Esri’s yearly Geodesign Summit is a nexus for cutting edge practice, research, networking, and collaboration around some of today’s toughest problems. Held February 24 – 27, 2020, this year marked the eleventh summit. The theme “seeing clearly” speaks to geodesign workflows which cut through the noise to the signal and allows for the effects of different alternatives to be derived through digital testing before breaking ground. Under that overarching theme, this year also focused on the AEC space through an emphasis on speakers in the practice realm who leverage geodesign in real-world projects.
If landscape architecture design workflows and geodesign workflows were laid out in a Venn diagram, the overlap would be substantial. Similarities include thorough inventory and analysis of project context and underlying environmental variables, creation of multiple concepts and iterations, leveraging input from stakeholders (client, public, and regulatory), and the graphic communication of all these elements. Given all those similarities, geodesign can be summarized as data, evaluation, and impact-driven design. Using software (such as GIS) to model design alternatives and project their effects into quantitative results, mistakes are made virtually while the optimum scenario is chosen, thereby saving time, money, and the social and environmental costs of failed projects or unintended results.
For the annual Ecology & Restoration PPN meeting in October 2018, we were joined by Michael Sprague, President and Founder of Trout Headwaters, Inc., and founding Board Member of the National Environmental Banking Association, as well as Damian Holynskyj, M.C.P., Director of the Eastern Region for Great Ecology. Our discussion covered the big picture of what conservation finance is, how it is situated within the larger economy, and the role landscape architecture fills within the industry.
The conversation that was had between Mr. Sprague, Mr. Holynskyj, and Ecology & Restoration PPN leadership and members is summarized in this document, to serve as a reference for those who were not able to attend, and a jumping-off point for those landscape architects who would like to pursue this topic further.
WHAT IS CONSERVATION FINANCE?
Conservation finance takes many forms, but in the simplest sense it is a way to create economic incentives for conservation and restoration projects. When an economic incentive exists, it opens the door for many different people and organizations to become involved with environmental projects who otherwise might not be. This increases the amount of work that can be done and leverages the specialties of a broad range of professions towards shared goals.
Shared goals; it has become so common to view economy and ecology as two separate entities, related in a fashion which necessitates the degradation of one for the benefit of the other. This is an unfortunate misconception, which Mr. Sprague discussed at length. Looking at the root meanings of ecology and economy, a truer relationship begins to show. Ecology means study of the house and economy means management of the house, so in that sense it can be understood that what is truly good for one ought to be good for the other. In other words, you can’t understand what you don’t study, and you can’t manage what you don’t understand.