Include nature in infrastructure to make America great

…if we proceed with traditional infrastructure that relies only on bricks and mortar, we will be missing a critical opportunity. ….The best way to make sure infrastructure investments are cost effective, valuable, and enduring is to use a smart mix of built and natural components. This form of engineering combines natural processes with human technologies and uses organisms and ecological processes to produce goods and services and process waste.

Examples of infrastructure infused with nature include wetlands that treat wastewater and are formed into public parks and green roofs, and urban forests that moderate the excess heat of cities and reduce stormwater run-off. This kind of infrastructure is missing in many of our communities and would improve air quality, water quality and general quality of life….

Today we face an opportunity for a conservative New Deal, one that boosts the economy and wisely includes nature in new infrastructure. Let’s infuse engineering with nature into the new national infrastructure initiative. Let’s fit construction to the local environment, make structures more functional and resilient, and create the maximum value for society with each project. Let’s make America great by building nature into national infrastructure.

Robert Gardner, History of Science, Technology and Medicine and Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota and Jessica Hellmann, Director, Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota