Archive for September, 2011

Frederick Law Olmsted

Frederick Law Olmsted’s endeavors as a Civil War journalist and head of the U.S. Sanitary Commission during the first years of the Civil War have been featured in the NY Times Opinionator/Disunion series twice in the past 3 months. The latest article is in today’s edition, featuring Olmsted’s map of The Cotton Kingdom and the effects of a slave-based economy. An earlier article in July described the broader body of Olmsted’s work over that period of just a few years. Olmsted considered it his greatest contribution to his country. As a Southerner, I cannot help but note this part from today’s article:

For the next several years Olmsted sent back voluminous reports — published in three volumes — of disorder, poverty, inefficiency, backwardness and chaos. We might dismiss these as hopelessly biased Northern observations, yet these accounts gained a wide audience, and challenged the contemporary picture of the cotton south as an economic powerhouse. (emphasis added)

Um, yeah. But who can defend the status quo of the times?

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Is anyone excited about U.S. politics these days, excited in a positive sort of way? I have been ignoring the weekly ups and downs regarding legislation affecting the environment, preferring to take notice only when a proposal looks likely to pass. Given that nothing is passing both houses of Congress, I’ve had time on my hands! For some time now, it has been clear that climate change was not going to be on the agenda in Washington, D.C. Climate has, in fact, been considered the proverbial “third rail” in the nation’s capital ever since cap-and-trade legislation failed. This is a sorry state of affairs, in my opinion, but climate adaptation is still a growing need at the local level, with cities taking the lead in many cases, despite dysfunction at the national level.

Nevertheless, federal funding is still critical for local government planning, making it a necessity for local government planners to know which way the federal winds are blowing. This past week, members of the American Planning Association lobbied Washington in support of legislation that would support local communities, and NRDC blogger, Deron Lovaas reported on some of the planners’ interests.

In our current political climate, no one’s talking about climate. But people do want to hear about economics and energy, which means that it’s a great time to talk about transportation solutions.  …snip…  Planners should be pushing for bipartisan solutions like high-occupancy toll lanes, ITS technology and scenario planning in their communities.

Lovaas is urging planners to focus their attention on the infrastructure bills, like the American Jobs Act, as a possible means to climate action. He continues:

Yesterday planners spent the day lobbying on the Hill, pushing for the American Jobs Act and the clean energy opportunities it presents, such as investments in innovative transit projects through the TIGER and TIFIA programs, and Project Rebuild, which will invest $15 billion in rehabilitating properties in distressed communities.

It could happen.

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The recently announced national ASLA student awards included two graduate students in the Department of Landscape Architecture at SUNY-ESF, Marin Braco and Andrew Murphy. Their innovative remediation project received an analysis and planning honor award. Our colleague, Martin Hogue, was the faculty advisor. Nice work!

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Charts of the Day – From the report, International Energy Outlook 2011  (IEO2011), released yesterday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Global energy use is projected to increase by 53% by 2035, with China and India accounting for half of the increase and with coal being the main source. Alternative energy is on the rise, everywhere, but its impact is fairly small in comparison with the projected increase in demand.

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Be the change you want to see in the world. Even if this quote has found its way onto too many bumpers, it’s still a sentiment/aspiration/call that I like. In an age when so much of the power structure seems faulty, it is natural to turn toward one’s own sphere of influence, and I’d argue that the saying is particularly relevant now. I am fortunate to be in an environmental college where many of the students seem to be answering Gandhi’s call. I spent nearly an hour on the phone today with a prospective student who clearly has a noble mission and is already taking on the role of change maker. Totally inspiring to see many other students doing the same! Much more than a bumper sticker. And a hopeful sign for us all.

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Charles Birnbaum (image courtesy of SUNY-ESF)

ESF alumnus, Charles Birnbaum, is the president of The Cultural Landscape Foundation. He is also blogging about cultural landscapes and landscape architecture in general in the Arts section of the internet newspaper, Huffington Post. You can read his post about the urban design and landscape of Philadelphia here.

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David Tulloch of the Places and Spaces blog has posted a well-produced video on the Tribute in Light memorial. In the video, lighting designer Paul Marantz discusses the process of bringing the concept to fruition. Designed and executed by the firm Fisher, Marantz, Stone in collaboration with a group of architects and artists, the memorial is an installation of 88 searchlights that suggest the outline of the twin towers against the New York skyline. The temporary installation originally debuted six months after 9/11, and it has been launched yearly on the anniversary of the attack, including this year.

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