Toward Resource Self-sufficiency – One Region at a Time
by Philip Norton Loheed
As president of Earthos Institute, I have helped to create Bioregional Urbanism, a process to encourage changes back to “One Planet Living.” This is the third of 10 installments describing Bioregional Design principles.
So, where are we?
Global and national politics are in gridlock. At local scale – city and bioregion – problems such as climate change, rising sea level, and the like require design responses. Bioregional Urbanism is thus the “action scale” by default. Three key words characterize levels of action: Mitigation. Adaptation. Retreat.
Mitigation – Global programs such as 2030, IPCC and many others have failed to reduce global warming by controlling environmental pollution. In fact, current national policy accelerates the onset of negative environmental feedback, including the current pandemic.
Adaptation has resulted in a variety of short-term “fixes” such as dike systems, expendable first floor uses, floating warehouses, flood barriers and other “hardened infrastructure.” In the Netherlands, an additional six meters of sea level rise will reclaim much of the Randstad – and much of the coastal plain here – 100% at risk up to ±4-5m elevation at this time.
Retreat – Roughly 20% of the Boston Bioregion’s coastal plain is at risk of ocean inundation, and loss of thousands of fresh water sources. The Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge has evaluated the risks of once-a-month “chronic flooding” in the region. In Massachusetts, ±40% of coastal land is at risk of becoming open water.
Re-inhabiting: Imagine that our designs to restore the [sustainable] balance between Earth’s capacity and our needs is achieved in the next several decades. It would mean that the unsustainable period of human abuse is a brief, but intensely creative period in our evolution.
In the three realms of action, careful thought – about life-cycle costs, social benefits, and transferable equity to preserve mobility for citizens – will be driven by evaluation of the time available for action. Worst case for ocean rise is about the 70 meter elevation: Should Mass General be moved above that level? Other critical infrastructure? Longest-term settlements?
Among designers, new settlement patterns can be designed in this moment of social distancing and bioregional training direct from Mother Nature…
To assist in creating goals for self-sufficiency in the Boston Bioregion, please do use the link to the Global Footprint Network world study at http://data.footprintnetwork.org/#/. Think about the level of challenge we face in those terms…
Please tune in next month…!
Phillip Norton Loheed is a principal at Design Partnership Plus.