Cities and Environmental Change

How can the practice of urban planning and design creatively engage communities to address the immediate and long-termer challenges posed by environmental change? We will discuss problems facing cities around the world through the lens of social equity and provide an introduction to ideas and information necessary to integrate ecological viability with the other primary concerns of planners and designers; namely, social justice, healthy communities and economic development.

The objectives of the course include: to review scientific findings regarding human impacts on global ecosystems, to understand the methods and practical processes of urban environmental planning with cognizance to their social justice dimensions, and to critically analyze plans and governance processes in terms of their ability to help urban populations cope with a changing environment. We will discuss and critique conventional models for dealing with uncertainty and natural hazards and the concept of resilience in planning theory and practice. Course readings and discussions will critically appraise and parse the concepts of risk and resilience in regards to the policies and programs implemented by urban actors to address environmental change. The course seeks to emphasize innovations that address complex and related problems in land-use, air quality, watershed protection, waste disposal, extreme weather events, and environmental health.

Class format and requirements: The course involves a mix of lectures and discussion, with one or two in-class exercises and a field trip. The course is open to all GSD disciplines but has limited enrollment. Students will develop, present and write about an individual research project, with the opportunity to collaborate and develop research on current environmental planning efforts in Cambridge and New York City. Work will be evaluated based on the quality of overall class participation and assignments, discussion of class readings, and a final research presentation and report.