I’ve spent most of my professional life outside of the elite institutions that have shaped design culture in the United States. I grew up in a working-class home in rural Arkansas and studied landscape at the state university, before drifting into politics, joining the Obama administration and then the organized opposition to Trump. It’s never been obvious to me that landscape architecture belongs at the center of today’s social movements, and it troubles me that so many colleagues make that claim, effectively erasing the work of community organizers and activists, not to mention the tangible support from allies in fields like sociology, law, and science who work for systemic change. Like the other design professions, landscape architecture as practiced today is a largely apolitical affair, organized around relationships with clients and projects, mainly serving the interests of an economic elite. We may yearn to impart systems-level change, but we are working on discrete sites, with incrementalist tools, within structures that produce injustice. Before we ask the world to view design as an urgent necessity, we must look at those sites, tools, and structures and remake our disciplines to be more useful, in the moment, for the movements and ideals we aspire to serve.
From Design and the Green New Deal by Billy Fleming