Can landscape architects take on the challenges of Climate Change?

In their latest report Climate Change and Land, the IPCC has stated that land is a critical resource under growing human pressure through Agriculture, forestry as well as other types of land use that collectively account for 23% of human greenhouse gas emissions. According to the IPCC, the critical for food security, but this needs to be balanced with protecting biodiversity and reducing risks of land degradation.

This report adds to the growing noise around climate change as well as the impacts that our cities, lives as human beings and everything we can possibly do in order to facilitate adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development.

Over the past decade, landscape architects have been working on solutions for increased urbanisation; however, they have been often far too focused on activation and been seduced into creating modern-day follies, intensive landscape on structures(bridges/walkways) and brightly coloured hard surfaces, as opposed to working with existing land to create sustainable landscape networks that help cool our cities, utilizing the core principles of landscape architecture of designing with nature, art and science for the benefit of our cities, towns and communities.  We would do well to realise the benefits that can be derived through working with landscapes and create urban forests that treat and store water, create natural cooling, and sequester carbon.

We can make all the pledges and declarations that we want. However, they are all hollow claims if they are not backed by action. As landscape architects, we may be equipped to deal with climate change, but we are only part of the solution. We need to work with our cities, clients, communities and allied disciplines in order to take credible action through education and then create solutions that will adapt our cities for the imminent changes to our climate and planet.

Every time we have the chance to speak to a client, community member, or government official, we have the opportunity to make a difference. Every time we take on a new project, we are equipped with the skills and knowledge to create a landscape that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. A landscape that respects the land and its place in the ecosystem, that looks to conserve ecology, increase/maintain biodiversity, reduce degradation, abate intense natural events to reduce erosion, recycle materials, utilise alternative energy as well as reduce stress on ecosystems. The impact of our work may not always be immediate, but it is sure to deliver immensely beneficial outcomes for decades to come.

I call on all landscape architects and members of design communities to take heed of the increased warnings surrounding climate change and to take on the challenges that we are faced with. I also implore all of them to facilitate mitigation and adaptation so as to limit the adverse impact of climate change.

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