Creating Environmental Markets

There is a way out of the climate box we have created, though resistance to the necessary ecological transformation remains intense.  Sunk investments in existing infrastructure, broadly accepted design and economic theory, and the lifelong operations employment it has provided make the foundation of such resistance.  Creating Environmental Markets will examine alternative capital markets based in regulatory requirements but offering opportunities to use trades to restore ecology while providing economic incentives and jobs.

The climate problems we once anticipated have become a connected series of current crises: intense heat, extended drought, potable water shortages, almost spontaneous fires, floods, food shortages, enormous tornadoes and hurricanes, acute cold….  The prognosis for the coming decades is that these phenomena will get worse, yet our responses remain mostly mundane.  We repair, rebuild, extend, and expand essentially the same 19th Century energy and water infrastructure that put us in this climate box, evidently expecting a different outcome.

If we are to meet and overcome the climate challenges we have created, incentivizing environmental restoration over broad landscapes, from individual site designs to entire cityscapes, is essential.  The law as currently interpreted will not save us, but some combination of law and regulation together with markets creating economic incentives favoring ecological restoration of natural systems could.  In addition to recognizing the damage we have done we need a clear conception of required ecological repair.  Students will be introduced to that clear conception while examining a regulation-based market to incentivize ecological repair at scale, fostering the necessary energy and water infrastructure change.  

This class is intended for MLA, Planning, and Design students because their skills provide them the insights necessary to make such markets work, from individual site designs to cityscape master plans and establishing trading parameters.  They will participate in the construction of a water market for the Boston metropolitan region, understanding the ecological principles and restoration objectives driving market creation, and examining the politics and realities of using regulation to create such a market.  They will also examine the benefits of and potential for dramatic restorative change.  In their course case studies, students will use the information from the class to examine opportunities in self-selected cities around the world.