By Rebecca Wahlstrom
Way back in the early part of this century, development was booming and projects were being built in record numbers across the country. Then came 2008 and many projects came to an abrupt end with the economic crash. In that same year (during some of their unaccustomed free time), a collection of Fellows from the ASLA, APA, and AIA came together and started talking about the future of Oregon in terms of livability and overall health. They recognized that the landmark policies that have made Oregon a better place to live were vital, but they also saw that landscapes and needs can rapidly change. It was time to renew efforts to sustain and improve aspects that make Oregon a healthy and vibrant place to live. To better understand the Oregon 2050 objectives, I asked two of the leading Oregon 2050 proponents, Carol Mayer Reed, FASLA and Brian Campbell, FAICP a series of questions. Read on to find out what they have to say about the future of Oregon through “enhancing livability, prosperity and sustainability”.
1. Why was ‘Oregon 2050’ created and who is this effort meant to include?
Brian: Oregon 2050 grew out of a bi-state, multi-organizational effort over the last few years to address the major challenges of our time: climate change, economic stagnation and inequity, natural resource crises, and political gridlock. The Northwest Livability Challenge made up of representatives of planning, urban design, landscape architecture and architecture held a number of local, regional and national conversations among professional groups to articulate a set of long range goals and along with actions to achieve them. We also felt that the only way to make progress towards these ambitious goals within Oregon would be to form an Alliance among like-minded organizations that could help change how the public thinks about these major challenges and what is necessary to address them. Ultimately we need to challenge the “public will,” and pressure decision makers at all levels to confront the seriousness of our situation head on. Creating the Oregon 2050 Initiative and Alliance is our best opportunity to create an Oregon we all can be proud of in the future.
Carol: While this movement initially started with a few Fellows of the APA, AIA and ASLA, it is now growing to encompass non-profits such as health and environmental organizations.
2. There are five goals that are central to your vision; “1. Reduce climate change vulnerability and enhance natural system health. 2. Progress toward a productive, inclusive and sustainable economy. 3. Extend efforts to create a healthy, informed and equitable society 4. Renew and deepen efforts to make vibrant cities and towns 5. Reinvigorate and reshape our systems for increasing civic engagement and cultivating leadership and effective governance.”
At first glance, readers might step back and say think that it is all well and good, but how can landscape architects ever do all this?
Carol: The great news is, we are collaborators by nature and our work has an important role to play. Yet much of what we do must relate to a higher regulatory framework such as zoning and land use for example. Landscape architects plan and design the public realm and private work that that directly affect the quality of life. We are a key part of shaping our communities and protecting natural resources by designing social infrastructure, walkable neighborhoods and the physical places that people inhabit. Almost every part of what we do should be considered for its contribution to and support of the overall Oregon 2050 goals.
3. How do you see this vision becoming reality?
Brian: Right now we are focusing on building an Alliance of organizations, and have not yet figured out how we can incorporate individuals into this effort. But this is very much a work in progress and once we have some “capacity” (i.e. people and money) to carry this program to the next level, then we can develop a strategy for communications and awareness and build a movement to carry it out.
Carol: We need to collectively exert more influence at the governance level of our state down to the grass roots level. Unlike the “Occupy” movement that seemed to lack definition, our goal is to provide more understanding of the issues while identifying specific actions in order to achieve positive results. But we certainly can’t wait for Oregon 2050 to figure it out and tell us what we need to do. For example, how do we reinforce the value of the land use laws we already have in this state and not take them for granted? I think it is up to all of us to constantly pay attention and consider the various ways we can advocate for, design and build livable communities.
4. The ASLA Oregon Chapter Executive Committee recently voted to support the Oregon 2050 vision – what does that mean for your group?
Carol: At the first level of the Alliance endorsement are the Oregon APA, ASLA and AIA. Then we have a list of other targeted signature organizations throughout the state. Since we, as landscape architects, already are involved in conversations about the issues, it was not difficult to explain the movement to the ASLA Executive Committee. Thank you for your endorsement!
5. When people read of your work and want to take part, how can they help support your efforts?
Carol: I think we need to keep these higher level goals in mind as we us address our daily challenges. At the scale of the built environment versus the larger planning level, we need to continue to advocate for the principles behind healthy, livable communities. How do we initiate these conversations with our clients and with the public? Sometimes we do this just one project at a time, and through public engagement or volunteer efforts. I think our recent Oregon Chapter symposium, Intervene, is an excellent example of how we, as landscape architects, have such thoughtful discussions among ourselves. But we need to be prepared to apply these ideas with others outside the profession in order to effect change.