Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Future of Planning

Last Friday, the University of Michigan played host for the Michigan Association of Planning Student Conference.  There were also students from Michigan State, Western, Eastern, Central, Wayne State, and Lawrence Tech who attended the day-long event.  Unfortunately, because of work, I missed the afternoon session, but I did manage to catch some morning presentations, enjoy lunch, and make it back in time for the social gathering at Grizzly Peak, a local watering hole.

An opening talk was given by the Dean from LTU, on the topic of "Tales of Detroit & New Orleans Climate Change."  There are some interesting parallels between the two cities even though the problems of one occurred by natural disaster and the other by much more human oriented reasons.  Detroit can also look at New Orleans to see how it might be able to do some of its rebuilding.  However, the most intriguing part of the presentation was the suggestion that, because of climate change, Detroit and the rest of the Midwestern rust belt can rebound.

Most booming cities of the last few decades have been in the south and the west, or what is often called the Sun Belt because those regions have a much warmer climate, not to mention natural resources, space, and people.  People want to be where its nicer, but with climate change increasing temperatures these places may become unbearable for certain periods of time.  The Sun Belt is also prone to greater numbers of natural disasters than Michigan is, and those may increase in magnitude or happen more often.  So, it was suggested that if Michigan and the upper Midwest can maintain a minimal amount of diversity and create a decent economic climate, people will return once again.  There will be another shift from the Sun Belt back to the "Great Midwestern Greenbelt" where our summers will be like northern Arkansas and our winters like southern Ohio.

Beyond this presentation, I went to a session of student presentations on data visualization, urban agriculture in Detroit, light rail on the Woodward Avenue corridor in Detroit, and the concept of a "Recovery Park" for a Detroit neighborhood.  These were all good presentations and showed some of the diversity of what planning students from around the state are working on.  Unfortunately, by missing the afternoon session, I was a bad peer and missed all of the presentations given by my Michigan classmates.

The conference was pretty good for what I made it for, including a delicious lunch and drinks afterwards.  It was nice to take a break from the normal schedule of classes for this, and seeing what other students are doing was cool instead of always seeing professors and professionals talk about their stuff.

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