Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Landscape Approach - systems thinking and agriculture

[Irrigation canal in California's Central Valley]

At World Water Week in Stockholm last week, a 'landscape' approach to agriculture was touted as the solution to growing environmental problems caused by large scale industrial farming. And while no one referred directly to the field of landscape architecture, the correlations in approach were apparent. Advocating
"‘agroecosystems’, meaning systems ... planning for food production and other land uses(that) is integrated into a broader plan – one that ensures clean water, clean air and biodiversity for the long term"

experts at the conference  nailed a clear description of how landscape architects work and think.
[Field irrigation, images via Wikipedia (top) and Irrigation Museum (bottom)
Noting that agriculture accounts for 70-90% of water use in some regions, speakers called for action to avert disaster as some agricultural areas (including the Western U.S) use water faster than it can be replenished. Specific strategies mentioned included alliances between sustainable farming advocates and conservation managers that "blur the lines between sustainable farming and natural resource protection" and studies that "found ... efforts to preserve wetlands by excluding agriculture can actually increase the rate of destruction of the eco-system".

Understanding and working within complex, dynamic, land-based systems are a foundation of landscape architecture practice, and the potential for LAs to be part of the dialogue of solutions is immense. Read more about the conference at Eco-Business.