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Image: Copyright Robb Williamson / AECOM

The questions of how we can find a sustainable balance between society and nature and how we design and manage our cities are of course very closely linked. As we at AECOM thought about Earth Day for 2014, we decided that to achieve the most productive results, the former question could use some re-framing in the way that it often manifests in the popular dialogue.

We have seen the limits of the argument asserting that we need to act forcefully to protect nature. As one who personally feels a strong sense of connection to this argument, it was difficult to admit that this position lacks universal appeal and to accept the necessity of seeking a broader coalition to achieve the same ends. But the fact is that human society typically only mobilizes to effect change in its own economic, social and cultural interests. And we don’t need to see anything wrong with this. Because the other fact is that advancing those interests within the parameters of our planet will inherently involve finding a better balance with nature. It’s first a question of how we frame the objective, who our audience is, and what we are offering as the proposed benefits of action. It’s second a matter of understanding what progress looks like and the extent to which we can currently see it.

So on this Earth Day, despite our recognition of the magnitude of environmental challenges, we found reason for optimism, and despite our species’ propensity to accidentally destroy while we create, we found reason to celebrate human ingenuity. See what we mean in this presentation of Ideas and Innovations toward a Better Future.



Jake Herson ( is managing editor of the Connected Cities blog.

Originally published Apr 22, 2014

Author: Jacob Herson