Indigenous Ecosystem Corridors and Nodes
A joint project of the UIA and the IFLA
The International Union of Architects (UIA) and the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) have a long association one with the other. They also have a Memorandum of Understanding providing for engaging together in joint projects. This project for the development of Indigenous Ecosystem Corridors and Nodes provides for such cooperation between the professions. In doing so it also offers an open invitation for the participation of other professions and relevant organisations.
As the human enterprise has developed over the millennia so too have humans clustered together in larger and larger groups. We are now more and more urbanised with, it is said, more than half of the human population now living in urban areas. What does this mean for how we relate to the local and global environment? What have we done and is the outcome of past activities and processes sustainable?
These are particularly important questions precisely because they have not been part of the decision-making process through which the current outcome has emerged. Our present urbanisation is not the result of a major strategic decision. Rather it results from the accumulation of a vast number of independent decisions made by individuals and groups. And while this seems to have served well, or at least well enough, in the past there can be no assurance that it, or the processes through which it came into being, will serve us, or the planetary system, well in the future.
Our recent urban history is one of removing or significantly modifying the pre-existing natural systems and replacing them with our preferred biota and constructs. We have created settled agriculture and built cities. Each is the product of the other. Each is now entirely dependent on the other. Together they constitute the core of the human life support system.
In creating this situation humans have broken the natural systems of the environment in two distinct ways. Firstly, they have displaced and sometimes driven to extinction some elements of the natural ecosystem. In doing so, however, they have also fragmented and broken up the continuity of the ecosystem. Both are important. Ecosystems are inevitably exposed to perturbation. To cope with this they need complexity and diversity and they also need continuity. These are the necessary conditions for resilience and the capacity to regenerate. A major, though unintended, outcome of the development of the human enterprise is a depleted ecosystem that is progressively more fragile. The consequence of that is that humans and the human enterprise are also in a more fragile state.
The UIA and the IFLA hold the view that much can be done within urbanised areas and more widely through non-urbanised and remote rural areas to remedy this. This is not of course to suggest that humans can do without agriculture or settlements. What can be done is to modify our agriculture and our settlements so that they support the natural ecosystems and restore connectivity. The UIA and the IFLA also argue that this is not too difficult and need not be an additional cost. What is needed is vision and commitment. The purpose of this project is to develop and advance that vision and commitment within the professions and the wider community.
The UIA and the IFLA have jointly committed to the establishment locally and globally of an extensive system of indigenous ecosystem corridors and nodes. As their contribution to this vision they are setting out to develop the concept and the methodology and establish these within the professions and the wider community.
To achieve this outcome the UIA and the IFLA have established a joint Working Group to undertake the work on their behalf. To operate this Working Group they have appointed as joint foundation conveners for an initial period of one year Allan Rodger (UIA) and Tony Williams (IFLA).
Year 1. Work Packages
The Project Working Group has identified three work packages which will form the initial focus.
1. Align the work of the IEC+N Project with the objectives of relevant international agencies and networks. A start has been made exploring connections with UN Habitat. A clause-by-clause analysis of the New Urban Agenda is being undertaken. Further approaches are also envisaged, and in some cases already started, with UNEP IETC, IPCC, the UN Convention on Biodiversity, UN Global Compact: Cities Programme and the Rockefeller Foundation Project on Resilience, etc. Initial feedback indicates that there may be further opportunities with other agencies or organisations such as the Urban Affairs Division of OECD and various offices of the EU/EC and CoE.
2. The intention is to engage with the Regional Vice-Presidents of UIA and the Regional Presidents of IFLA to introduce the concept to the professional bodies within their respective regions. All are now aware of the project and some have been engaged to advance it within their region. The working Group will work with the Regional Vice-Presidents and Presidents and assist by providing appropriate documentation and access to support services
3. Ireland and Australia have been identified as appropriate case studies within which the Working Group will seek detailed comment and feedback . This will allow the co-conveners to ‘test the waters’ and see how we may incorporate the principles ‘one the ground’.
In support of this plan of action we envisage a Technical Advisory Network. There are significant resources and areas of expertise that have already been established within the current projects and programmes of the UIA and IFLA.
The Technical Advisory Network (TAN) will be informed by the current projects within UIA and IFLA. The development of the project will focus on ensuring that a clear technical guidance is established from global through regional to local level and that the work is informed by current scientific and engineering/architectural principles. The TAN will aim to use the current structures of both organisations to communicate between members at all levels and will require a dedicated communication network which is managed by the Project Working Group.
As with the project in general we will initially mirror the activities in the jurisdictions of the co-conveners and also with the members of the project Working Group. Thus we will foster communication between the Australian and Irish Universities and develop collaborative projects which assist in achieving the aims of the project.
Future Development of the project within the UIA and IFLA systems
The Working Group has been briefed on the comprehensive re-structuring of Work Programmes of the UIA that is currently being undertaken. Integrating the project with some future UIA Work Programme on Sustainability and Climate Change has been suggested and appears to make good sense.
There will also be a development to ensure that the project is integrated further in the policies of IFLA through the Committee on Professional Practice and Policy and in particular with working groups such as the Green Infrastructure Working Group of IFLA Europe and of IFLA World.