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Archive for the ‘CLIMATE’ Category

BY ZACH MORTICE

“Altitudes” reorients formerly disused ecologies for the production of local cash crops, organized vertically in the Selva Central region of Peru. Image courtesy Openfabric.

The coffee production industry is a “global economy with a local ecology,” says Francesco Garofalo of the landscape architecture studio Openfabric. The studio has a plan for a coffee-producing region of Peru that would align local cultivation practices with global distribution networks. Openfabric’s “Altitudes” plan steps back from coffee plantation monocultures to spread cash crop risk by encouraging production of a range of foodstuffs. The goal is to create more sustainable cycles of cultivation, production, and distribution.

The plan focuses on the Selva Central region of Peru, east of Lima, which straddles both the Andes and the Amazon River Basin. The local economy is intensely reliant on coffee production, but it’s a fragile and volatile market. Prices surge and plummet on a whim, vulnerable to small climatic shifts that can greatly affect yield. That makes life for the region’s coffee producers precarious.

And lately, temperatures in Selva Central have been rising because of climate change, causing (more…)

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BY JANE BERGER

There’s a palm for just about any place you’re planting.

FROM THE JULY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

You can’t always get what you want—unless, that is, you’re into palms. Lisa Gimmy, ASLA, of Lisa Gimmy Landscape Architecture in Los Angeles, finds palms uniquely suited to small gardens, given small root balls that leave “a very tiny footprint on the ground.” One that Gimmy likes to use is the blue hesper or Mexican blue palm (Brahea armata), native to Baja California, Mexico, with stunning, silvery-blue, fan-shaped fronds and creamy white flower clusters that cascade down from the leaves. Gimmy selects palms for spatial characteristics first, then for texture, leaf color, and the character of the trunk. “They are like poems,” she says. “With the head up in the air, there’s really nothing else like it.” Gimmy also likes palms because they provide “instant gratification, and that’s very important in Southern California.”

Ray Hernandez, the president of the International Palm Society, told me a story about a friend who drives from Long Island, New York, to Florida every year to pick up specimens that will last for just the summer season. “The folks that live out in the Hamptons and have 10 zeros behind their bank account can afford to haul up a coconut palm or something hardier and plant it in their landscape, and (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

DurkTalsma/iStock by Getty Images.

Development as usual is not cutting it in the era of climate change. A new interdisciplinary report released this morning by the American Society of Landscape Architects calls on public officials and private interests both to transform the ways they plan, design, and build at all scales to counter climate change, and it asserts that the most fundamental and potent mitigation policies and strategies are based in landscape solutions.

ASLA’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Climate Change and Resilience comprised 10 professionals—five of them landscape architects—who produced a slate of recommended policies and planning solutions to guide national and local leaders, as well as private-sector decision makers as they work to address climate change in several specific development arenas. That includes the protection of (more…)

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University of Virginia Landscape Architecture Chair Bradley Cantrell, ASLA, sees the future of landscape design as a spectrum of interactions between technologies that sense the environment, model and simulate it, and then finally affect the physical world—all without constant human input and monitoring. As argued in his March 13 LAM Lecture (and in his recent book Responsive Landscapes, written with Justine Holzman, ASLA), the future of landscape architecture is one of designing protocols for how natural systems behave, and tuning these algorithms and eventually the land itself, thus loosening the stranglehold static and monofunctional infrastructure has on the planet.  “It’s not about us controlling every aspect,” he says. “It’s about us setting a range of ways those behaviors can act within.”

Cantrell’s research is grounded in the previous century’s cutting-edge modeling and simulation methods, like the Army Corp of Engineers Mississippi River Basin Model in Clinton, Mississippi, which modeled the entire rivershed, scaled down to a mere 200 acres. From there, Cantrell details contemporary research that is equal parts computational and material, honing ever more granular data points toward more accurate models. For example, there’s USC Assistant Professor Alexander Robinson’s Office of Outdoor Research, Landscape Morphologies Lab work, which uses an articulated robot arm to scrape out dust-mitigating landforms at California’s Owens Lake. Cantrell’s own inquiries involve test bed river basin models that deposit sediment via the variable flow of water, which he has been able to manipulate as though it were a geologic 3-D printer, expanding and cutting back sediment deposit “land” where it’s desired. The resulting topographies are scanned and converted into point-cloud maps.

Cantrell’s approach pushes landscape architecture’s prevailing infrastructure fixation until it ricochets out of the physically imposing world of concrete and culverts and into abstract data, underpinning the omnipresent ways we reengineer ecologies with quantitative facts. The biggest challenge for modeling and simulating dynamic environments, Cantrell says, is not gathering all the requisite data, but getting it to interact in a way that matches reality. At its core, it’s a call for new levels of observational rigor: first, to observe all the factors that make an ecosystem function, and then to understand how those factors work together to create a landscape.

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Homes along old Highway A1A in Summer Haven, Florida. Photo courtesy St. Johns Public Works.

The McHarg Center—a new research initiative that will study the intersection of urbanism and ecology—is dedicated to studying how “urban growth and all of its related infrastructure can relate better and be better tuned to ecosystems,” says Richard Weller, ASLA, chair of the landscape architecture department at the University of Pennsylvania. The center is awaiting its formal launch next year with an exhibition, book, and conference timed to the 50th anniversary of Ian McHarg’s seminal book Design with Nature. In the meantime, the center, housed within PennDesign, has invited Jeff Goodell, the author of The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World (Little, Brown, and Company, 2017), to visit for an inaugural lecture on March 29, at 6:00 p.m. in the lower gallery of Meyerson Hall.

In the spirit of McHarg’s research, Weller envisions the McHarg Center as an intensely multidisciplinary place. “When he completely overhauled the curriculum at Penn, he stacked the building with scientists,” Weller says. Likewise, Penn’s McHarg Center will invite scientists, designers, engineers, and public policy experts into an (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Image by Jocelyn Augustino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

In November, Moody’s Investors Service, the bond rating agency, released a cautionary report on climate change. Looking ahead, the report said, the effects of what it describes as climate trends and climate shocks are sure to become a “growing negative credit factor” for states, localities, or utilities that don’t appear to be responding to potential climate change effects through mitigation or adaptation. Cities and others issue bonds to borrow money for building things such as infrastructure or schools. They need investors to know they’re a good risk. Moody’s came out to say that it has begun deciding, based on climate resilience among a matrix of other factors, whether a given risk is good or bad. “If you’re exposed,” one Moody’s analyst told Bloomberg, “we know that.”

The other of the two biggest rating agencies, Standard & Poor’s, is also keenly onto climate (it and Moody’s together run 80 percent of the bond rating business). It released a report in October to explain how municipal bond issuers will be affected by climate impacts. Like Moody’s, S&P specified two theaters of risk: the sudden extreme event, such as a hurricane, and “more gradual changes to the environment affecting land use, employment, and economic activity that support credit quality.”

This may all seem very back-office in the design world, and for now it is. It is also, critically, moving to the fore as the federal stance on climate change and its many hazards is not only in retreat but in vicious denial. Trump administration appointees, who are like drones for industry, are ordering the removal of references to climate change in agency communications. The administration is also purging our government of good-faith, (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Texas National Guard and Texas Task Force responders conduct aerial search and rescue in Rockport, Holiday Beach, and the Port Aransas area. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, photo by the Texas National Guard.

An unprecedented storm that dumped more than 50 inches of rain onto Texas over just a few days, Harvey was the kind of hurricane that worsening climate change promises to bring back for a sequel. And if and when that happens, the next round of  recovery and resilience calculus might best begin with the results of the National Science Foundation’s series of research grants dedicated to studying the storm’s effects.

Last month, the agency handed out just over $5 million across 59 research projects prompted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, including several that deal with the ecological and landscape fallout of catastrophic storms. Each promises to generate valuable information about flora and fauna left reeling from extreme weather events. But these studies (four of which are detailed here) are even more vital as mile markers down the path toward a future besieged by climate change—either as guidance on forestalling it or living better within its confines.

Anna Armitage of Texas A&M Galveston is studying how the transition from salt marsh wetlands to mangroves might change how hurricanes affect the coast. In Texas, low, marshy wetlands are common, whereas dense mangroves are rare. That balance is shifting, however, as climate change heats up these ecosystems. As mangroves expand their footprint, Armitage (and researchers at Florida International University and the University of Houston) wonders if they might offer coastal ecosystems and human settlement more protection from hurricane winds and rain—at a cost of biodiversity. “It probably doesn’t provide the same value for birds, fish, and shrimp,” she says.

Climate Change Big Picture: If mangroves do offer more protection for coastal ecosystems in a climate of increasingly severe storms, then Armitage says the next question is, “Should we be planting them in restoration sites?” These kinds of “living shorelines,” she says, could be “more resilient, longer-lasting, and nicer looking protection for our communities” than concrete barriers.

Grant amount: $122,935

Paul Montagna of Texas A&M Corpus Christi is studying the inundation of fresh water (via rainfall) into saltwater ecosystems that Hurricane Harvey caused. From initial measurements after the rain, he’s observed increased amounts of dissolved organic matter in these waterways, and has seen (more…)

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