Publication | Issues in Preservation Policy: Preservation, Sustainability, and Equity

Heritage occupies a privileged position within the built environment. Most municipalities in the United States, and nearly all countries around the world, have laws and policies to preserve heritage in situ, seeking to protect places from physical loss and the forces of change. That privilege, however, is increasingly being unsettled by the legacies of racial, economic, and social injustice in both the built environment and historic preservation policy, and by the compounding climate crisis. Though many heritage projects and practitioners are confronting injustice and climate in innovative ways, systemic change requires looking beyond the formal and material dimensions of place and to the processes and outcomes of preservation policy—operationalized through laws and guidelines, regulatory processes, and institutions—across time and socio-geographic scales, and in relation to the publics they are intended to serve.

This third volume in the Issues in Preservation Policy series examines historic preservation as an enterprise of ideas, methods, institutions, and practices that must reorient toward a new horizon, one in which equity and sustainability become critical guideposts for policy evolution.

With contributions from Lisa T. Alexander, Louise Bedsworth, Ken Bernstein, Robin Bronen, Sara C. Bronin, Shreya Ghoshal, Scott Goodwin, Claudia Guerra, Victoria Herrmann, James B. Lindberg, Randall Mason, Jennifer Minner, David Moore, Marcy Rockman, Stephanie Ryberg-Webster, A.R. Siders, Amanda L. Webb, and Vicki Weiner.

Available online and in print.

The Urban Heritage, Sustainability, and Social Inclusion Initiative is a project of CSUD, the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, and The American Assembly. The initiative examines historic preservation as a sustainable and socially-inclusive urban policy tool. It has been generously funded by the New York Community Trust. The initiative engages researchers, government officials, and practitioners in a series of three symposia and related publications, to advance the collaborative processes needed to inform the next generation of preservation policy.

The American Assembly partners with Hothouse Solutions to promote climate action

Columbia University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics (INCITE) and The American Assembly have partnered with Hothouse Solutions, a solutions-oriented media venture dedicated to making climate action accessible to whoever is ready to take on the challenge.

Climate change has historically been ignored as a top issue in the US press. That’s changing amid unprecedented concern about the climate crisis among millions of people. A focus on solutions is more urgent than ever.

Hothouse’s original journalism gives readers a blueprint to enact the climate solutions the world needs—right now, in their own lives. Through stories, from detailing the climate benefit of eating oysters, to a how-to guide on re-careering for the climate, Hothouse aims to show how we can advance solutions in our lives, communities, and political institutions. 

“A pillar of our work at INCITE and the American Assembly is the belief that trust is foundational to our collective capacity to act upon research,” said INCITE director and The American Assembly president Peter Bearman. “We know this is especially true about a topic as fraught as climate change. That’s why we are so pleased to work with and fund Hothouse, whose mission is to lead with trust by invoking curiosity in readers, avoiding reductive narratives, and advancing solutions.”

During the next year, Columbia University will collaborate and support Hothouse in order to help deliver actionable climate coverage wherever readers find their news, serve as a climate desk to supply dedicated climate coverage to other media outlets, and to train and advance early-career journalists in climate solutions journalism.

“The time is right for this approach,” said Hothouse co-founder Michael J. Coren. “Recent research shows that more Americans than ever say they are being harmed ‘right now’ by global warming. By pairing original journalism and rigorous scientific research, Hothouse will experiment with ways to deliver effective stories that illuminate both the personal and systemic behavior changes needed to address climate change through a new digital media venture.”

Hothouse has been attracting new readers and content and has been syndicated in major national publications such as Popular Science. As one reader put it, Hothouse is “a source for fascinating information on climate action—it’s not all doom and gloom.”

“Hothouse’s mission of civic engagement embodies our belief that citizens can and do shape the future,” said The American Assembly executive director Michael Falco. “We are excited to partner with Hothouse to watch them grow, and step up to addressing one of the greatest challenges of our time alongside them.”

The American Assembly announces its first cohort of Assembling Voices fellows!


We at The American Assembly (TAA) are pleased to announce our first cohort of Assembling Voices fellows!

J. Khadijah Abdurahman is the founder of We Be Imagining, an initiative applying the Black radical tradition to developing public interest technology. Through the Assembling Voices fellowship, Khadijah will continue to bridge siloed disciplines and activists, using art, technology, and community networks to combat harmful systems of surveillance, exclusion, and exploitation. Khadijah will organize a series of events in Brownsville, Brooklyn to support political education, organizing, and mutual aid with those most impacted by the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (NYC ACS). These events will support a community-designed mural celebrating Black family life and abolition of the Family Regulation System.

Asha Boston, a filmmaker, and storyteller from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, has spent her career exploring and documenting the history of Black neighborhoods struggling to retain their culture and self-sufficiency amid gentrification through her film project, A Time Before Kale. With support from Assembling Voices, she plans to expand on this work through a series of peer-to-peer storytelling workshops that teach residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant to digitally collect, preserve, and archive pictures, oral histories, and artifacts of their life in this neighborhood. By gathering residents in trusted spaces, the workshops also provide sites to coordinate resistance against rising rents, predatory development, and other threats to neighborhood  stability.

Through the Winston-Salem Portrait Project, JCKB Studios (artist/organizer Jasmin Chang and photographer/ storyteller Kisha Bari) developed a new model for intercommunity exchange: they brought together activists and leaders from across Winston-Salem to participate in workshops, and placed them into pairs to learn one another’s stories and take portrait photographs of each other, which were then displayed in public art installations around the city. Chang and Bari now seek to expand on that model in New York City, by systematically identifying and connecting community activists and representatives across boroughs and issue spaces, creating pathways through which skills, experiences, and resources may flow.

These fellows’ initiatives combine mediums to meet audiences where they are, identify community-defined needs, and encourage sustained involvement. Through their use of such interactive, accessible mediums and their reliance on community members and trusted messengers, these programs redefine expertise, deepen understandings of pernicious social problems, and refine strategies for action and resilience. Though the programs are based in New York City, they confront issues of national relevance and offer inspired models to replicate elsewhere.

“With this fellowship, we hoped to expand and reimagine notions of who produces knowledge, how trust is built, and why assembly matters. These remarkable fellows and the initiatives they have proposed bring this ethos to fruition through art, education, dialogue, and activism. We couldn’t be more thrilled to assist them in this work, to learn from them in the process, and to see the impact of these community-centered approaches to addressing social problems,” said Peter Bearman, President of The American Assembly.

“The fellows were selected not only for their respective visions, but for the potential for intracohort learning and collaboration. Each member brings unique skillsets and experiences that become assets to all involved, as they seek to bridge communities, preserve histories, and address injustices and inequities here in New York City,” said Executive Director Michael Falco. 

The fellowship will encourage and facilitate these exchanges through regular seminars, designed around the fellows’ own identified needs, in which they will be able to share their initiatives-in-progress, engage in professional and educational development, and build connections between themselves, their communities and partners, INCITE/TAA, and the institutional resources of Columbia University. 

The fellowship will launch officially on September 1 of this year. Keep an eye on our website or subscribe to our mailing list to stay up to date on these projects as they unfold in the coming months!

Video | Trust and Mistrust in Climate Science, Part II



Over the last three decades, the debate about climate change has involved challenges to the very evidence of change, disagreements about status of models and simulations as scientific evidence, calls for “sound science,” disputes about the contribution of anthropogenic causes, attempts to cast doubt on the integrity and plausibility of forecasts and assessments, and various forms of “solution aversion.”

What are the sources of skepticism about climate change and/or mistrust of climate science?

What processes, mechanisms and dynamics are implicated in provoking and prolonging the debate about climate change?

To what extent are these specific to the climate debate, and to what extent are they representative of a broader mistrust in experts?

What can be done to increase trust in climate science or consensus around appropriate measures or interventions?

Join us for a conversation with these esteemed panelists (Full Bios Here)

  • Mike Hulme: Professor of Human Geography at Cambridge University

  • Naomi Oreskes: Professor of History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University

  • Andrew Revkin: Founding Director of the Initiative on Communication and Sustainability at Columbia University’s Earth Institute

  • Gil Eyal: Professor of Sociology at Columbia University (moderator)