Grassroots 2021 Recap: Bring it Home, Part 2/2

Cover image by AIA National

Day 2: Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging – Stacey Abrams

Screenshot from AIA 2021 Grassroots

This session was one I was looking forward to the most during this convention. It was an honor to listen to this wonderful woman, a personal hero of mine, inspire and encourage leaders in this industry to fight for social justice.

Ms. Abrams began describing how architects can face the harsh elements and stay engaged in advocacy. We have seen the inequity within healthcare distributions of Covid and the Texas Energy Crisis. So what can we do?

Speak up. Use the power and prestige of our platforms that others could only dream of having to let our voices empower others. If we are silent, we are not doing our job. Speak up, especially in those spaces that we think are inappropriate, because those are these spaces within which we need to make progress. Speak up not only for what is wrong, but how to solve these issues. Speak up for those who don’t think they can, or that they matter.

Show up. If we want people to believe we are there for them, show up — even where we are not expected. Be present to speak WITH those communities, rather than for them.

Stand Up. There is a danger in being engaged, in being curious. When we stand as a known target, we WILL be hit by the elements. People may despise us, question who we are.

Remember: Those who have been waiting for you to stand up will celebrate you — will trust in you.

We become better and move forward.

Abrams suggested to begin with incremental goals to maintain momentum – situate yourself not as the solution, but as large fabric finding an answer.

“We are not here to fix the world, we are here to fight for the world. We are not the first, we are not last, but when we fight for change, we become a part of the whole.”

Day 3: Talking about Climate Change – Katherine Hayhoe

Screenshot from AIA 2021 Grassroots

Ms. Hayhoe, a leading research scientist on climate change, began her session by relating our global and national response to Covid19 with climate change. She stated that our world is collectively in the first week of March in reacting to climate change. Do you remember how long March felt last year?

When rapid action was employed for Covid19, it saved lives. The same could be said about climate change. We have yet to apply any rapid action for this crisis, but it is soon coming.


Climate change is currently one of the top politicized issues in our country. So how do we, as architects, address this issue? There are plenty of facts and figures to support global warming and the effects humans have had on the planet. 8 million deaths worldwide (200,000 in the United States) due to fossil fuel air pollution each year, increasing water contamination and diseases, more frequent weather disasters, even disproportionally affecting marginalized populations that can not work places with better air quality.

But do facts and figures convince us climate change will affect us personally and within the next 3 to 5, or 10 to 20 years?

We need to address climate change as it affects our priorities. Let’s take the economy for example. As we have seen with Covid19, it is projected the US may have a GDP loss of $10 trillion 2020-2021. With climate change that number is projected to $1 quadrillion dollars in the next 80 years. This WILL affect our jobs, families, how we live.

Our society is built on the assumption our climate is stable. With all major changes within our society we go through mitigation, adaptation and suffering. It is up to us how much we are able to mitigate now and adapt along the way to minimize the suffering down the road.

Day 4: Bring the Message Home – Dan Roam

For the final session, Dan Roam brought it home. He described the built environment as a fundamental, social contract for the safety, wellbeing, and health for ALL people. We reviewed notable Big Ideas from two days before and were reminded that in a complex world simple drawings are clarifying, reassuring, and human. He encouraged us to show, not tell.

Peter Exley, AIA 2021 President

“Why not use our unique skills to influence through showing? I prefer drawing to talking. Drawing is faster and leaves less room for lies.” –  Le Corbusier

Stay informed. Stay present within your communities and continue to lead for the betterment of all. Bring it home.

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