Urban + Environmental Policy + Planning
UEP hosts Fifth Tufts-Harvard-MIT-UMass Planning Symposium
5/23/2010 3:13:00 PM

(Photo of John Larsen)

UEP had the honor of hosting the fifth annual Tufts-Harvard-MIT-UMass Planning Symposium on February 26, 2010. The symposium, entitled “Climate Change: from the Margins to the Mainstream” called on planning students, professionals, and academia to bring climate change to the center of their practice.

Tufts welcomed John Larsen, Senior Associate in the Climate and Energy Program at the World Resources Institute and graduate of UEP, as the keynote speaker. Mr. Larsen urged students and colleagues to act, while acknowledging that Urban Planning—so often an incrementalist field—may be ill equipped to handle the magnitude of the Climate Change challenge.

Students were at the focus of the symposium as three student teams representing each university built upon Mr. Larsen’s presentation. The spatial and social justice team illustrated the multiple and inequitable geographies of vulnerability, bringing attention to the ways in which urban planning contributes to both the causes and the solutions of Climate Change. The regional form and green infrastructure team argued that Climate Change mitigation requires a system-wide approach at the regional level. They identified impediments to regional solutions such as regional governance structures, but also supplied several incentives and tools with which to inspire regional cohesion. To these students, these are urgent planning decisions; faced with issues like drought or rising sea levels, these are truly “sink or swim” decisions. Finally, the urban design and city footprint team examined clean energy and innovative urban planning and design strategies to encourage urban adaptation and resiliency.

Student presentations were followed by faculty-members at each of the four universities. Each acknowledged the strong mandate for universities to inspire the critical thinking and creative tools with which students will engage in their profession.

The students from Tufts, Harvard, MIT, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst represented their schools with imagination and professionalism that impressed the attending academics and practitioners. We attribute the success of the symposium to John Larsen, the excellent student input, and the incredible support of practitioners Farooq Iram, Peter Lowitt, and Leo Roy.

It is clear that Climate Change is the compelling issue of our time as planners and policy makers, influencing our economic, social and environmental geographies dramatically. UEP was grateful for the opportunity to host 2010’s conference, and we look forward to a more comprehensive orientation towards Climate Change in pedagogy in practice. We hope that the symposium helped to inspire both seasoned professionals and students to become practical visionaries.