CBE Chronicles, Feb. 11, 5pm: Designing a Green New Deal

Billy Fleming, Wilks Family Director of the Ian L. McHarg Center in the Weitzman School of Design, University of Pennsylvania

Catherine De Almeida, Department of Landscape Architecture
Ken Tadashi Oshima, Department of Architecture
Ken Yocom, Department of Landscape Architecture

Thursday, February 11| 5:00 – 6:30 pm | Zoom

The Green New Deal is the biggest design and environmental idea in a century, requiring a total transformation of the built and natural environment. Billy Fleming discusses how we can plan, design, and work together to deliver meaningful change.


Design is an instrument of power, not an agent of change. For too long, designers have relied upon the mythology of a lone genius, working tirelessly and alone, to solve the existential crises of their day. But these theories of change, predicated on the existence of a great man or woman, misunderstand the way that power is structured and change is made. Can a set of practices tied to luxury real estate and urban development deliver anything meaningful to the frontline communities of climate change? Can we act both as instruments of neoliberalism and as an activist, subversive force in the fight for climate justice?

These questions are at the core of the response contemporary design practice must offer to ideas like the Green New Deal. Though it has necessarily been led by economists, scientists, and organizers, the Green New Deal is also the biggest design and environmental idea in a century. It’s primary aims—to decarbonize the economy and adapt the entire nation to climate change—would require a total transformation of the built and natural environment, including the construction of a new clean energy grid, the maximal energy efficient retrofit of every structure, the managed retreat of tens of millions of people, and a massive reorganization of land use at a national scale. We have to build so much, so fast, and so much better than we’ve ever done before. And, at least at this moment, the Green New Deal is the only idea on the table that might make this possible.

These conversations are part of our #CBEchronicles project; learn more and engage with us!