Although these readings cover a broad variety of topics ranging from ecosystem modeling theory to water and biodiversity preservation, the most interesting common theme is the connection between intimate knowledge of a locality and our ability to positively impact ecosystems. The deep knowledge of a region and locality is in my estimation the most important factor in merging environmental, economic, and cultural factors to produce a beneficial outcome. Without this understanding it is exponentially more difficult to identify and take advantage of possible synergies between seemingly disparate systems.
Muller hints at this when discussing the equilibrium ecosystem model (pg 37) and later mentions the importance of utilizing eco-districts in an approach to environmental design (pg 45). This is important because similar to the relationship between the nature of a question posed to its possible answers, the solutions that are reached through environmental design will largely depend on the context in which they are placed. The creation of eco-districts to guide development is as important as the use of bioregions and watersheds to guide the development of broad policy development. Only by allowing ourselves to see the full scope of a situation can we produce answers that have the possibly of efficiently and accurately addressing current problems.
Postel provides several examples that reinforce this view, most notably she discusses the decision to restore and protect the Catskills-Delaware watershed to ensure an adequate water supply for New York City. This decision cost $1.5 billion, much less than the $6 billion one-time cost of constructing a water treatment plant and $300 million yearly operating cost (pg 85). This decision was only possible through consideration of policy that crossed local and state boundaries to include the entire watershed. Additionally, it was only acceptable to individual and local interests through a restructuring of incentives to reflect the true costs and benefits of the system; through correcting previous incentive systems that, through a combination of subsidies and externalization, placed the sensible course of action for many in direct conflict with ecosystem requirements.
Probably the most important aspect in guiding private projects to include a deep understanding of local conditions, through the correct framing of how they choose to explore each project, is an examination and restructuring of incentive systems. Nearly all of the accepted theories regarding environmental and societal degradation (tragedy of the commons, etc) stem from the incentives of the individual being at odds with the health and benefit of larger systems.
“Ecology and the Architectural Imagination” Brook Muller
“Water: Adapting to a New Normal” Sandra Postel
“Peak Nature?” Stephanie Mills