Creating Carbon Neutral Communities

Ecologist John Todd’s proposal for Appalachia can serve as a road map for designers and planners.

Our July issue is hitting newsstands and subscriber mailboxes as I write this and the issue includes a feature article on the legacy of Buckminster Fuller. A few weeks ago, our editors participated in a series of lectures and events sponsored by the Buckminster Fuller Institute, including the awarding of the first annual Buckminster Fuller Challenge prize, which was sponsored by Metropolis. At a conferring ceremony at the Center for Architecture in New York City on Monday, June 23rd, the BFI honored ecologist John Todd for his innovative approach outlined in his paper: Comprehensive Design For A Carbon Neutral World: The Challenge of Appalachia.

I strongly suggest reading this proposal, as well as the more detailed report titled A New Shared Economy for Appalachia. Todd’s research offers a path for the design community to follow. He outlines a plan to remediate the impact of coal mining in the Appalachian region, a practice that has impacted over one and a half million acres by removing mountaintops, stripping land, and filling valleys with toxic waste. Todd maps out a process where the land can be restored using biological means and a productive new agriculture can rise, one that supplies biomass, soft wood trees for cellulosic ethanol production, to energy plants to replace much of the coal used for electrical production. This will go a long way in reducing carbon emissions. Todd also proposes the creation of new “ecological” political structures that will ultimately leave the ownership of the restoration process in the hands of those who live and work in the area.

Proposals like this can offer great opportunities for architects, planners, and interior designers to expand their practices. Might the number of solutions begin to expand if design professionals become an active part of the process to get beyond an oil-based economy?

You can download PDF’s of Todd’s papers here:



We’ll have more from Todd in the coming weeks, including an exclusive one-on-one interview with editor Paul Makovsky. So stay tuned.

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