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Designing a Green New Deal Studio Exhibition

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The McHarg Center is running its 2nd interdisciplinary graduate studio in the Weitzman School dedicated to 'Designing a Green New Deal.'

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Program TK soon!

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Last fall, this studio focused on how the abstract, national-scale ambitions of the Green New Deal (GND) might be translated into real projects in real communities across the United States. Our work centered on two key questions: (1) which regions must be “won” in order to achieve the stated aims of the GND’s jobs, justice, and decarbonization agenda?; and (2) from that subset of regions, which ones belong at the front of the line for investments in climate action, either because they’re sites of historic disinvestment and/or because they represent a chance to grow the political coalition of the GND through material investments in people and place? Through the same seminar-studio hybrid model we will use this fall, that effort identified three key regions for investment and focus: the Midwest, the Mississippi Delta, and Appalachia. Their work culminated in a public exhibition of ideas, merging spatial histories of the New Deal with more speculative futures for these regions through the GND—leading to coverage in Gizmodo. The full exhibition is now available online.

In some ways, this fall’s studio picked up where that group left off—with the Midwest, Mississippi Delta, and Appalachia as our regions of focus. Our challenge has been to think and work more concretely, narrowing in on specific sites and communities and putting forward more specific, materialist proposals for what the first wave of GND investment might bring. Accordingly, we narrowed our focus from the all-sector approach used last fall to one that is focused on three specific systems in each region: the carceral system, the fossil fuel system, and the food system. Put another way, we will grapple directly with questions of how the movements for prison abolition, fossil fuel abolition, and food systems justice do (or perhaps should better) fit into the agenda put forth by the GND.

In their press conference announcing the resolution, Ocasio-Cortez remarked that the public should view the Green New Deal legislation as a “Request for Proposals…we’ve defined the scope and where we want to go. Now, let’s assess where we are, how we get there, and collaborate on real projects.” Since then, a new body of policy development and economic research, headquartered at New Consensus, has emerged. But the work accomplished to date on the Green New Deal has been focused on abstract, national-scale economic and political strategies. None of it has dealt directly with the unprecedented scale, scope, and pace of landscape transformation that it implies.

A national climate plan like the Green New Deal will be understood by most people through the buildings, landscapes, infrastructures, and public works agenda it inspires. Given the scope of these efforts, it’s clear that designers will play a central role in project managing the nation’s response to climate change both at the scale of the national plan and the built works through which Americans will experience this transition.

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