Dr. Wei-Ning Xiang

Presentation Title: Ecological wisdom for urban sustainability

Wei-Ning Xiang (象伟宁) is a faculty member in our department (http://clas-pages.uncc.edu/wei-ning-xiang/) and is affiliated with The Global Institute for Urban and Regional Sustainability (GIURS) and The Shanghai Key Laboratory for Urban Ecological Processes and Eco-Restoration (SHUES) in China.  

In the face of steep challenges toward urban sustainability, the world is looking for, and eager to act upon, solutions with fresh ideas, new principles, novel strategies, and innovative approaches that promise, or ideally, are proven, to be efficacious—capable of inducing the desired results and effects. One alternative and potentially complementary strategy is to look out further, temporally, geographically, and philosophically (East, West, ancient, contemporary…) for ecological wisdom—evidence-based ideas, principles, strategies, and even approaches that have led to the creation and sustained longevity of such ecological projects as the Dujiangyan (都江堰) irrigation system (李冰, Li Bing), the Staten Island study (Ian L. McHarg), and Central Park (Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.); and to use it selectively and mindfully, in conjunction with principles and strategies of economic, political, social, and cultural relevance, to inform the practice of urban sustainability research, planning, design, and management.

In this presentation, Professor Xiang elaborates on this strategy, and on the concept of ecological wisdom with time-honored nature inspired planning and design projects, and proposes that

1.    the concept of ecological wisdom in the context of ecological research, planning, design, and management (hereafter, ecological wisdom) connotes both ancient Greek word sophia (theoretical wisdom) and the Aristotelian concept of phronesis (practical wisdom), and embraces both individual and collective knowledge;

2.    not only is ecological wisdom ethical and inspirational, but it is also practical and actionable—capable of inspiring and empowering people to figure out the right way to do the right thing in a particular circumstance;

3.    the acquisition and application of ecological wisdom require a social learning lifecycle in which people look backward for enlightenment while, and in order to be, moving forward for urban sustainability.

Professor Xiang argues, with examples from around the world, that it is in the interest of human survival to choose ecological wisdom, avoid ecological foolishness.