Do landscape architects understand climate peril?

By Steve Austin

I am a proud member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). Unfortunately, it appears the fine folks at the organization just don’t understand how much peril we face because of climate change.

They’ve recently released a sustainable transportation initiative that makes many vital points in an understandable way, but which absolutely misses the mark on what must happen with carbon emissions if we are to have any chance of our civilization surviving climate change.

Here’s the relevant section:

Low-emission: Sustainable transportation systems don’t contribute to climate change; instead, they encourage low-emission modes of transportation such as mass transit, biking, or walking. Sustainable land use practices such as transit-oriented development facilitate multi-modal systems where residents can easily walk or bike to meet basic daily needs. Landscape architects plan regions, cities, and neighborhoods and design streets that support widespread adoption of low-emission transportation options.

The issue is simple: there can no long be any such thing as LOW EMISSIONS. There can only be ZERO EMISSIONS combined with excess carbon dioxide DRAWDOWN by environmental or engineered means.   We must STOP emissions completely, and then REVERSE the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.

“Low emissions” are simply a SLOW but CONTINUE pattern that will keep us on the highway to hell.  CO2 emissions are currently nearing 410 ppm in the atmosphere, well Continue reading “Do landscape architects understand climate peril?”

Planning great cities and including cars is impossible

This article is nearly 50 years old, but it captures the futility of urban planning that includes automobiles.  Yes we knew even then that any city planning that included cars was worthless.  Yet, cars are an absolute necessity for life in the USA.  What to do? Well, we’ve destroyed most cities by spreading them out to accommodate for the low rise architecture and segregated land uses made possible by cars and the parking lots necessary for all those cars.  Suburban sprawl, in other words, is the only planning mode possible, and even now, it fails us.  The places we live are ugly and disconnected and not worth caring about, and choked with traffic just the same.  This explains why so many people, if they can afford to, choose to live ever further and further away from the messes that are our cities, causing ever more environmental destruction.

The author of the article was André Gorz , a philosopher, journalist, and writer. He was known as one of the first ecosocialists and political ecologists.

We must tell the truth: part 1

By Steve Austin

We must absolutely tell the truth as to what trying to stem and then reverse climate change will mean: the end of industrial-consuming society. That society is founded upon the use of fossil fuels. We do not get that society without them. There is no choice of “getting greener” and still basically living like we do. To deal with climate change we will live completely different lives, with less energy, less material things, more inconveniences, and more hard work.

Buying a Chevy Volt is not going to work.

A recent commentary from the LA Times that addresses the destruction that climate Continue reading “We must tell the truth: part 1”

Where youth are in the USA

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This map shows, in blue areas, where the counties are that contain the youngest Americans.  My theory is that most of those blue areas are college towns, Indian reservations, areas with high percentage of farm workers, and certainly Mormon areas in Utah.  The original map is here.

Below is a close up of the Pacific and Inland Northwest.  Whitman County – home to Washington State University, is the youngest county in the entire region.  Latah County, Idaho, home to the University of Idaho, is adjacent to the east.  The prime farming areas of central Washington also contains many young people.  I though that the counties that contain Seattle and Portland would skew bluer, but do not. The mountains of eastern Washington, northern Idaho, and western Montana have a comparatively older population.

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Visualizing energy slaves

This long form comic about the concept of energy slaves is by Stuart McMillen.  Very few citizens, even landscape architects or urban planners, understand the idea of energy slaves.  It is as if we take our way of life completely for granted as something that is just “natural.”  In the below zero era that we must get to if we are to escape the worst ravishes of climate change, we will fully understand just what we had.

Don’t despair: climate catastrophe can still be averted

This is an op-ed by Simon Lewis, a well respected scientist in the UK.  In this piece he lays out the stark conditions we are already facing due to climate change.  We have only warmed 1 degree Celsius and the devastation is already enormous.  We are on track for a 3-4C warmer world by the end of the century.  Mr. Lewis argues that only through political change can we avoid the worst.

Is that wishful thinking:  will people vote for a complete dismantling of our current way of life? In the near future, we will face additional extremely difficult questions.