Though Karan Grover lives and works in India, thousands of miles from Birmingham, his presentation at the Green Building Focus Conference & Expo in July was tailored to the Magic City. Grover began his hour-long presentation by citing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s connections to India’s Mahatma Gandhi and reading a section of King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”
“I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states,” Grover said, quoting King. “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
The interconnectedness of our world and our ability to affect it was the primary theme of Grover’s multi-media presentation, which was titled "First Do No Harm: Honoring Diversity, Initiating Action; Invoking Peace." Grover, the first architect to build a LEED Platinum-certified building, argued that a sensitivity to local heritage and culture and use of local, sustainable building materials in construction must be part of sustainable development.
“We must act with a force of full attentiveness,” he said. “With easy access to information, technology, expertise and resources, so much is possible for the preservation of our world and for a more merciful future. We have all that we need to build supportive, generous communities.”
Grover’s lecture added a philosophical heft to a conference focused primarily on green building standards, materials and methods. Standing below three massive projection screens in the BJCC theatre, he expounded on the moral, ethical and practical reasons to pursue sustainable development.
Grover said that development decisions must include consideration of the impact of development on future generations. “We need to look at local traditions and nature, at the consequences of our choices, and then make decisions,” he said.
“But at what cost do we sacrifice our past for our flamboyant future?” Grover asked. “If we forget our culture and our heritage, we lose our values and struggle to create new models. We will become detached from what created us, and become dependent on what we create.“
Grover’s presentation also included a 10-minute long series of images of the Earth’s natural beauty set to a song from The Last of the Mohicans soundtrack, a series of images from natural disasters accompanied by Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” and several other mini-presentations. But the crux of Grover’s talk was a call for a sustainability charter carrying Birmingham’s name. He cited the biodiversity of Alabama’s rivers as a reason for beginning the charter’s development in Birmingham, along with the city’s Civil Rights history.