Thinking Like a Mountain

Thinking Like a Mountain

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More than half a century ago Aldo Leopold wrote of learning to think like a mountain.  He claimed that this was essential to behaving ecologically. But how does a mountain think?  Leopold provides one significant clue.  He relates the story of seeing the dying “green fire” in the eyes of a wolf mother he shot.  He tells us that a mountain must live in fear of its deer herd, for without predators the deer will eat her bare and the rains will strip her of soil. Let’s follow Leopold’s trail and see where it takes us. His wolf story reminds me of another my friend tells about Yellowstone National Park:  when wolves were reintroduced, they lowered the temperature of the water in many of the streams and rivers. How could this be? In the absence of large predators, ungulates (elk, moose, deer etc.) were unafraid and spent most of their

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Place Sense

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For human beings, places are meaningful and meaning creating.  According to urban planner Timothy Beatley, “Meaningful places are essential for meaningful lives.”  Without a sense of place we would live within undifferentiated and thereby meaningless space.  Cultural Geographer Yi-Fu Tuan wrote, “Space is transformed into place as it acquires definition and meaning.”  Our sense of home, of homeland, of our place and role in the world, all help to give us a sense of rootedness and identity in the world.  They help to nurture us and provide us a safe haven when we are in need of it.  When we have a sense of place in the world, we know where we come from and where we are going.  As such, we feel “in-place” in the world. Sense of place is an embodied experience, not an abstract concept.  Our home and the street we live on may feel meaningful and

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Planning for Regenerative Communities Requires New Premises

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While we are hearing more and more about regenerative design, less attention has been paid to how community planning must shift.  Traditionally, community planning efforts have been organized around managing different societal functions—job creation, transportation, housing, habitat protection, etc. as a way of creating economic development, environmental protection or community revitalization. They have largely been conducted as if these facets of life were unrelated to each other.  Where more than one facet has been considered, the goals that were not the primary driver have normally been treated as background constraints, e.g., to advance economic development with minimum harm to the environment. The push to create “sustainable cities” has added goals around carbon emissions and energy efficiency without changing this pattern–a pattern that presents serious barriers to community sustainability, let alone regeneration. There is growing evidence that this fragmented approach to planning is failing. Urban centers are feeling overwhelmed by the

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