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Enlisting Nature to Stem Climate Change

March 16, 2013

On February 27 I attended a panel discussion on, Enlisting Nature to Stem Climate Change: Capturing carbon in our NW cities, farms and forests, co-sponsored by the Sustainable Path Foundation and Climate Solutions. Speakers discussed ways in which forest, urban, and agricultural landscapes can be managed to increase their ability to capture and store carbon dioxide in the form of organic carbon. They also elaborated on other ways that we might mitigate climate change by our use, management and interaction with these landscapes.

Nancy Rottle, Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Washington, talked about the urban landscape. She used the term green infrastructure to encompass plant-based urban landscapes and all of the functions they perform. The multiple functions of green infrastructure can be categorized as: social, circulatory, biologic, hydrologic, and metabolic.

The social function provides community and open space. The circulatory function helps to provide opportunities for active transport: walking, running and bicycling. The biologic function addresses the ways that green spaces can provide habitat that increases the biological diversity of urban areas. The hydrologic function refers to the ways that green landscapes can be part of the use, treatment, storage, and transport of water. In the metabolic function green infrastructure becomes part of our energy and food systems.

Professor Rottle elaborated on these functions with several important points. Green infrastructure can side-step climate-related controversy because we like it and want it. Green infrastructure helps promote resiliency and redundancy in the urban environment. Good social space helps make urban density palatable so it’s easier and nicer for people to live with a smaller environmental footprint. Urban greening and habitat provide contact with the natural world which helps cultivate environmental values. Growing food is an important way for people to start building connections with their environment. The ways that green infrastructure treats, stores and uses water can save energy.

After listening to this discussion, especially Professor Rottle, I have some new ways to think and talk about the goals of Freeway Estates Community Orchard. We are creating green infrastructure that can provide services in all five of the functional areas discussed.

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