Thursday, August 13, 2015

Interdisciplinary Readings on Land Use: Place

Place-based perspectives on land use are particularly important to geographers and some kinds of planners.  However, they are also important to lawyers and legal scholars. 

For example, the Klein, Cheever, and Birdsong natural resources law casebook takes a place-based approach, and Charles Wilkinson has used place-based ethics to critique land use, water, and environmental law doctrines that facilitate exploitation of the environment and natural resources in the American West (e.g., Crossing the Next Meridian: Land, Water, and the Future of the West (Island Press 1992) and The Eagle Bird: Mapping a New West (Vintage Books 1992)).  Meanwhile, Sheryll Cashin has analyzed racial and socio-economic geography to show that place matters to educational, economic, and social opportunities and that disparate places produce disparate outcomes: Place Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America (Beacon Press 2014). I have analyzed the land use regulatory system in the United States as having a mediating system structure; it defines and regulates relationships between the public and places, with their various ecological, physical, socio-cultural, and economic contexts (Arnold, "The Structure of the Land Use Regulatory System in the United States," 22 Journal of Land Use and Environmental Law 441 (2007), available at SSRN: 

Also, take a look at how Justice Kennedy began his opinion in the Del Monte Dunes takings case by describing the physical, socio-political, and ecological conditions of the property in question and noting that it was hardly an environmentally pristine parcel.  You can discern how the opinion is going to go just from his first few paragraphs about the place in question.  In contrast, the ecologically sensitive conditions of the coastal wetlands property in Palazzolo v. Rhode Island matched an outcome of no-takings in that case.  Place matters. 

Several books from non-law disciplines offer interesting insights about the role of place in land use governance.  A classic is Rutherford H. Platt, Land Use and Society: Geography, Law, and Public Policy, Revised Edition (Island Press 2004).  While Platt’s hierarchy of the legal system as applied to land use is inaccurately simplistic (think secondary school civics, without sufficient attention to dynamic federalism or jurisdictional gaps and complexities), his work on the relationships among places, society, and institutions is quite good. 

Timothy Beatley and the late Kristy Manning published one of my all-time favorite books about the inter-relationships between land use and the environment: The Ecology of Place: Planning for Environment, Economy and Community (Island Press 1997).  If you work at the intersection of land use and the environment and haven’t read everything that University of Virginia sustainable planning professor Tim Beatley has written, you really need to. 

Robert J. Mason, a geography, urban studies, and environmental studies professor, has a book, Collaborative Land Use Management: The Quieter Revolution in Place-Based Planning (Rowman & Littlefield 2008), which emphasizes how shared interests in special places have led to collaborative planning and management that is sometimes called “devolved” governance (although from the normally localist perspective of most land use planning and regulation, collaborative landscape or ecosystem planning is not especially “devolved”). 

Gene Bunnell also focuses on place-based planning as a type of place-making or place-altering process in his book Making Places Special: Stories of Real Places Made Better by Planning (American Planning Association 2002).  Major case studies focus on Chattanooga, Providence, Charleston, Duluth, and San Diego, with minor case studies in the Appendix and on a separate CD-ROM that also include Madison, WI, Wichita, KS, Westminster, CO, and others. 

For those of you who are interested in: a) land use issues in the American West, or b) a very good method for analyzing the relationships between land-use patterns and geography, you should read William B. Travis, New Geographies of the American West: Land Use and the Changing Patterns of Place (Island Press 2007).  The American West is a common focus of place-based writing on land use and the environment.  Wallace Stegner is a must-read (books include Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs: Living and Writing in the West; The Sound of Mountain Water: The Changing American West; Marking the Sparrow’s Fall: The Making of the American West; Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West; and American Places (with Page Stegner).  However, not all place-based writing is western in focus.  Stegner influenced Wendell Berry to write about the special cultural-environmental characteristics of his home places in Kentucky, not far from where I live.  If you haven’t read Berry’s writings, including his critiques of our disconnection from the land, I’d encourage you to pick up what you can.  Of course, Stegner and Berry lead us to our next topic – land ethics. 

Coming Next: Land Ethics

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