The Materials Book

265 Material Proposition Approaching the climate problem from the perspective of a single material can be surprisingly productive. We know that living trees sequester carbon and that wood is a highly efficient medium of carbon storage (carbon accounts for 50 percent of its dry weight). Unlike any other material suitable for building at a large scale, forest, trees, and cut wood have an integral role in the planet’s carbon cycle. If the ultimate environmental challenge is to bring our carbon-intensive production into equi- librium with that cycle, then to attach this production to part of that cycle’s crucial component—urban construction—seems like an obvious place to start. The specification of a single material in itself, however, is insufficient. A response to climate disruption is not only what material is used in urban construction but how that construction is configured. While the widespread use of wood will reduce emissions, its value will be lost if it is not integrated with the other components of the carbon cycle. This integration requires wood construction to become part of a comprehensive material network called the technosphere. What makes climate instability such a tricky problem is that the objects and activities that must be reconciled to the carbon cycle are those that are associated with our own survival. Along with the species that inhabit shells, nests, and mounds, humans produce what can be referred to as an “exoskeleton” as a necessary function of our existence. Far Urbanism and the Technosphere Albert Pope