Forum on Landscape Architecture Adaptive to Climate Change

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Interview with Fritz Haeg from Landscape Architecture China: No. 3, 2010 [PDF]

LAC: From your perspective, what does the climate change do to our lives nowadays?

FH: It is obvious that some populations will experience the disastrous effects of climate change earlier, and more extreme than others – and ironically, it is exactly those, in the USA for example, who are most responsible for creating the situation that will be most able to insulate themselves from the effects.

LAC: Should we adapt to climate change passively, or should we take the initiatives to change it?

FH: All of my work is about being active, questioning, and participating in our cities, communities, society, and the situations we have inherited within them. There is no room for passive acceptance…

LAC: Climate change has become one of the political and economic hot topics all around the world, what’s your view on this? Do you think the guidance of public opinion will affect people’s adaption and solution to it?

FH: I believe that there is not one correct way to approach this issue – there will be no one answer, or particular approach that will solve it – it will require many people responding in many ways simultaneously. This must include both massive top down strategies from the largest governments and multi-national corporations, and bottom-up, with relatively modest ideas, innovations, and behavioral shifts among everyone.

LAC: Barry Bergdoll said that Climate change is not simply a problem to be confronted, but an opportunity to be seized. What’s your view on this?

FH: I think it is important for us to ask ourselves very clearly: “If there was no climate change, what would our ideal cities, homes & lives look like?” – and I very strongly believe that if we remain completely true to that as a goal – we can solve, not only climate change, but any other social or environmental problems. I do not want to change out culture, cities, and behavior because of climate change – that is just a little symptom of a sick society that is not working – but instead looking for really meaningful daily pleasure that reconnects us to each other and the environments around us – such as the very simple activity of growing food where we live.

LAC: Do you believe the landscape design could mitigate the climate change?

FH: EVERY aspect of human behavior and activity can mitigate climate change – it’s totally embedded in everything.

LAC: According to IPCC, it predicts the potential effect of climate change, such as changes of ecosystem and coastline. What could the landscape architects do in response to climate change?

FH: Again – I don’t see one answer. I think the most interesting and urgent question for ALL landscape architects to ask themselves is:”Do I still think a landscape is beautiful if I know that it is also making people sick, polluting the environment, abusing precious resources, and destroying wildlife and their habitat?” Our ideas of beauty need to be reconsidered – and most of all, we need to become more comfortable with a level of wildness in our cities – loosening our grip on the landscapes we create.

LAC: Climate change will lead to more emphasis on the ecological functions of landscape, which probably leads to an era of the ecological value overweighting the aesthetic value, what do you think of this trend?

FH: This is not the trade-off, it is not a choice between ecological issues and issues of beauty – they are totally related. As we become more sophisticated – we will recognize that designs that perpetuate primitive destructive domineering wasteful polluting behavior are not pretty.

LAC: In the context of climate change, could you imagine the future of urban form?

FH: All of the landscapes we create in our cities will be more wild and more productive.