Reflections on a Post-Covid Environmental Perspective: Claiming for Planning a Share in the Legacy of American Anthropologist Loren Eiseley

William J. V. Neill* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

Abstract

The RTPI Gold Medal is awarded at the discretion of the Board of Trustees for exceptional achievement in the field of town and country planning. International in scope the award in 1957 was made to the American urban theorist Lewis Mumford. At the core of Mumford’s prodigious writing, still referenced widely in planning schools, was the conviction that: “The physical design of cities and their economic functions are secondary to their relationship to the natural environment and to the spiritual values of human community” (Mumford, 1967, p. 92). While the inspiration of Mumford, from the pioneering work on ecology and nature conservation of the Scottish planner Sir Patrick Geddes, is commonly acknowledged, less well publicised is the intellectual debt which Mumford owed to the thought of Loren Eiseley of whom he claimed more than anyone else had “sparked his intellectual approach” (Mumford, quoted in Kauffmann, 1967). This contribution seeks to shine a light on Eiseley as one of the lesser known influences on planning thought. While his thinking permeates into the collective planning mind indirectly through Mumford, the case is made that Eiseley’s insights are worthy of joining the corpus of planning theory in their own right. This article is a small nudge in that direction. It begins by noting that the coronavirus gives us cause to pause and to avail of a provoked invitation, integral to Eiseley’s work, to consider humans and the environment on the broadest and longest of scales. After consideration of some of the most important embedded themes in Eiseley’s corpus, the article concludes, not with any inappropriate practice blueprint for the diversity of places, but with some conjectural insights that still have a bearing on a progressive planning outlook.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalPlanning Theory & Practice
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 May 2021

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