Brody pens book encouraging local
officials to adopt sustainable planning


In his new book “Ecosystem Planning in Florida: Solving Regional Problems through Local Decision-making,” Sam Brody, associate professor of urban planning at Texas A&M University’s College of Architecture, says local jurisdictions can begin sustainable levels of environmental planning if they can capture and implement the principles of managing natural systems.

A natural system better known as the Mississippi River overwhelmed many communities along its banks in June 2008. Local officials were quite visible during the catastrophe, doing what they could to minimize the damage.

“Flood mitigation is increasingly in the domain of local officials,” he said. “The feds don’t want it. It’s a losing financial proposition for them.”

Rapid urban development and habitat fragmentation, he said, generated by local land use policies, occurs at the local level.

Much of the book’s contents were already familiar to Brody’s students through the years, as they received hundreds of pages of notes from his National Science Foundation-funded research on land use planning in Florida.

Students would say, “you should put this in a book,” said Brody, who began thinking about doing just that.

“One day, if I ever have time,” said Brody about his thoughts back then, “I could take a development leave, go to Florida, and get some more information and better contextualize that information,” he said, and that’s how the book got started.

“I wasn’t doing new research, I was pulling together existing research. I had written 15 to 20 articles on the general topic. The book offered an opportunity to put together bigger picture thoughts and bring together that research into something that’s comprehensive,” said Brody.

In Florida he encountered a wide variety of planning approaches.

“I would go visit places that were integrating themselves into the remaining ecological system like Sanibel Island,” said Brody. “They’re crazy about planning there. Most of their jurisdiction is a protected area, so I was able to go and talk to them and see how they’re planning within natural systems,” he said. The island is approximately 150 miles south of Tampa.

“Then you go to the other end of the spectrum, to Miami or Fort Lauderdale, which is another approach where you’re almost fighting against natural systems,” said Brody.

“This book is an important contribution,” said Philip R. Berke, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill professor of city and regional planning and director of the university’s Center for Sustainable Community Design. “It moves the dialogue about environment to fundamental and action-oriented principles of ecosystem management, and moves the research agenda away from the national level to an in-depth analysis of the extent to which sustainable ecosystem management is being achieved through local, comprehensive planning.”

Putting all his research into book form was a very positive experience for Brody.

“It forced me to think at a higher level of conceptualization,” he said. “I was taking incremental steps year after year, and things were connected; it was like taking a journey, and it allowed me to look at my entire route and see how it fit in to the span of my professional life. And I did it onsite, so it was a great academic experience where I could finally focus on the big picture.

“It was like looking at stars year after year and finally stopping, pausing and seeing the whole universe.”

- August 27, 2008 -

- the end -


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