BIODIVERSITY AND LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE
IN THE 21ST CENTURY
U.B.C. Old Auditorium
November 18th, 2010
It gives me great pleasure to present Biodiversity and Landscape Architecture in the beautifully restored Old Auditorium. It is a place of memories and new ideas for the future.
I am honoured to have been asked by the Beaty Museum to present the work of a Landscape Architect in today’s environmentally challenged times.
DEFINITION OF ENVIRONMENT
Long ago in 1827 the Oxford English Dictionary defined “environment” as: ‘the surroundings or conditions to which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates.” This definition is still applicable today. In encompasses the built structures and natural landscapes as well as animals and plants that live alongside us, with the invisible processes such as climate, that govern our growth and our stability.
DEFINITION OF ECOLOGY
In 1966, Ernest Haeckel further developed this concept by introducing to the world the scientific study of ecology. Ecology is defined as the branch of biology concerned with the relations of organisms to one another to their physical surroundings. With emphasis on these interdependencies, ecological studies can demonstrate the importance of natural processes and systems that connect and sustain life.
DEFINITION OF BIODIVERSITY
Biodiversity, as defined by the Beaty Museum, is the variety and relationships among all living things in the world – the range of genetic, species and ecosystem diversity of the earth’s biosphere. In this interconnected community of life, humans represent just one species among millions. But human activity has caused severe strain on the Earth’s biological diversity. However, biodiversity is also the web of life which we can enjoy in our surroundings.
SLIDES – Nature in the city……..all photographs by my friend Esther Chetner.
How does all this relate to landscape architecture and sustainability?
Exactly one hundred years ago Harvard’s President Emeritus Charles W. Eliot defined the profession as follows:
“Landscape architecture is primarily a fine art, and as such its most important function is to create and preserve beauty in the surroundings of human habitations and in the broader convenience, and health of urban populations, which have scanty access to rural scenery, and urgently need to have their hurrying, workaday lives refreshed and calmed by the beautiful and reposeful sights and sounds which nature, aided by the landscape art can abundantly provide.”
These words set the stage for most of the 20th century. However today landscape architecture has broadened to become an art and a science. In 1963 Rachel Carson’s book “The Silent Spring” alerted us to the dangers of pesticides and herbicides. The Brundtland Report published in 1987 “Our Common Future” recognized that environmental problems were global in nature and thereby urged the UN General Assembly to establish policies for sustainable urban development. My late husband Peter Oberlander pressed this book into my hands and said, “This will change your landscapes,” and so it did.
Biodiversity Lecture continued . . .