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A Paradigm Shift in Planning: Dealing with Climate Change and the Ever-Increasing Human Footprint
The New Planner (2008)
  • William W Riggs
So begins the preamble to the "Ahwahnee Principles," written by some of the world's leading planners at the historic Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park in 1991. These principles emphasized the challenges facing planners who design cities, and worked to establish a "new urbanism" that could guide planning in the future. The truth and breadth of these thoughts are now of increasing importance as the human race considers the impacts of cities on our very existence. Statesmen and authors such as Al Gore and George Monbiot have brought to light the huge issues facing the globe in regard to climate change.

In his book, Heat, Monbiot notes that just a two-degree rise in global temperatures will lead to massive impacts, including the loss of all arctic permafrost, the death of 18 percent of plant and animal species, and a
rise of one meter or more in sea level.2 Water will increase in salinity, coral reefs will die, and crop yields will become minimal. Low-lying countries such as Bangladesh and Ethiopia will be inundated.

Many public agencies, such as San Francisco's Bay Conservation and Development Commission, are now embracing the validity of such predictions, and the planning community is beginning to change its thinking on how climate change is affecting community development and resource use. Planners and others are working to develop planning-oriented solutions to complex, disturbing problems. Such problems have both local and international implications, and solutions are not always easy. However, taking a holistic, integrated ecological approach to mitigate the human footprint on the environment could be the first step to addressing climate change within communities.

This article (1) provides an overview of the concept of an ecological footprint and its relationship to climate change, (2) discusses carbon markets and offsetting, (3) explores new regulations in California and elsewhere that place binding limits on climate emissions, and (4) evaluates where that leaves practicing planners attempting to move closer to the sustainable vision outlined by the Ahwahnee Principles and new urbanism. 
Publication Date
Winter December 1, 2008
Citation Information
William W Riggs. "A Paradigm Shift in Planning: Dealing with Climate Change and the Ever-Increasing Human Footprint" The New Planner Vol. Winter 2008 (2008)
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