I’ve recently come across an interesting article from Science magazine (link) called Stabilization Wedges: Solving tomorrows climate problems with technologies available today. Evidently it’s big deal because it’s oft-cited and even has it’s own game named after it.
I think the extremely straightforward title is explanation enough, but it is interesting to note that this strategy and 6 of these specific wedges (out of 7) were used by Al Gore in his powerpoint presentation that won him a Peace Prize and helped make him a billionaire reverse carpetbagger (he notably left out the more controversial and critical nuclear “wedge”). In essence, this thoroughly pragmatic approach outlines how policy shifts can account for our current and projected energy needs while cutting carbon to agreed upon “safe” levels as we figure out techonological ways to stave off the climatic apocalypse.
So, I find this idea fascinating, and also a great title- a metaphor of the kind I so enthusiastically criticized Blum for- and started thinking about how this could be applied to the design of the landscape. The critical aspect to their presentation is not the full utilization of clean technologies and conservation measures, but rather the implementation of stop-gap measures designed to hold until a threshold is crossed, at which point another tactic is employed to solve the issue.
The interesting thing is, in very simple-minded and standard ways, landscape architects do this now; we used geotextiles to stabilize newly graded slopes until plant roots grow in, we use guy wires to stabilize newly planted trees until their roots spread, we put in detention swales to retain storm water until it has a chance to percolate into the ground or sewer system. These are long accepted practices, small scale interventions that entail the deployment of a stop-gap measure, a stabilization wedge for a limited amount of time. And that is the key.
These are tactics- on the ground solutions- that work with and make up larger overarching strategies for a site. These could be conceived of and deployed to not just to retain soil until roots grow in, but to catalyze a micro-economy, establish a successional planting scheme, to provide a place for squatters, artists or other mobile and active populations until more long-lived and socially viable communities are established. There is a lot of interesting writing out there right now about shrinking cities and how our models for development which were always based on growth, can be reconceptualized to be based on shrinking. Stablization wedges could be used in myriad forms to ease transitions and guide these processes.