Planning is the process of guiding society’s growth, generation, and regeneration. It is an inherently values-based act. It is inherently a human act. As a human act, it is highly vulnerable to all the foibles of humans, including politics. But its impacts are very significant and extremely long-lasting. This is what makes a professional approach so important.
Stewardship planning differs from sustainability planning, in that it is broader. Humans are regarded as stewards of the land, not parasites. Conservation plays an important role in stewardship planning, but is not the main focus as it is with sustainability planning.
Planning and Socioeconomy
‘Wealth’ is usually used as a synonym for ‘money’. But the wealthiest areas on Earth are not the areas with the highest Human Resource Development Indices (HRDIs). For example, the Indian State of Kerala has an HRDI almost as high as the United States, but a per capita income of only about $600. Cairnstone argues that ‘Wealth’ is, in fact, a combination of what people have in their head (their knowledge and skills), what they have in their heart (their personal relationships, integration into a functioning community, healthy spirituality, and sense of self-esteem), and what they have in their hand (possessions). Money is regarded for what it is – a medium of exchange. Stewardship will seek ways to create all three types of wealth. The application to planning is to involve the client, the government, and the community to think not as consumers, but as citizens, to design and create spaces that create as many and varied opportunities for Wealth creation. The results, on the surface, can be similar to those of such well-known planning concepts as SmartGrowth; however the underlying community strength and resilience will be stronger.
Planning and Governance
‘Governance’ is not the same as ‘government’. ‘Government’ may, or may not, contribute to governance. ‘Governance’ covers the wide range of cultural, legal, behavioural, and institutional factors that contribute to making a group of people into a civilized society. The application to planning is to focus on empowerment and community capacity throughout the planning process.
Planning and the Biosphere
When humans appropriately steward the land, both benefit. When humans misuse the biosphere, environmental degradation will occur. The application to planning is a strong focus on information gathering with those who work with the land, as well as research into building and development technologies best suited to a locale.
Stewardship also regards aesthetics as an expression of the human-to-nature relationship. Good aesthetics are prerequisite to good stewardship.
Planning and Geotechnical
Although living systems do influence physical systems, ultimately most physical considerations are outside of human control. Stewardship recognizes this and seeks to work around nature, not through it. In most cases, this means avoiding areas of geotechnical hazard.
The 7-Generation Approach
Two centuries is regarded as an appropriate timeframe for planning. While most human patterns are not predictable on such long time frames, most environmental processes are. An effective technique is to plan around maximum build-out, by creating right-of-ways, if-then scenarios, and prioritization for new development areas, long before they will be needed.