Urbanie & Urbanus

Issue Special, P.6 - P.25

Regenerating Ecological Services Using the Public Realm Landscape: A city's largest asset to address climate change is their public realm landscapes (including streets!).

Prof. Martha Schwartz

Senior Partner, Martha Schwartz Partners The United States of America


Today, the Greater Bay Area (GBA)is China's behemoth of industry with a population exceeding 42 million. However, the rapidity of growth of these cities comes at a steep price, given the scale of the consequences of climate change poses in the form of sea-level rise.

To address climate change so humankind can survive, will demand human intervention. Neither the US nor China is working fast enough to avert Climate Catastrophe. Both produce a combined 53% of the world's CO2 emissions, and China is the largest emitter (28%) in the world, with no policies to stop mining coal.

At some point soon, China will have a reckoning between the benefits of China's expansion of wealth, and the costs of losing its coastal cities which generates 35% of the national GDP. Economically, Guangzhou now has more to lose from climate change than any other city on the planet, according to a World Bank Report.1 "The challenge facing government officials today is investing in protection before the damage occurs." 1 The clash between the effects of a warming climate, and the human desire for more wealth, will have to be reckoned with.

All coastal cities will experience somewhat the same impacts: submergence and flooding of coastal land, saltwater intrusion into surface waters, destabilization and disruption of infra-structure and groundwater, increased erosion, and overwhelmingly negative social and economic repercussions. These effects will be widespread and will accelerate with time.

Designers of the built environment have an extremely important and large role to play in reshaping coastal cities so they can adapt, build new cities, and importantly, mitigate the causes of climate change. Landscape architects are more and more involved in large-scale, nature-based solutions, some of which reach into agricultural and indigenous people's practices, or may even combine bioengineering and new technologies. There is even one idea being researched from the field of solar geoengineering that proposes to cool the Earth, thereby slowing or stopping sea level rise. We will take a look at case studies and different strategies that may be pertinent to China's important coastal cities. Our remit is not only to stop climate change, but to learn how to live in balance with nature if we are to survive.

1.Which Coast Cities are at Higher Risks of Damaging Floods? New Study Crunches the Numbers, August 2013