Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Planning for Sustainability: A New Year's Resolution
As the world exceeds 7 million inhabitants, global warming nears its tipping point and a majority of the earth’s citizens live in urban areas, visionary and action-oriented planning matters more than ever.
Planning is the process by which we create a vision of the future, research existing challenges, communicate with stakeholders, create and test solutions and (with politics and funding aligned) implement those solutions, evaluate the results and repeat. Without plans, society lacks the tools to make and enforce decisions that promote the collective good.
Planning matters greatly when the issue at hand will impact the entire world’s inhabitants, but can’t necessarily be felt at the present moment. The important buzzword here is environmental sustainability. A hospitable environment is the most basic requirement for human survival—it impacts people from all races, incomes, genders and nationalities (although members of minority or lower-income groups, women and certain countries often experience environmental degradation more acutely).
Planning can be incredibly effective in promoting sustainability. Sweden’s waste-to-energy and recycling plans were so successful that they have run out of garbage, and are now paid by European countries to import trash. Lancaster, California planned to become a renewable energy capital, requiring almost all new homes to be built with solar panels. The city will now receive at least 126 megawatts from solar energy.
Failing to develop and implement plans for environmental sustainability will mean an unequal, diminished quality of life for future generations. For example, global warming has caused a rise in sea levels that threatens to swallow low-lying land. This reality is forcing the island country of Kiribati to relocate entirely.
Preserving the future of life on earth is not an easy task, and communities must come together to determine the ways in which they must contribute to this shared endeavor. Such planning involves making sacrifices and reaping rewards as equitably as possible among the global citizenship. We must dedicate (or rededicate) ourselves to this work in 2014.