Planning for Climate Change or: How Wicked Problems Shape the New Paradigm of Swarm Planning

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Conference Proceeding
WPSC 2011: 3rd World Planning Schools Congress, 2011
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Effective adaptation to climate change requires that planning learn from complex adaptive systems theory - enhancing societal flexibility to deal with uncertain futures, and shifting its focus from finding the ‘best’ solution towards of creating resilience to an uncertain future. A new planning concept needs to be put in practice, which we call Swarm Planning. This approach can address both the mitigation and adaptation needs of climate change while increasing the flexibility of spatial systems in two ways: assisting change in spatial land use over time and catalysing the emergence of autonomous and more resilient development. This paper focuses on the contribution that a new approach to spatial design and planning can offer to improving resilient future systems, capable of dealing with one planetary boundary: climate change. Current approaches to climate adaptation rely heavily on ‘probability’ or ‘expert’ assessments of the likely type, extent and frequency of negative impacts. As long-term strategists [Kahn and Wiener, 1967] encountered in the mid 1900’s, a probability-based approach can prove counter-productive when a fundamentally new risklandscape appears. New methods are needed to assess and transform the spatial order that can foster climate adaptation. These new approaches leave room for uncertainty and the emergence of novel adaptation in spatial design outcomes, mirroring our uncertainties over climate change. Swarm Planning [Roggema, 2005; 2008a; 2008b; 2009; Roggema and Van den Dobbelsteen 2007; 2008; Roggema w. De Plaa, 2009] defines the spatial elements linked with the five time-dimensional layers and turns them in a step-by-step methodology for ‘Adaptive’ spatial planning. This methodology was tested in three pilot designs, specifically aiming to deal with climate change. New landscapes, in the form of iconic designs are presented and are described in the paper: the Floodable Landscape where an eventual future flood is anticipated in the design, the Zero-Fossil Region where the design provides a spatial framework for a complete renewable energy supply and the Net Carbon Capture Landscape, in which adaptation and mitigation strategies are designed leading to capturing of more carbon than emitted. These examples illustrate that the two sides of climate change, adaptation and mitigation, can be unified into integrated future visions. These visions function as the imagined and desirable future. This process, which can be described as a slow-pace transition [Roggema, 2011], offers the opportunity for inhabitants to anticipate and become more aware of future changes.
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