Craig Applegath, Moderator ResilientCity.org
This past week I had the pleasure of attending the Alberta Professional Planners Institute (APPI) Annual Conference, held in Lake Louise. I had been generously invited to attend and to contribute ideas related to my research into urban resilience in the face of global warming and economic decline. The conference had been convened by the APPI to explore the current planners’ reality that, “…in our complex web of economic, social, cultural and environmental challenges in our communities, we feel unsettled and overwhelmed, and yet we are also energized by a sense of possibility.” (APPI Conference Agenda) The possibility that we might actually be able to make our communities more resilient to the stresses and future problems our communities and cities face was the very timely theme of the conference, and the conference organizers were bold enough to hold a “un-conference” conference using Open Space Technology to more fully explore the linked questions: What if we aren't planning to survive??... and who is planning our future anyway?
At the opening reception of the conference, we were all asked to answer the question: “Who is planning our future anyway?”, and to then post our answers on the large cartoon “elephant in the room” hanging on the wall. Most of the answers posted by participants were quite insightful, but of course with a few ironic and humorous posts like “certainly not our politicians!”
As a scanned all of the posted comments, it occurred to me that perhaps the question of “who” might not be as important as the question of “what”.
When you think about society’s current lack of progress on so many important fronts, it seems to me not so much a problem of poor or corrupt planning by any particular individual, (or even group of elites) but rather, the result of the more banal, but nevertheless extremely powerful inertia of past decisions, reinforced by ever more obsolete paradigms.
The interesting question for me at this conference would therefore be: could this conference overcome this very same inertia, and in doing so expose, and hopefully explore, some of the important planning and design issues that planners will necessarily face in the coming decades?
In my next blog post I will outline what I found at the APPI 2010 Conference, and some of the key insights I gained.