At Lincoln House November 2016

Nature and Cities

As the world urbanizes and the effects of climate change grow more severe, it is critical to integrate nature in urban design and planning to make cities and urban infrastructure truly green, sustainable, and resilient. So write leading international landscape architects, architects, city planners, and urban designers in Nature and Cities: The Ecological Imperative in Urban Design and Planning, a new book published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and edited by Frederick R. Steiner, George F. Thompson, and Armando Carbonell.

A collection of richly illustrated essays, Nature and Cities builds on traditions by leading thinkers during the last century such as Aldo Leopold, Ian McHarg, and Patrick Geddes. The authors include a range of practitioners and scholars–from young leaders such as Chris Reed, Nina-Marie Lister, and Kristina Hill to veteran pioneers like Laurie Olin, Anne Whiston Spirn, and Elizabeth Meyer–who explore the economic, environmental, and public health benefits of integrating nature more fully into cities.

Harvard professor Charles Waldheim summarizes advances in the emerging field of landscape urbanism, showing how New York City's High Line, designed by chapter author James Corner, and Chicago's Millennium Park transformed derelict infrastructure into public amenities that "convene community, catalyze development, and remediate environmental conditions for a newly conceived public realm." Landscape architect Kate Orff describes the restoration of oyster reefs in New York Harbor to purify water and create a living breakwater to mitigate sea level rise. And Susannah Drake calls for a U.S. infrastructure upgrade–a WPA 2.0–to renovate failing highways and other public works so they soak up water and perform other ecological functions to build resilience.

"Imagine engineers embracing the tenets of ecological design and planning as they create roads, parking lots, interstates, impoundments, and other basic infrastructure," the editors write in the introduction. "Imagine those engaged with municipal management as well as agricultural, industrial, transportation, and utility sectors abandoning single-purpose thinking and embracing something grander and more impactful in providing benefits than does a single endeavor. Imagine a young adult being able to swim in clean waters in Rio's Guanabara Bay, a utility company finding a safe and not just the shortest path for the transfer of power and natural gas, a corporation building parking lots that percolate and repurpose runoff, a citizenry knowing that all human life begins and ends with nature, the source of all life. Imagine that."

Prior to the official launch of the book yesterday, Nature and Cities drew extensive advance praise. Former US interior secretary Bruce Babbitt said the compilation "overflows with imaginative insights and proposals to guide the ongoing urbanization of our planet," and Adrian Benepe, former New York parks commissioner and currently at the Trust for Public Land, called it "a stirring manifesto for sustaining beauty and a new public works agenda based on resilient infrastructure." Charles A. Birnbaum, president of the Cultural Landscape Foundation, said Nature and Cities was "essential reading for both students and professionals."

At the Beijing Forum

Lincoln Institute experts were in China earlier this month for a discussion about global urban development as part of the 2016 Beijing Forum, a major annual convening of scholars from around the world.

The Peking University-Lincoln Institute Center for Urban Development and Land Policy and Peking University School of Urban and Environmental Sciences organized a series of panels on the theme of Global Megacities and Regional Coordinated Development, a timely issue for fast-growing cities in China.

Lincoln Institute President and CEO George "Mac" McCarthy presented on monitoring the implementation of the New Urban Agenda, a UN agreement on sustainable urbanization adopted at the Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador last month. Other discussions included a panel on managing megacity development with McCarthy, Robert Yaro, president emeritus of the Regional Plan Association, and Zhi Liu, a senior fellow and director of the Lincoln Institute's Program on the People's Republic of China, as well as a discussion about promoting equitable development.

The Beijing Forum is sponsored by Peking University, the Beijing Municipal Commission on Education, and the Korea Foundation for Advanced Studies. Founded in 2004 with the theme of The Harmony of Civilizations and Prosperity for All, the forum seeks to "facilitate international academic exchanges and trans-cultural discussions in order to foster social development, harmony between civilizations, and greater prosperity for mankind."

Odds & Ends

Minnesota conservation leader David Hartwell, the new Kingsbury Browne Fellow, led a state campaign that will result in $6 billion over 25 years for conservation, arts and cultural preservation, and parks and trails ... Infrastructure for cities a possibility as Donald Trump prepares to take office ... Senior fellow Armando Carbonell was on stage Sunday at TEDxBeaconStreet with a talk on exploratory scenario planning ... In Mexico City, the Lincoln Institute's Program on Latin America and the Caribbean held its annual seminar with more than 20 scholars and graduate students, who discussed original research on land policy and urbanization. Program Director Martim Smolka also participated in a seminar on finance and property rights in Mexico City's new constitution ... We were delighted to be part of the Jane Jacobs documentary Citizen Jane, which premiered in New York November 10 ... How the Dutch made the property tax a team effort ... Armando Carbonell provides context to NPR All Things Considered related to a Detroit ballot measure that would have let residents negotiate community benefits (the measure failed but a less stringent alternative passed) ... In Wisconsin, cities grapple with big retailers' dark store tax loopholes ... George "Mac" McCarthy explains the virtuous cycle of smart infrastructure ... The New York Times highlights value capture and infrastructure discussions from last month's Habitat III conference ... McCarthy and World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez talk local government finance (video) ... This month's highlighted Working Paper: Could Land-Based Financing Help Create Fiscal Space for Investment by Brazil's Municipalities? by David Michael Vetter and Marcia Vetter.

— ANTHONY FLINT & WILL JASON, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

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