A Declaration of Concern (Old & New)

On June 1 and 2, 1966, at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, a small group of landscape architects who shared a concern for the quality of the American environment and its future were assembled by the Landscape Architecture Foundation. This was their declaration:

We urge a new, collaborative effort to improve the American environment and to train a new generation of Americans equipped by education, inspiring example and improved organizations to help create that environment.

A sense of crisis has brought us together. What is merely offensive or disturbing today threatens life itself tomorrow. We are concerned over misuse of the environment and development which has lost all contact with the basic processes of nature. Lake Erie is becoming septic, New York City is short of water, the Delaware River is infused with salt, the Potomac River with sewage and silt. Air is polluted in major cities and their citizens breathe and see with difficulty. Most urban Americans are being separated from visual and physical contact with nature in any form. All too soon life in such polluted environments will be the national human experience.

There is no “single solution” but groups of solutions carefully related one to another. There is no one-shot cure, nor single-purpose panacea, but the need for collaborative solutions. A key to solving the environmental crisis comes from the field of landscape architecture, a profession dealing with the interdependence of environmental processes.

Man is not free of nature’s demands, but becomes more dependent upon nature. Natural resources are where they are — not where we wish them to be. Those who plan for the future must understand natural resources and processes. These are the basis of life and the prerequisite for planning the good life. They must know geology, physiography, climatology, ecology to know why the world’s physical features are where they are; and why plants, animals and man flourish in some places and not in others. Once they understand landscape capabilities — the “where” and “why” of environment, the determinants of change — they can then interpret the landscape correctly. Only then are they qualified to plan and design the environment.

Like the architect, the landscape architect practices an historic art. However, the landscape architect is uniquely rooted in the natural sciences. He is essential in maintaining the vital connection between man and nature.

The demand for better resource planning and design is expanding… Today’s demands require far more landscape architects than are available. Schools are expanding, as are the ranks of practitioners, but they are stretched thin. The gap between demand and supply widens. The environment is being built hastily and too often without such professional advice or help. In the process, far too much is damaged beyond recall.

The solution of the environmental crisis demands the skills of many professions. So that the landscape architects may make their vital contribution, we propose a four-point program to bridge the gap between knowledge and practice: (1) recruitment, (2) education, (3) research and (4) a nationwide system for communicating the results of research, example and good practice. Its purpose is to multiply the effectiveness of the limited number of landscape architects, while producing more trained people to cope with the future environment.

We pledge our services. We seek help from those who share our concern.

Campbell Miller
Grady Clay
Ian L. McHarg
Charles R. Hammond
George E. Patton
John O. Simonds

On June 10-11, 2016, over 700 landscape architects with a shared concern for the future were assembled by the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Inspired by LAF’s 1966  Declaration of Concern, we crafted a new vision for landscape architecture for the 21st century. This is our call to action.

Across borders and beyond walls, from city centers to the last wilderness, humanity’s common ground is the landscape itself. Food, water, oxygen – everything that sustains us comes from and returns to the landscape. What we do to our landscapes we ultimately do to ourselves. The profession charged with designing this common ground is landscape architecture.

After centuries of mistakenly believing we could exploit nature without consequence, we have now entered an age of extreme climate change marked by rising seas, resource depletion, desertification and unprecedented rates of species extinction. Set against the global phenomena of accelerating consumption, urbanization and inequity, these influences disproportionately affect the poor and will impact everyone, everywhere.

Simultaneously, there is profound hope for the future. As we begin to understand the true complexity and holistic nature of the earth system and as we begin to appreciate humanity’s role as integral to its stability and productivity, we can build a new identity for society as a constructive part of nature.

The urgent challenge before us is to redesign our communities in the context of their bioregional landscapes enabling them to adapt to climate change and mitigate its root causes. As designers versed in both environmental and cultural systems, landscape architects are uniquely positioned to bring related professions together into new alliances to address complex social and ecological problems. Landscape architects bring different and often competing interests together so as to give artistic physical form and integrated function to the ideals of equity, sustainability, resiliency and democracy.

As landscape architects we vow to create places that serve the higher purpose of social and ecological justice for all peoples and all species. We vow to create places that nourish our deepest needs for communion with the natural world and with one another. We vow to serve the health and well-being of all communities.

To fulfill these promises, we will work to strengthen and diversify our global capacity as a profession. We will work to cultivate a bold culture of inclusive leadership, advocacy and activism in our ranks. We will work to raise awareness of landscape architecture’s vital contribution. We will work to support research and champion new practices that result in design innovation and policy transformation.

We pledge our services. We seek commitment and action from those who share our concern.