We work in a small, but timely profession. Our potential to impact the neighborhoods, communities, and cities where we work is huge. Though landscape architecture professionals make up just a small fraction of the design field, ours is the work that is the first to be seen. Ours is the work that brings function and beauty to parks, plazas, campuses, institutions, and transportation corridors. Ours is a profession that blends the power of design with ecological principals and environmental justice. And because we are few and far between, we have to advocate for what we know.
The responsibility is on us to make our voices heard, not for our own betterment, but for the sake of our communities.
Public awareness is growing around a range of big issues, from humanity’s need for nature to improve our health, to watersheds, drought, and climate change. And yet, those in our profession most able to speak intelligently on these issues, to guide our communities towards thoughtful solutions, remain silent too often.
Those who fill the void may be knowledgeable in some respects, but often they simply have a good sound bite. The media won’t know to ask a landscape architect for a solution, suggestion, or comment if they don’t know what landscape architects can do. And most of them don’t.
We need to educate our media, politicians, and the public on the issues we care most about. In addition to keeping each other informed about lessons learned from the field, landscape architects need to write letters to the editor, speak at city council meetings and land-use committee meetings, and join non-profit boards and advisory groups. We need to present ideas to civic groups, garden clubs, and parent groups. And we’re not talking about advocating for the profession: we’re talking about advocating for our quality of life.
We urge you to:
- Advocate for regionally and micro climate-appropriate design that minimizes resource use while maximizing benefits;
- Speak out to conserve existing habitat and create new parks, wildlife habitats, and greenway corridors;
- Call for nature playgrounds and natural systems in our schools, parks, and institutions to increase human access to nature and its physical, mental, and educational benefits;
- Ask for more flexible policies to support rainwater capture, graywater reuse, and recycled water use and reduce unnecessary use of potable water;
- Fight to ban plastic materials, such as bags, bottles, furnishings, and grass, to stop the incessant addition of toxins into our oceans and food chain;
- Advocate for more transit and pedestrian and bicycle options and mixing land uses to cut our need for automobiles;
- Specify local, non-toxic, reclaimed, and reclaimable natural materials;
- Educate the public about the need to design with plants that provide food for pollinators and people.
Our firm is widely known in Los Angeles, and beyond, for being vocal. We go to public meetings about water conservation, school sites, citizen science, agriculture, forests, and the Los Angeles River. We go to lectures about climate change, drought, food deserts, park poverty, water quality, and environmental justice. We listen, form opinions, speak and write. We get our voices heard.
We might annoy you. And that’s okay. Because we believe we can make a difference in where we live and how we live to make a better future for all of us. And we hope you do, too.
This guest op-ed is by Mia Lehrer + Associates, an internationally-known, award-winning firm made up of landscape architects, urban designers, environmental planners, and a team of multidisciplinary designers based in Los Angeles. Read their recent op-ed in The Los Angeles Times.