 2030 founder Edward Mazria is confident that the building industry can phase out carbon emissions in the next two decades. 

"To achieve climate justice, don't leave architecture to architect" 

The Architectural League of New York | 2020 | Link

"Environmental justice pioneer Dr. Robert Bullard believes we need new coalitions to plan and design American cities."

Within the past few years, a number of architecture firms and allied organizations have formally declared a climate emergency and pledged to take action. But what should this action involve, and how likely is it to happen at the scale and speed required to prevent the worst outcomes of global warming?

In this interview series, the League presents different perspectives on where architecture currently stands with regard to climate action, where it needs to go, and how it might get there. 

Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing

By Walker Wells and Kimberly Vermeer | 2020 | Link

Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing is the most comprehensive resource on how green building principles can be incorporated into affordable housing design, construction, and operation. In this fully revised edition, Walker Wells and Kimberly Vermeer capture the rapid evolution of green building practices and make a compelling case for integrating green building in affordable housing.

The Blueprint offers guidance on innovative practices, green building certifications for affordable housing, and the latest financing strategies. The completely new case studies share detailed insights on how the many elements of a green building are incorporated into different housing types and locations. 

Gray to Green Communities: A Call to Action on the Housing and Climate Crisis

By Dana L. Bourland | 2021 | Link

In Gray to Green Communities, green affordable housing expert Dana Bourland argues that we need to move away from a gray housing model to a green model, which considers the health and well-being of residents, their communities, and the planet. She demonstrates that we do not have to choose between protecting our planet and providing housing affordable to all.

Bourland draws from her experience leading the Green Communities Program at Enterprise Community Partners, a national community development intermediary. Her work resulted in the first standard for green affordable housing which was designed to deliver measurable health, economic, and environmental benefits. 

Also check out:

The Affordable City: Strategies for Putting Housing Within Reach (and Keeping it There)

By Shane Phillips | 2020 | Link

Shane Phillips believes that effectively tackling the housing crisis requires that cities support both tenant protections and housing abundance. He offers readers more than 50 policy recommendations, beginning with a set of principles and general recommendations that should apply to all housing policy.

There is no single solution to the housing crisis—it will require a comprehensive approach backed by strong, diverse coalitions. The Affordable City is an essential tool for professionals and advocates working to improve affordability and increase community resilience through local action. 

The Dream Revisited: Contemporary Debates about Houing, Segregation, and Opportunity

Edited by Ingrid Gould Ellen and Justin Peter Steil | 2019 | Link

The Dream Revisited brings together a range of expert viewpoints on the causes and consequences of the nation’s separate and unequal living patterns. Leading scholars and practitioners, including civil rights advocates, affordable housing developers, elected officials, and fair housing lawyers, discuss the nature of and policy responses to residential segregation. Essays scrutinize the factors that sustain segregation, including persistent barriers to mobility and complex neighborhood preferences, and its consequences from health to home finance and from policing to politics. 

This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt is Shaping the Twenty-first Century

By Mark Engler and Paul Engler | 2020 | Link

In this book, Mark and Paul Engler look at the hidden art behind apparent “outbursts” of protest, examining core principles that have been used to spark and guide moments of transformative unrest.

Toward the end of This Is an Uprising, the authors propose that social movement efforts with different methods for organizing can work together in an “ecology of change.” They write, “When mass mobilizations, established organizations, and alternative communities see themselves as complementary, they can create a movement ecosystem that allows diverse approaches to promoting change to flourish.”

Golden Gates: The Housing Crisis and a Reckoning for the American Dream

By Conor Dougherty | 2021 | Link

With propulsive storytelling and ground-level reporting, New York Times journalist Conor Dougherty chronicles America’s housing crisis from its West Coast epicenter, peeling back the decades of history and economic forces that brought us here and taking readers inside the activist movements that have risen in tandem with housing costs.


Part 2 Discussion

As we explore the resources on this list, we stop to consider and discuss the following questions, and how these proposed solutions impact our projects, our practice, and our profession. 

  • What kind of change-agents are architects?
  • Where do we fit in bringing about some of these solutions?
  • How might our contribution as professionals extend beyond our projects?
  • What do we think about these solutions? Which resonate and which don't?
  • In what ways do our visions about the future align or diverge?
  • Are the current platforms architects have to make change satisfying? limiting?
  • Are there ways we can think bigger about how we can act?