Video: The Impact of Climate Change on Philadelphia’s Forest

Climate change will have an impact on our urban forests. The change in temperature and precipitation will shift the suitable habitat for virtually all tree species. Using West Philadelphia as a lens to examine these changes, this video not only explores the impacts of climate change but also how we can adapt the urban forest to the coming challenges.

During my three years studying landscape architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, hardly anyone was interested in discussing climate change. Most people tuned out when I brought it up. I think it’s the issue of our time. In fact, it’s a big part of the reason I decided to study landscape architecture after the bottom fell out of professional photography market in 2008.

Someone I talked to recently compared being a landscape architect now to being an engineer at NASA in the ’60’s. And I agree, it’s the chance to work to solve one of the great challenges of our time. There is an unprecedented opportunity to have a real impact on cities of the 21st century and beyond.

Hurricane Sandy, sadly, changed the game. I lived in NYC for eight years before graduate school and when I told acquaintances that I was going to study landscape architecture, no one cared. I stopped in New York after the ASLA Annual Meeting in Boston last November and when I mentioned that my degree was in landscape architecture, everyone was all of sudden interested. Literally, some of the same people three years before who couldn’t be bothered, visibly showed interest and asked questions. Hurricane Sandy shattered New Yorkers’ comprehension of reality.

Unfortunately, most landscape architects have failed to realize the sheer potential of the situation. But that does not excuse us from being leaders and bringing our talents and skill sets to bear on the problem. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away, as much as I have wanted that at different points in my life.

One of my goals for this video was to bring climate change action down to a much more localized and manageable level. Part of the problem is the issues are so large and beyond human comprehension that it’s almost impossible to think about how one person can do anything. I intentionally avoid grand solutions and instead proffer ideas, like planting adapted trees today. These are things any concerned citizen can do.

We need to start connecting the ideas and possible solutions of climate change from the stratosphere to the ground of everyday existence.

This guest post op-ed is by Barrett Doherty, a recent Master’s of landscape architecture graduate, University of Pennsylvania, and professional photographer.

6 thoughts on “Video: The Impact of Climate Change on Philadelphia’s Forest

  1. Howard 02/10/2014 / 4:20 pm

    Agreed, as landscape architects we have an opportunity to lead now. I know I became one, all those years ago, because I loved the natural world.

  2. Ernest Wertheim ASLA 02/10/2014 / 5:35 pm

    Climate change is such a big subject, and so much is debated that the average person is confused. Some are confused about what is happening in Washington. Some are out of a job and really cannot be bothered with climate change. Those who do have a job might be completely occupied just keeping their jobs or making their clients happy. Then we have the people who are already devoting a lot of their time to other causes.

    We need to address this climate change from several different areas. One of them would be from the top of ASLA and then for the chapters. But can the chapters handle it? How many volunteers do we have? What are the universities doing about and how do we get to the everyday citizen?

    We need some great leadership and where do we find it? There is so much to learn about climate change. Then we get interrupted and worry about an attack at the Olympics or the war in Syria or Iran and others.

    Then here inn California we worry about the drought. There may not be enough water to drink or to grow crops independent of gardens.

    No wonder we are confused.

    I do enjoy reading your various articles. Yes, we need some great leaders who will take this subject and lead the country to a good solution or at least make the country aware of the problem that we are leaving our children.


    Ernest Wertheim

  3. Something GUD 02/10/2014 / 6:30 pm

    Reblogged this on Something GUD Blog and commented:
    The urban forest. Something we don’t usually give much thought, because it is, well, there.

    Climate change will have a direct impact on our urban forests, of course. The change in temperature and precipitation will shift the suitable habitat for virtually all tree species.

    This video by Barrett Doherty (24 minutes) takes Philadelphia as an example. It examines the benefits of the urban forest, the impacts of climate change, the relationship between trees and urban poverty, and how we can intervene and design the future urban oasis better.

  4. prkralex 02/11/2014 / 4:29 am

    The main reason for climate change is the rise in temperature and the sky crappers that we human build, trying to expand our economies. But apart from this there’s also the energy generation sector contributing.

    This can change but the matter is the state-owned institutions that can bring the change.

    Read this article to see how we can reverse the situation.

  5. Janim 02/21/2014 / 2:20 pm

    Reblogged this on jGal Studio and commented:
    The impact of climate change…

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