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Thinking 100 Years Ahead -- The Cascade Agenda
Alex Steffen, 19 May 05

Thinking in the very long term is an inherently worldchanging activity, and one we engage in too rarely. More rarely still do we make a conscious effort to imagine (and plan for) a distant, but better, future.

Here's one great example of doing just that. Today the Cascade Land Conservancy unveiled today a 100-year plan for preserving natural systems around Puget Sound:

Two years ago, a handful of people sat around a table brainstorming ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Olmsted plan that gave Seattle its most beloved parks.

Former Mayor Charles Royer remembers marveling at the people who stared out over the mudflats and imagined a beautiful city with lush, green refuges and tree-lined boulevards. The group decided the best way to honor that far-reaching vision was to emulate it -- by figuring out how to conserve enough land to protect the region's quality of life as its population swells over the next century.

...The strategy aims to maintain roughly a million acres as private working forests and farmland in King, Kittitas, Pierce and Snohomish counties. About 265,000 acres of streambanks, shorelines, old-growth forests, prairies and recreational parks would be bought outright.

That plan, the Cascade Agenda, is far from perfect, in my view: I question some of the political assumptions it makes, particularly the idea that compensating private landholders for not trashing the environment is a wise policy direction; and I find it far too linear in its scenaric thinking (the future is rarely anything like what we anticipate it to be, especially over such a long time frame), and far too based in present assumptions -- where, for example, is the neccessary grappling with the implications of climate change here?

But those are, in some ways, minor points. The major point, I think, that the debate changes when you ask these sorts of long-view questions. We here in the Seattle area now have at least a start towards a blueprint for treating our place as if we planned to stay. That's worldchanging.

(You can download the whole plan here.)

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One interesting quote from the article:

"cities must become dense, vibrant places that draw people like a magnet."

Seems spot on to me - particuarly if we have any energy depletion issues at all, temporary or otherwise.

Posted by: Jon S. on 20 May 05



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