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The APA needs a Sustainability Division

Many planners and even American Planning Association (APA) members are unaware that the APA has special member bodies called Divisions. These are essentially issue-focused member committees within APA that contribute to policymaking, develop conference sessions, publish newsletters, and generally act as focal points for like-minded APA members.

Daniel Lerch | April 16, 2009, 2pm PDT
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Many planners and even American Planning Association (APA) members are unaware that the APA has special member bodies called Divisions. These are essentially issue-focused member committees within APA that contribute to policymaking, develop conference sessions, publish newsletters, and generally act as focal points for like-minded APA members.

Current Divisions include worthy topics like "Small Town and Rural Planning," "New Urbanism," "Planning and Women," and "Environment, Natural Resources and Energy." But missing from this list is a Division on the overarching concept of sustainability - a Division that considers how planners can approach all of these issues from a holistic viewpoint that bridges environmental, economic and social equity considerations, and is rooted in a sense of national and global sustainability trends (e.g., fossil fuels, climate change, population, water, etc.).

Two years ago at the conference in Philadelphia, over 600 planners spoke up to change this. Sharon Ferguson, Senior Planner at the Municipality of Anchorage (AK), collected signatures of APA members who supported the creation of a new APA Division for "Sustainable Community Planning." At this year's Minneapolis conference, Sharon and I will submit this proposal to the APA, together with the 600+ signatures from Philadelphia and the 'signatures' of those who endorse the proposal online at http://tinyurl.com/cgyjp8.

This proposal happens to come at a time when the APA is re-thinking its use of Divisions overall, considering a shift to more informal "Interest Groups." In our proposal cover letter to the Divisions Council, Sharon and I have acknowledged the potential change on policy - but also the preference that a new sustainability-focused member body be constituted as a Division. Given the dearth of sessions at previous conferences focused on holistic sustainability issues like energy and climate, as well as the quickly growing interest in sustainability within the planning field - especially among younger planners - we feel this issue is important enough to have the voice of a Division.

The APA is long overdue for a formal Division focused on sustainability (our argument is outlined in the proposal), especially considering that many similar professional organizations like AIA, ULI and ICMA are now providing products or support to their members on sustainability issues. If you agree, please join us in asking APA to establish a Sustainable Community Planning Division and endorse our proposal at http://tinyurl.com/cgyjp8 by Wednesday April 22nd.

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