General Patton may have been the first to famously say that failing to plan was planning to fail. And what is design if not detailed planning?
Most large scale development and extractive projects include detailed planning which attempts to manage every factor that might influence desired outcomes, which are almost invariably economic. Once specific goals are achieved, affected landscapes are abandoned in whatever state they ended up. The great shortcoming that drives much of the devastation we see around us is a failure to include a long term vision and plan for the land and the people on it.
Why is this important?
- Environmental services are essential to human well-being.
- The real cost of projects includes their environmental impacts, and this is ultimately the responsibility of those benefiting financially from the project.
Quantifying intangible costs and effects is complicated and sometimes impossible. However, a realistic vision for what a landscape can be once extraction or development has taken place is entirely feasible. Once there is a clear vision that includes specific goals for air, water, vegetation and biodiversity outcomes this can be included in the design from the onset. This aspect of design, a form of ecosystem aftercare, needs to be part of project financial planning.
A major challenge to this vision is the lack of expertise in the following areas:
- Watershed management in devastated areas and transitional landscapes.
- Long term forest succession management and planning.
- Policy expertise, regulation and negotiation between public and private interests.
- Biodiversity and wildlife management in devastated and transitional areas.
In an era where over 60 percent of animal species have become extinct within one human generation, and where 70 percent of forest cover has been lost in a similar period, it is imperative that humans as a species begin to actively manage these resources and look towards the rehabilitation and restoration of devastated landscapes.
Once we begin to understand that a forest is a form a wealth in and of itself, and include ecosystem services such as clean water, air, and mental health into all development planning, we will begin to address a major shortcoming in our current economic system – one that is placing our very existence at risk.