David Foley's Acceptance Speech

Thank you. You’ve touched my heart. This award: when Fred told me, I was stunned, and embarrassed. I thought of those who’ve given so much to NESEA, and I realize my feet can never fill those shoes. I’ve been a courier. You’re actually honoring people whom I’ve been blessed to know, who taught me invaluable lessons, and encouraged me to share what I learned. So I have.

It would take too long to name all those you’re honoring. They’ve all mattered. Above all, three are my touchstones: Judy Berk, my wife, Sarah Holland, my business partner, and the late Dana Meadows, my mentor and friend. Dana was a brilliant systems thinker, a gifted writer and teacher, and a tireless champion for a sustainable, fulfilling, just, and vibrant world. Like all of us, she struggled to close the gap between what is, and what needs to be, but she saw that as an engaging, thrilling, and worthy adventure. She was trained and grounded in science. Yet, the most important thing she taught was this: Operate from Love.

Yes: We apply the science, run the numbers, hone the craft, improve the business. We do the Work. One thing more: let’s foster a happy marriage of Know-How and Know-Why. Or as my friend Bob Slayton says, “Think Spiritually, Act Technically.”

That may seem quaint or hopeless these days. In fact, it’s powerful and revolutionary.

NESEA—meaning you, the people who breathe life into this amazing organization—are my community, teachers, goads, colleagues, and dearest friends. I love how your pragmatism, acumen, and idealism work together. The world is sweeter for your presence—thank you. You show that—if we choose to—we can make a world that works for everyone, thrives for millennia, and is far better than what we’ve managed so far. You demonstrate, every day, that sustainability is far more than avoiding calamity—it’s embracing quality, beauty, genuine fulfillment, joy, fun, elegant design, and good-old really nifty technics.

I guess there’s been some talk that NESEA is moving beyond what we called “Whole Systems in Action.” No—I think NESEA is moving forward with it, applied to the work at hand. Building science. Integrated design. Metrics and indicators. Life cycle assessment. Sustainable cities. Place-making. Resilience. Leverage points. Effective policies. Smart business. Systems Thinking will be right there, hiding in plain sight.

Just remember the most important part: Operate from Love. Thank you all so very much.

Our Mission

NESEA advances sustainability practices in the built environment by cultivating a cross-disciplinary community where practitioners are encouraged to share, collaborate and learn.