In the book Discordant Harmonies by Daniel Botkin, the author discusses a "new ecology for the 21st century." Its introduction in particular is quite revelatory in that it begs for a new approach to environmentalism, one different from its often negative attitude and tries to avoid the stipulations of the past, ie nature is the machine, nature is the creature, nature is divine. All of these conceptualizations often create a "nature knows best attitude." They omit the fact that in the history of the world change has been inevitable. On p.9, Botkin states, "Change now appears to be intrinsic and natural at many scales of time and space in the biosphere. Nature changes over essentially all time scales, and in at least some cases these changes are necessary for the persistance of life, be life is adopted to them." This condition suggests that change is a natural process, and perhaps making any intervention even more frightening.
I find the point Botkin makes in opening of his book particularly compelling. He begins with a photograph of Santa Maria della Salute, Venice, Italy. He describes it as, "heavy but graceful architecture, set against the motion of the coastal waters." The foundation of the church was sed to be made by driving 1,106,657 trunks of alder, oak and larch into the muddy lagoon to build a foundation. Submerging these tree trunks under water protected them from air, and therefore decay. This still serves as the foundation today. The Venetians faced the problem of stabilizing the ground. They moved to the area during the 5th and 6th centuries in order to avoid the fleeing Germanic tribes (Lombards) destroying the Roman Empire. They were forced to move to the marsh lands as they were defensible.
Botkin relates our position today to those of the Venetians one thousand years ago. He states, "While impelled by necessity, the first Venetians did not go to those marshes so long ago empty-handed, without the benefit of civilization. They brought with them three things: ideas, techniques, and a perspective of the world--how nature works, how people might change nature, and how the world in the future might be different from the world they had known in the past. Today, we are in a position in relation to the environmnet of our entire planet similar to that of the ancient settlers of Venice in relation to the marshes of the Adriatic. We see problems shifting before us whose solutions are unclear." What are the ideas, techniques, and perspective of the world today that we can use to address urbanism? To address rising sea-levels?