My name is Aster, and I’m a part of PCMN’s Cohort 7. Our class recently went to Watershed Management’s Living Lab on Dodge/Speedway one evening for a field lab, and having never known such a place existed, I was already floored by the time I walked through the gate. Our class was visiting to learn about urban habitat restoration, rainwater harvesting, and generally why the Living Lab is a place that exists and deserves to be excited about. For me, I had a lot of trouble understanding watersheds from the class presentation on hydrology, and this field lab really made it all click for me in several ways. Knowledge is inherently place-based, and my god, what a place we were in that evening!
First, seeing it in person was very different from a PowerPoint slideshow, which was already a huge plus; but what I really saw the Living Lab demonstrate was how reconciling one aspect of city planning with our local landscape (green stormwater infrastructure, basin-building, etc) necessarily means impacting all aspects of our urban ecology. To affect a part of the whole is to affect the whole itself. Building basins means more trees and plants, which means more food sources for birds, insects, and animals (humans included); more exposed and unpaved earth means more room for shade trees, more water retention and filtration through root networks, and increased groundwater recharge among other things… The downsides of embracing and integrating the land in urban planning are laughably small indeed.
It’s almost like reconciling city habitation with the land and the more-than human world actually doesn’t require more and more high-tech solutions, and that the best methods are actually quite simple and frustratingly obvious. Shocking, I know. In any case, the demonstrations, the lab’s simple and well-thought-out design, and the uncompromising diversity of life that the space hosts show that not only are much better alternatives out there in theory, but that our city (as well as others across southern AZ) can get to those healthier alternatives from where we are now and that there is already a team of people who are on the right track. Thanks again to Watershed Management and our facilitator Catlow!
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