Is placemaking a "new environmentalism"?

[B'Spokes: I'll note that in my opinion in successful place making you'll see cyclists, they may not be central to the design but they will be present. My assertion is that a place needs to focus on accommodating people and when there is a balance between accommodating pedestrians and cars, cyclists fit in comfortably as well.]

from Kaid Benfield’s Blog

Can placemaking - in short, the building or strengthing of physical community fabric to create great human habitat - be a “new environmentalism”?  The question is posed by a provocative short essay, which I first discovered last summer.  Written by Ethan Kent of the Project for Public Spaces, the article has recently resurfaced, perhaps in honor of yesterday’s celebration of Earth Day.  The essay influenced my own writing last year (“The importance of place to sustainability”), and I’m returning to it today because the issues Ethan has raised continue to be important.

My answer, by the way, is a qualified yes:  creating the right kinds of places for people, particularly at the neighborhood scale, has indeed become a new approach to environmentalism and one to which I am deeply committed.  But I qualify my answer because placemaking is by no means the only important aspect of today’s environmentalism (not that Ethan suggested that).  In addition, I think the physcal building of community can become even stronger as an environmental tool by becoming somewhat more explicitly environmental in its content.  I’ll get into all that in a minute.


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