A new podcast aims to demystify the Green New Deal and its implications for the profession.
By Anjulie Rao
Since Senator Edward J. Markey and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez introduced the Green New Deal (GND) house resolution to Congress in 2019, architecture and landscape architecture educators have been teaching emerging designers to grapple with the possibilities of a carbon-neutral future outside the formal landscape practice (see “The Year of the Superstudio,” LAM, April 2022). Faculty are educating students on the interconnected systems related to economic policy, social movements, and the built environment, effectively blurring boundaries between areas of expertise.
A new podcast, Green New Deal Landscapes, is tapping into that interdisciplinary ethos. Created and hosted by José Alfredo Ramírez and Clara Olóriz Sanjuán, both educators at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London and codirectors of AA Groundlab, it endeavors to showcase precisely how these boundaries can be fractured through landscape practice. Produced by urbanNext, the eight-episode podcast was born of an issue of Architectural Design (AD) guest edited by Ramírez.
The AD issue presented a full breadth of articles and case studies addressing pressing concerns such as decolonizing climate action (by Manuel Shvartzberg Carrió and Danika Cooper), rare earth extractions (by Godofredo Enes Pereira, Christina Leigh Geros, and Jon Goodbun), and defining the shift toward “green labor” (by Julian Siravo). Yet, according to Ramírez, the journal’s structure presented physical limitations. “The [AD] issue has a very strict format—a number of contributors that is limited, a number of words which is also fixed, etcetera,” he says.
The podcast, which aired a year after the issue was published, allows the hosts to expand on some of the ideas presented in the journal and invite new voices. The format is conversational, with each speaker bringing a unique set of issues and research. “One of the intentions of the podcast is to show or broadcast an array of practices that perhaps hint towards different types of practice,” Ramírez says. “It’s understanding that there might be other ways of working, perhaps other objectives that are not necessarily only profit-seeking, but perhaps community-driven—or your research may be so different, the impact that it may have, the resources that you get.”
What the various practices had in common was grappling with new methodologies and philosophies that expand the GND beyond the scope of U.S. House Resolution 109. Jane Hutton and Alison Creba spoke on deconstruction and material life spans. Even “new” aluminum, they said, is a material that possesses generations in the ground before extraction. Such a perspective invites the profession to consider larger timescales more thoroughly. In another episode, Danika Cooper and Manuel Shvartzberg Carrió spoke as a follow-up to their AD article, “The Red Deal,” on the importance of Indigenous practice and participation in decarbonization. The episode helps reframe design “innovation” from new technologies to encompass and embrace decarbonization methods that have been practiced historically by Indigenous groups.
“These agendas cannot work within national boundaries, particularly from a Global North country,” Sanjuán says. “We constantly think about the GND with global dimensions because the global perspective of consequences, responsibilities, material flows, and social consequences [is] key to our potential contribution as designers.”
Like these border-crossing agendas, the podcast format has the potential to bolster communication around the GND and multidisciplinary decarbonization practices past academia and the landscape design profession and move such conversations into the public realm. But it has to be done strategically. “There’s such complexity for things that have an appearance of simplicity, like mobile phones or computers or any aspect of a light switch. I found in some conversations that some people openly say, ‘We don’t want to know.’ So it’s tricky,” Sanjuán says.
“I don’t think people are going to understand the crisis as molecules of carbon, but how the potential future could actually look,” Ramírez says. “In the production of images, we [designers] make people understand that if we produce certain transformations, even in our own houses, that future is not far away; it’s not science fiction, but it’s something that is potentially possible. That would be crucial, to make that strong connection to the public.”