Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Our Future's Got a Hole In It

I heard Chicago's Conservation Design Forum speak at the Brooks Museum in December 2007. They had come to Memphis at the invitation of the Mississippi River Corridor - Tennessee to speak about sustainable development. Until that talk, I had never really thought much (ever?) about stormwater runoff as an environmental problem.

And it's only with the recently publicized threat to the Greensward that I began to think about the talk's hyperlocal importance -- the importance lying just 100 yards away.

The Greensward, Overton Park

The core of CDF's message for me was this (and I paraphrase from memory):

we must use natural techniques to decrease environmentally destructive stormwater runoff, rather than engineer increasingly invasive stormwater runoff mechanisms.

While there isn't a recording of their talk in Memphis, they have amply outlined their strategies, including plans for the city of Chicago and for the Nature Conservancy. The techniques they recommend include:
  • Green Roofs
  • Bioswales and Rain Gardens
  • Native Landscaping
  • Permeable Paving
  • Filter Strips and Level Spreaders
  • Naturalized Detention Basins
These techniques seem to be of the 21st century kind that VECA resident Mary Wilder and Sierra Club representative James Baker called for in the VECA neighborhood meeting last week.

But they're also the kind of ideas that City Engineer Wain Gaskins politely dismissed as "long-term."

I think Memphians are increasingly sick of having the future deferred by a long term that is never begun. They're sick of regressive anti-imagination disguised as short term prudence. They're sick of a mediocre present digging a bigass mudpit that a good future has to climb out of.

And even if they're not, I am. The future is here.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't Gaskins the genius who thought of de-synchronizing all the traffic lights along Poplar so that traffic becomes more stop-and-go? For that alone, forty lashes.

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

preach it!

9:20 AM  
Blogger MRC-T said...

hear hear!

6:55 PM  

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