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^ sea rise / climate activists listening to a presentation at a recent Harborkeepers forum in East Boston

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Beyond the familiar opposition of “progressive” and “conservative” politics, I propose a new category : “innovationism.”

What do I mean by innovationism ? Simply this : a political arena in which ad  hoc, on site, unstaged suggestions can be made for resolving some of the challenges that face the city in which I live and which tactic I suspect will apply just as well to other cities.

In Boston I’ve seen it work. An emblematic example was a recent design forum sponsored by The Harborkeepers, an East Boston – South Boston citizens group that has, these past two years,. taken on the challenges posed by sea rise and big storm flooding. At said forum, many designs and principles were proposed for accommodating the water that all but surrounds both neighborhoods.

That forum’s discussion did not sound political at all. No “progressive” economics were advanced, no “conservative” customs argued for. There was a problem — water encroachment — and suggestions for curbing it, even making social utility of it. Much of what was proposed calls to mind what the Dutch have done, in their nation so much of it below sea level, to make high water work for them without destroying their communities. Holland has done it all : seawalls that retract and then close, houses on piles, houses that float, water that gets let in to make great harbors, water that is kept out when sea rise looms.

In Holland the task of taming the North Sea has no party identity. I call what the Dutch have done “innovationism,” I apply the same to what is being debated in East Boston and South Boston, and I suggest innovationism as a welcome remedy to the progressive-conservative trap that has stultified so much of our reform work and rendered it difficult if not impossible, when what is needed is reform of everything.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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