INTRODUCTION:
THE LANDSCAPE TODAY
AND THE CHALLENGES AHEAD
EVERYTHING SEEMS so CLEAR FROM THE AIR, where details do not get in the way. At an elevation of 33,000 feet (10,058 meters), we see the handiwork of our actions all over the ground below, as if the landscape were our reflecting mirror. As we know, landscapes do not lie; they are the embodiment of all chat we do on Earth. Some roads parallel rivers and valleys-no ingenuity there. Other roads converge into settlements like cattle paths leading to a water tank, or they may follow deer paths and other animal trails or topographic contours and soon resemble the organic majesty of a spider’s web. Picture El Greco’s (1541-1614) hometown, Toledo, Spain, from the air: a kind of perfection in organic urban form. Old North American prairie, largely untouched until two centuries ago, now bears rectangular grids of large-scale farms with no room for any vegetation besides the crops and a thin line of trees alongside riverine and creek side banks, looking like a token tithe to nature and wildlife. And 40-acre ( 16.1-hcctarc) center-pivot circles of corn, soybeans, or alfalfa ( the trifecta of corporate agriculcure) look as if someone had tossed, in perfect symmetry, large half-dollarson the land. Resembling pavements of crops stretching as far as the eye can see, even from one state to another, all this handiwork is the result of a federal farm policy insanely out of balance with nature. No wonder the butterflies and countless other creatures and plants are struggling so mightily against such unnatural odds.New sites of natural gas extraction have popped up so suddenly and pervasively char they now permeate much of the Great Plains and interior West of North America, as if enormous prairie dogs on steroids had burrowed through these large swaths of land. It is Gulliver’s travels all over again. Meanwhile, open-pit mines generate impressive depressions in the ground, as if meteors had crashed from outer space. The pits’ glorious russet and red and golden and red and golden and sand colored hues contrast hard against surrounding terrain , as if the mines , too were inscribed work of art , poor attempts at recreating a subterranean roman coliseum or a mini grand canyon. Mean while the new and starkly white wind powered turbines some spanning 413 feet (126 meters and towering 312 feet ( 85-95 meters) in the sky – appear as if a giant surgeon had administered stitches of varying lengths and shapes on the land and in the sea , even as untold numbers of birds die upon impact Towns and cities along the coasts cram hard against the adjacent sea, with few buffers to protect communities against a rising tide that likely will be at least J feet ( 0.9 meter) higher a century from now. And the same condition holds true for those towns and cities that reside along rivers, large and small, that naturally want to ebb and flow like the tide, overrunning banks and streets alike from time to time. Even world-class cities such as Chicago, Sydney, Tokyo, and Toronto look like LEGO sets from above and bar graphs at eye level, in which cars and trucks move about like busy ants, and trains slide like snakes along the concrete. Deserts, long the forlorn outposts of biblical wilderness, arc now be speckled oases of new towns, cities, and resorts, each with homes nestled against aquamarine-blue swimming pools, as if pools were required for entrance into a neighborhood. Shimmering lakes are impounded by large-scale dams, the water evaporating into the dry, cloudless sky. A jigsaw puzzle of improbably green lawns is highlighted by extensive, even more preposterously verdant golf courses. One might believe that a new school of art called Landscape Cubism had gone awry on the land. Yet there are the exceptional expanses of undeveloped land as well. Trails such as the Appalachian, Continental, Ice Age, Grande Randonnee, Greater Patagonian, Natchez, Pacific Crest, Te Araroa, and Tokai saunter along for great distances deep into the heart and soul of their respective countries. Forests stretch for thousands and thousands of square miles and kilometers, relieving a planet in dire need of new lungs in order to process the increasing levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) . Still-intact watersheds and wetlands retain their natural place between land and water, providing incalculable value as a water supply for towns and cities downstream and as habitat for fisheries, insects, birds, and other wildlife. Contour farming thrives in harmony with the terrain and the life-giving principles of the Soil Conservation Act of 27 April 1935. And more cities boast integrated systems of parks, open spaces, and greenways, providing evidence that nature can return to the urban scene and enhance communities in biological and socioeconomic ways. 1The land tells us so much. And it is the role of landscape architecture, urban planning and design, and arcl11tecture to continue their pioneering ways, offering an ecological approach to the design, planning, and management of our varied landscapes-urban, suburban, rural, regional, social , and wild. It all begins on the ground, in nature and our communities, in the multiple ecologies and economies and cultures that encapsulate our home turf. wherever that may be. But much of that ground is already urban, and that pervasive and expansive pattern of settlement by every account has no end in sight. So how can we do better? That scene and question are the focus of this book, Nature and Cities: The Ecological Imperative in Urban Design and Planning. Even as land use may seem relatively clear and simple from the air, on the ground the picture grows more complicated, because of the unavoidable details. All aspects of life-human and natural intertwined, to varying degrees of success-appear before our very eyes, are heard by our ears, are felt by our skin and clothes by way of dew point, humidity, dry air, sunlight, evening breezes, and cool or warm temperatures. That is a lot of ground to comprehend, even

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