by PAUL K. HAEDER & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & P & lt;/span & lanners looking to move their profession and their clients toward a sustainable future continue to desperately block out the words drawn from Scottish poet Robert Burns: "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry." It's the literary refrain tied to a profession that many citizens have accused of mucking up the entire project called civilization.

Planners are ancillaries of government and decision makers. Some scholars see the planning field as oxymoronic -- you can't plan if you don't have governance power. Sure, slices of cities are planned. But entire well-planned and sustainable cities? We have no examples of planning that actually achieved what had been planned for.

Populations balloon. Roads propagate. Nature and wildlife retreat. Farmland is paved over. Sewers foul, air is injected with pollution, and mental, physical and emotional gridlock prevail.

So much for plans. Many times they do not prepare for the unintended consequences of the plan's basic foundation -- putting more people in towns, cities and suburbs.

Conferences on global warming and sustainable development have practical workshops on how to build consensus around practices that are steeped in theories of density and localism. Too bad the planning field has to confront so much pushback from builders' associations, chambers of commerce, politicians and the general business community, who resist shifting this economy into solar, wind, permaculture, smart growth, mass transit and conservation-minded action.

Many citizens are calling on the new president to unveil a new Marshall Plan to create millions of green jobs and millions more to rebuild infrastructure and knock down the old ramparts holding back this new paradigm. Planners will be vital to this paradigm shift.

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & E & lt;/span & ven our hamlet by the dammed falls hosted two back-to-back events where an army of visionaries, sustainability wonks, land-use planners and open-minded people gathered -- people who are working around the state and region on walkable cities, eatable yards and the next industrial revolution.

It was like a transfusion of holistic plasma into the heart of this city.

"Plan It for the Planet," hosted by the Washington and Idaho chapters of the American Planning Association, was a Davenport Hotel-based three-day soir & eacute;e (Oct. 13-15) where planners and others garnered dialogue on everything from growth management for the greater good to sprawl busting, from affordable housing in crumbling markets to topics such as "an aging society, its health, its community," along with sustainable transportation plus climate change and cities' responses.

Former real estate development expert Christopher Leinberger, now a fellow at the Brookings Institution, talked about the importance of investing in dense communities that have strong alternative transportation choices and the infrastructure to back it -- like walking tracks, biking boulevards, and dedicated public places where markets abound, diverse retail and employment options are built, and where cars are prohibited. Dense cities, by design, encourage young and old, rich and poor, to gather.

After that event, the big guns came to town for the second time with the 19th annual Bioneers Conference, via a beaming satellite feed to Spokane Falls Community College. The conference, held in San Rafael, Calif., and beamed to 18 satellite locations, has as its mandate restoring the planet and people. More than 28 local workshops, with mostly regional and local strategists and thinkers, helped tie into the national conference's big web of ideas from such international luminaries as Jacques Cousteau's granddaughter, Alexandra, who is working on oceans and the human communities tied to marine systems and freshwater. The conference works with what organizers call the triple bottom line -- people, planet and profit -- and comes at the end of the first decade of this millennium; the next decade is being dubbed by green proponents as the "make-it-or-break-it" decade.

Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature and Deep Economy, spoke about giving the next president a mandate for stopping carbon emissions. The total parts per million (ppm) for carbon dioxide equivalent is currently 388, more than we've seen in several million years. The daunting goal of stopping the feedback loops of warming seas, melting polar ice and desiccating winds and torrential storms is the mission of organizations like and Who knows if we can get the parts per million to 350 -- but if we get much higher than 400 ppm, many say the experiment that is the human race will be at grave risk.

& lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & o this conference directed us toward solutions, and there are many prototypical global movements using nature as the guide to reversing global tipping points. Like carpet billionaire Ray Anderson moving toward a zero environmental footprint by 2020 in his manufacturing and shipping processes. Or like Lucas Benitez and other labor rights advocates who have forced the richest fast-food chains to negotiate for better wages for tomato field laborers.

Planners and the planet: It may seem contradictory, but we need powerful and outside-the-envelope plans that must be implemented now, so that politicians, the mercantile class and captains of industry can become Bioneers and planners with a soul. Hundreds of people in Spokane came together to celebrate the rising voices of innovators whose narratives are spun from some form of hurt, or hurdle, or injustice, yet they have risen with nature as their guide to heal the planet.

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19
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