Recently we have been discussing the importance of ecosystems and the economy. Much of what we learned in lecture as well as through playing the Bay Game was just how much effect each individual can have on the ecosystem, and in turn the economy. Whether one is a cow farmer, or a land developer, everyone has a role to play. Designers cannot prevent the world from being used by the cow farmers and land developers of the world. To a certain extent policy makers can try to steer actions in one direction or the other. What designers can do is create spaces that benefit the surrounding ecosystem.
A great example of a project that promotes a local economy while benefitting the local ecosystem is the Seattle Aquarium. The project hits many different points, It is directly tied to the water’s edge and integrates itself in the ecology of the bay, it also works to educate local restaurants and businesses on their ecological impact, at the same time it is an attraction that gets people walking and supporting businesses in the surrounding area.
The aquarium focuses on conservation of the coastal ecosystem by building an environment that attracts migratory species of fish that had been altered with the industrialization of the city. By building a new type of space, they reverse what the built environment has done to the local ecology.
Because the space is a local attraction, it can be used as an educational tool. Anyone who comes to visit the aquarium is immersed in the movement to save the local fish population and how they directly affect the health of the bay. By educating individuals, the project does more to save the ecosystem of the bay than a policy might. The aquarium leaves individuals thinking about what actions they can easily take to effect the local economy and bay in a positive way.
According to a study done by the World Health Organization “About 20% of the world’s population derives at least one-fifth of its animal protein intake from fish, and some small island states depend almost exclusively on fish.” (http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/3_foodconsumption/en/index5.html).
With that shocking amount, the health of marine ecosystems should be on the forefront of individual’s concerns. The seattle Aquarium does this.
Robert Costanza makes abundantly clear in his article “The Value of the World’s Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital,” just how much our economy is tied to the health of Ecosystems. He also argues that policies regarding ecosystems might not be strict enough. This may be true, but I feel it is the responsibility of the individual to not make harmful choices. It is the designers responsibility then to create ways of educating individuals and designing ways of helping the environment.