Various rhetorical positions on environmentalism exist within the profession, categorized, for the purpose of this chapter, by deep environmentalism, preservation environmentalism, integrative environmentalism, and ecological environmentalism. Such categorization is not intended to suggest absolute philosophical boundaries or established group positions. In reality, even individual landscape architects express multiple perspectives on environmentalism, which only supports the assertion that misunderstanding, controversy, and debate on environmentalism within the profession is inevitable. In short, the work of the profession does not support the rhetoric, because landscape architects are, in effect, speaking multiple languages of environmentalism.
While a better understanding of the various environmental perspectives can improve communication, a more careful use of language will not correct the schism rooted in the diversity of the profession. If there is a common ground given the multiple perspectives on environmentalism, it appears to be in the profession’s traditional role of engaging in the pressing debates of the age through the artistic manipulation of the landscape.
While the use of environmental language in landscape architecture is prolific, its direct application to professional practice in landscape architecture has created a problem: More often than not, the words are unfulfilled by the work. Creating “harmony between humans and nature,”“providing unity in nature,”“healing the environment,” and “restoring nature to the city” are goals not easily accomplished. In fact, some within the profession believe that it is impossible to fulfill the promise of those words through the individual projects of landscape architecture. And yet those and other similar phrases are frequently used in the practice of landscape architecture.
Additionally, the profession has developed an environmental canon of sorts that includes contrasting, if not conflicting, rhetorical positions. This ambiguous perspective on environmentalism reflects a similar ambiguity in society at large. Recent polls indicate that fifty-eight to seventy-three percent of Americans consider themselves environmentalists. The percentage of landscape architects claiming to be environmentalists is likely at least as large given the profession’s traditional interest in nature. Despite landscape architects’ substantial expression of concern for the environment, how they see the profession’s role in dealing with an environmental crisis has engendered considerable disagreement, if not discord.