Saturday, November 04, 2006

New Directions for (Eco)development

Invasive species studies, which comprise work in the fields of biology, botany, anthropology, archeology, meteorology, climatology, agronomy, economics, history and politics, to name a few, can seem daunting and over arching to new comers. However, invasive species issues themselves are but a sub set of the larger field of ecology.

Many times I think we are so focused on our area of interest and expertise that we forget that in most cases our font of knowledge is part of a grander collections of specific detailed understandings. In some ways we get lost in our on small world and forget to link our studies to a broader sweep, a larger hierarchy of assembled facts and experiences. Sometimes we are so focused on mining for information downwards that we forget to look up to larger scales of comprehension.

We look work on the foundations of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, sociology as areas of intense study in which experts spend a life time. We are comfortable with this pyramid of related areas of study each drilling down to a smaller focus of understanding. The comfort level is lost when we try to go in the other direction, linking our understandings to something bigger than humanity. We look back and down to the size of sub atomic particles and back to the edges of the beginning, but struggle to look forward and up above our on immediate organizational norms.

Here then is the problem of any theory which purports to explain the environment.. Quickly the fields of knowledge and the variability of fact which are required to generate any theory spin wildly out of the realm of normative comprehension. And therefore they become suspect. Meanwhile, there is a larger complexity to life and earth which I think no one denies and it responds to minute changes whether we try to understand or not.

When we plan our daily lives and our structures which support them, we tend to look at the immediate and the local and fail to account for the long term and the distant.
On Friday, November 3rd, 2006, I had the pleasure of attending the Chesapeake Conservation Landscape Council (CCLC) first all day conference. The work of the all volunteer board in bringing together almost 200 participants demonstrates the power that grass roots efforts can make in changing the world in which we live. As in many great conferences the CCLC ran concurrent session so I can only speak of the three sessions I attended, which were wonderfully informative. These sessions began to address the struggles which some have taken on to create a new dynamic, a new understanding, and a new thinking when it comes to humanity’s place on and in this world.

First was “The Art and Economics of Natural Building, John L Knott, Jr., the President and CEO of the Noisette Company. Green development is making its way in the mainstream with new design and building techniques that improve energy efficiency, restore and conserve natural landscapes, and build community cohesion. Developers and their consultants are finding that green development also benefits the bottom line by creating real estate value. This session will explore the green building and design movement by sharing real world project examples and the unique processes and innovative techniques used to move these projects forward. “
Following this, I listened to Conservation Design, Best Development Practices, Keith Bowers
Many of the world’s ecosystems have undergone significant degradation with negative impacts on biological diversity and peoples’ livelihoods. There is now a growing realization that we will not be able to conserve the earth’s biological diversity through the protection of critical areas alone.
This talk explains what is meant by the term "ecological restoration" and outlines the attributes and framework for enhancing biodiversity as well as improving human well-being in degraded landscapes. In this way ecological restoration becomes a fundamental element of ecosystem management. Given that many people now depend on what have become degraded ecosystems to sustain their livelihoods, landscape architects now have an opportunity to employ ecological restoration initiatives as a means to
-- Improve biodiversity conservation
-- Improve human livelihoods
-- Empower local people
-- Improve ecosystem productivity
Integrating conservation planning, ecological restoration and regenerative site design strategies into all facets of projects should be a primary component of conservation and ‘green’ development programs throughout the US.”
And to close out the day, “Designing and Planning Communities. Panel Discussion, John Knott, Keith Bowers, Richard Stanford, Tim Zastrow
New communities can be planned to reduce their impact on the natural environment by using innovative storm water management techniques, by saving trees and existing wildlife habitat, and by implementing alternative low impact designs. Each of the four panelists – a developer, a landscape architect, a civil engineer, and an arborist -- will bring a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities they have had in developing green communities. Moderated by David O’Neill of the Chesapeake Bay Trust.
Slowly, the ideas of the past are changing, and with it, the old ways and understanding that said: Go forth and dominate the flora and the fauna. Now we seek to find ways to live with the same, and to be part of this world.

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