© Steve Austin (used with permission)
By Steve Austin, JD | ASLA | Clinical Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture, Washington State University
For over 30 years in various capacities, I have taught the profession and craft of landscape architecture to university students. Sharing my love and passion for landscape architecture with students has been one of the great joys of my life. The academic, professional, and community recognition they have received for their individual and team work gives me great personal satisfaction. Yet with all this, I now wonder if I am adequately preparing my students for their future.
Our current students will face challenges unlike any faced by previous generations. Anthropogenic destruction of life and life-support systems has pushed the planet into an ecological emergency. Mass extinctions are accelerating. Human encroachment into the last wild places has given us the global pandemic. And from the ecological emergency arise social emergencies. The botched US response to that pandemic coupled with an already wildly unequal economy is likely to have created a depression that could last a decade. At the same time, the protectors and purveyors of systemic racism in the US seem hell bent on ensuring the country disintegrates into violence and hatred rather than see any challenge to White rule for the benefit of corporations.
Oh, almost forgot: 2020 is trending toward being the hottest year in recorded history, following the hottest decade in recorded history. Global heating has already triggered 9 of the 15 known tipping points of the planetary regulating system, potentially leading to a cascade of unstoppable, devastating climactic events.
These could destabilize living conditions over large swaths of the planet, causing immense human suffering and likely leading to sustained global military conflict over the coming decades. Leading climate scientists recently published a paper in the journal Nature which concluded that “this is an existential threat to civilization.”
So yeah, today’s students got all that going for them, which is not nice.
How are we addressing this as landscape architecture educators?
While much of landscape architectural education is timeless, I fear it is not evolving as urgently as the emergency demands. Much of today’s curriculum would be recognized by students of 50 years ago or longer and is suited for a planet and society that no longer exists. The Anthropocene is not just another issue to address, rather it is a new era that requires new responses. Continue reading “Landscape Architecture Education 2020: Between Two Worlds”