The Other May Simply Live: Ecological Design as Environmental Justice


  • William Eisenstein



As a global consensus continues to form about the gravity of the ecological risks facing the world in the new century, a smaller, parallel consensus about the pivotal role to be played by ecological designers and planners has also emerged. Few observers dispute the basic idea that the physical design of the built environment is a critical element of an ecologically healthy civilisation. As such, the planners and designers who focus on holistic, place-based strategies for creating those environments and promoting the long-term protection of ecosystems have much to contribute to the larger debate over the meaning and practice of sustainability. Because their role is potentially so important, it matters how ecological designers and planners conceptualise and present their work to the larger society. In particular, addressing a subtle, conceptual divide between ecological design and environmental justice concerns should be a priority. Far from being solely the province of New Age escapists or idiosyncratic, wealthy clients as it is often caricatured, ecological design practice is in fact critical to confronting the harsh realities of toxic exposure, air pollution, and water contamination that beset disadvantaged communities. After pointing out the key physical and conceptual links between ecological design and environmental justice, this paper argues that landscape architects do not sufficiently emphasise the human impacts of ecological degradation resulting from unsustainable design. It goes on to identify two specific analytical tools (ecological economics and a modified form of ecological footprint analysis) that can help the profession make this case. A greater effort to do so would help to expand the influence of ecological landscape design in both the global debates about sustainability and in localised realms of implementation.


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How to Cite

Eisenstein, W. (2004). The Other May Simply Live: Ecological Design as Environmental Justice . Landscape Review, 9(1), 107–110.



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