Biodiversity, Urbanization, and Hotspot Cities

An Update from Co-Executive Director, Richard Weller

For the last few years as we've built up the McHarg Center's research agenda, we have focused on the global issue of urban sprawl in regions where it is on a collision course with high-value, biodiverse landscapes. We don't just mean cute and cuddly animals, but entire ecoregions which are threatened by rapid development. This research is now focusing on a set of 33 cities around the world who share this problem and, in June, just before the Design With Nature Now conference, we will bring representatives from these cities together to share there experiences and ponder alternative futures. This event will take place at Perry World House on the Penn campus and is funded by Penn's Global Engagement program.

As a part of this research, we are currently working with the City of Bogota, Colombia as a case study. Bogota is expected to add another 6 million people by 2050, which means that unless it is planned otherwise, the city will expand into prime agricultural land and remnant habitat.

In addition to this, we've also been working on a speculative project called the 'World Park.' This will be published by Landscape Architecture Magazine in April. In essence, it involves planning continuous walking trails on a planetary scale: one from Indonesia to Morocco and another from Alaska to Patagonia. These trains are intended as catalysts for landscape restoration projects, with the argument being that we need to form large-scale corridors for species migration in an age of rapid environmental change.
This might sound grandiose, but the creation of such large-scale landscape connectivity is happening in many parts of the world already. To discuss this, the Center is hosting Jodi Hilty, chief scientist of the Y2Y Initiative (a 2,000 mile-long connectivity project across the U.S. and Canadian Rockies), for a public forum on Thursday, September 5th, 2019. The Y2Y is one 25 projects featured in our upcoming Design With Nature Now conference and exhibition.

Of course, working at a very big scale has its own problems, but I can't help thinking that McHarg would be proud to know that we are doing this kind of work in the Center that bears his name.

My Best,
Richard Weller
Co-Executive Director, Ian McHarg Center
Martin and Margy Meyerson Chair of Urbanism
Professor and Chair of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning
Stay tuned for the full list of projects, speakers, and program at June's Design With Nature Now conference (June 21-22, 2019).
Tickets for Design With Nature Now
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