MUSE Associate Adam Glueckert at Indian Ridge Marsh in 2020.
When I am asked what I do, I say “urban planning”. When asked who I am, I say “I’m an environmentalist”. I am lucky enough to belong to a generation that is starting to consider these to be one in the same.
Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) recently published a call to action for urban planners: we all must be environmentalists. This piece doubles down on the crucial need to place the environment and equity at the heart of urban planning and policy. MPC’s sustainable initiatives and partnerships in transit-oriented development, housing, land use, and clear water systems demonstrate that the field of urban planning is moving in the direction of sustainability and environmental justice. MPC’s statement makes clear that when we talk about equity as planners, environmental resiliency must be part of the conversation.
Institutions and community groups across the city are pushing forward with initiatives that meld racial and economic justice with environmental justice:
These are the shoots of a green movement in the neighborhoods most in need of attention.
Globally, young activists are discouraged by the lack of urgency around bold climate action from world leaders, according to an end of the year sustainability round-up on WBEZ’s Reset. As a young planner reading MPC’s statement and seeing local environmental initiatives sprouting across the city, I am encouraged that Chicago is on the path to sustainability through planning that protects the natural environment and its people. I’m also part of a team at MUSE that is working with the City of Chicago to gather public input on the City’s Climate Action Plan.
For much of its history, urban planning was intended to overcome the elements and ensure survival against nature. Now, it is becoming synonymous with environmentalism and understanding how to not only utilize but support ecological systems.
Nature provides the blueprint to sustainability: adaptation. MPC’s piece outlines projects that provide the change needed for a healthier environment for all citizens of our region. On behalf of MUSE Community + Design, we are proud to partner with MPC and look forward to the work of creating a sustainable and equitable future.