John was recently invited to deliver a keynote address to the Southern Ontario Growth Conference, organized by 50 by 2030 Waterloo Region. The focus of the second day, when John spoke, was to help municipalities connect with organizations, experts, academia and other municipalities who have knowledge and resources to help them better incorporate responses to climate change into their official plans.
John's address, titled The middle isn’t missing, it has been misplaced, is now up on YouTube and can be viewed below:
With respect to the planning of our communities, John's keynote advocates for fundamental changes to the planning process, and for transparency in the planners' role, to give us hope for different results, better patterns and better habits.
A key challenge he identifies is that planners, like architects, have different perspectives and values, and this may be influenced by their role in the overall process. A municipal planner typically creates a vision for their community through official plans, neighbourhood plans, zoning by-laws and guidelines. In comparison, a developer’s consulting planner might create development proposals that vastly exceed upper tier density and growth targets. While they cite the same documents used by the municipality’s professional planners, the developer's planner might simultaneously argue their inoperability and reach very different conclusions about how the municipality’s objectives should be achieved.
To move forward, we must distinguish between advocacy and altruism in planning and design, and ensure that the former is balanced by equally informed and expert rebuttal. We need to create a new political climate where new habits are possible. Perhaps most importantly, citizens, planners and communities can align disparate interests and create a more sustainable future by acting as stewards of our environment.
What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments below.