“So if the question is, can we afford to do all of these other things in addition to like the decarbonization goals of the Green New Deal, then I think my response to that is, can we afford not to try?”
Could a future stimulus package be constructed as a Green New Deal? Perhaps. And this atlas is a powerful tool to show us why everyone in America could benefit from policy that centers climate change and economic justice—and get regions thinking about how they would like to self-determine their future.
“The folks at People’s Action and in the housing and tenants’ rights movement really built the momentum for Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Sanders to feel like they had the cover and the urgency necessary to put this bill up,” Fleming said.
This special issue of Socio-Ecological Practice Research is timed to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Design With Nature. Whereas McHarg is generally acknowledged as the father of ecological design and planning, his contributions are frequently misunderstood and/or misrepresented. The special issue will help clarify his legacy and to extend its reach into the twenty-first century.
“The scale of this is almost unfathomable. If we take the climate science seriously," said Billy Fleming, the Wilks Family Director of the Ian McHarg Center at the University of Pennsylvania. "We’re down to the last 10-12 years to mobilize the full force of the government and move on managed retreat.”
City planners are using the ideas of the Green New Deal to think differently about urban infrastructure (last week a “Designing the Green New Deal” conference at the University of Pennsylvania attracted more than 2,000 attendees). On college campuses, the Green New Deal has gone viral, transforming depressing lectures about the climate crisis into inspiring debates about race, power, and environmental justice.
Now, while the scientists are working on their empirical models, the question in the arts is not so much how the Anthropogenic Earth works but what the Anthropogenic Earth means. To wit, just look at the plethora of recent books that use the word Anthropocene in their titles. Notably, almost all are dramatic and apocalyptic. Indeed, thoughout the humanities, there is evidently outright panic about the advent of the Anthropocene. And rightly so, because the old idea of nature as something stable and inviolable, history’s backdrop, has literally just evaporated into the carbon-saturated atmosphere of our own making.
In the midst of our climate crisis, it's time to talk about how and where we live.
“We’ve reached the limit of what design firms and cities can do,” said Billy Fleming, director of the Ian L. McHarg Center at PennDesign, who cautioned against wishful thinking in a provocative essay in Places Journal in the spring. Glossy renderings of one-off projects, he said, simply don’t begin to match the scale of the problem — a national emergency requiring a national response. That means a new arrangement of funding streams and institutional support, a rebooted Army Corps of Engineers, and a sweeping organizational framework like the Green New Deal. “Adapting to climate change and decarbonizing the economy — these are huge structural things.”