As memes go, there is one that has recently entered populist debate, while garnering little attention, its a highly pertinent issue that should be repeated.
The essence of the issue at heart is a recognition of biodiversity as a valued element in human survival.
Starting with this fascinating article on physorg.com, The Earth has its own set of rules. The article sets out a proposal for Humans to reconsider their relationship with earth on a political, religious, social and economic basis.
“To achieve a more accurate model of our relation to nature, we need to see ourselves as part of nature, governed by nature (not economics),…………”
“We are testing it with relentless, massive, wholesale conversions of ecosystems, channeling their products exclusively into our own limitless consumption. And we are testing it with the global spread of biological species, causing a complex, hugely damaging homogenization of Earth’s biota.”
The authors (B.E. Mahall and F.H. Bormann) also suggest that ;
“All of these views are fundamentally and dangerously flawed, because all are anthropocentric. They begin and end with humans. This isn’t the way the Earth works.”
The Article is worth reading, it spells out succinctly good reasons for humans to re-assess their relationship with Nature. Its an Ideom gaining ground in in our consciousness as we tackle global issues of global warming and climate change. In some respects I might propose that the logical conclusion of our attempts to (clean up) our act will be a form of social bio-contract. The roots of such an idea relate to carbon trading. (one legal solution) currently being explored on a global scale. The essence as described on Physorg and with which I concur is;
“to infiltrate the economic model with “ecosystem services” by assigning monetary values to functions performed by the Earth that are beneficial to people.”
The earth after all does provide a rather vital service for our species.
The article is a good springboard for further ideas. My immediate thought was discussions regarding Space habitats. In a closed environment, life support systems become essential to our wellbeing. Indeed the genesis of a contract can be found in such discussions. Such as here.
An Author Karl Shroder voices some ideas regarding this in his talk at OSCON 09. Watch his clip below, skip to About 6min in although the first part in context is also good.
The idea is gaining ground. Its Meme the propagates itself through many lines of though. However its a dangerous idea to current geo-political economics. It undermines the profitability of existing human resource management systems. Underlying it all is the anthropocentric greed towards greater profits. Tackling how society can integrate nature and biodiversity into a social contract is not going to be easy.
But its not an impossible undertaking.
From a layman’s perspective, the Eco moniker has many drawbacks. Partly to blame is a history of Eco evangelism on the part of a small contingent of society. Politically and socially its not advantageous for a layman to align themselves with radicalism. So for most people, while they broadly support the idea of Sustainability, our city states and social infrastructure lack the kind of foresight that brings forth good ideas inherent in sustainable living.
One of the biggest problems with this idea is that City states the world wide have already been built, the land is taken, the biodiversity is gone, and with it is any majority of opinion for a change. So this idea has some serious obstacles to overcome in terms of perception. Perhaps this is why we have marginal political radicalism relating to conservationism and nature. Its a necessary part of getting your message out, especially as the message is in complete opposition to the anthropocentric viewpoint that is the status quo of present society.
So how do we go about amalgamating such an idea into popular culture and fleshing out the parameters of a Bio-Contract. ?
I believe we do have a modern precedent in the Special Economic Zone in China. The idea that a city state could be developed that technically is in opposition to the social and political system of a governance is key to the success of a bio-economic structure. While in the short term City states the world over are unlikely to invest in risky infrastructure changes there is hope in arresting the unsustainable growth of these systems by creating a (by example) city state. The hope is that the technologies and concepts developed in the building of such a city can propagate, especially towards suburban and fringe growth of existing cities.
More so, this could be an exercise in consumerism. People must want to live in the social contract that such a city state implies. More so, the applied experiment should be a testbed for sustainable technologies in materials science, architecture, social sciences and city planning. The venture itself is a means to experiment and patent applicable technologies and flesh out the ramifications inherent in living in such a place. Although an altruistic if not academic viewpoint (or open source) approach may benefit such and undertaking, its inception and executional is reliant upon the anthropocentric reality of current Geo-political and social circumstance.
One single facet of the human aspect of this is a participatory aspect. Lets put it in the perspective of a space station. If you were to create and artificial biome in space for human habitation its essential to think of the human as a integrated in the ecology. That means a social worlview where the humans are incorporated and actively a part of the biome. And for that to happen there must exist a social order that either rewards or pays for labor or time spent in the active pursuits of sustainable living. This is perhaps the hardest obstacle to overcome in todays society where the majority of the human spend all their daily lives to pay off mortgages or otherwise caught up in the economic trap of daily life. While a majority of essential work can be facilitated by specific jobs there should exist and ethos and a ratio that should govern life.
One such quantifiable ratio could be one that has been observed (but sometimes disputed) in Kleibers Law. That being that the Energy a living body consumes is proportional to its Mass 3/4 (M=E3/4). Perhaps such a ratio can be applied to Architecture and all facets of living. Including a working balance between civic responsibility, taxes and work.
While this formula is a starting point, the creation of a experimental city state would lay a firmer groundwork towards defining a more clarified picture.
So where do we start? Following are some of my thoughts.
A Suburban Experiment in Creating and Teaching Sustainable Living.
Applied Eco Living should aim to bring together; Government, Academia, Science, the media and everyday people, together in a practical experiment to re-create our notions of living together.
An Idea that brings together the best sustainable practices in;
- Landscaping and Perm culture
- Low energy Building techniques
- Water management
- Practical applications of material science
- Energy and water generation
An idea that aims to create a new economy in bio-sciences by exploring and teaching simple ideas into everyday practicalities.
Land use for human habitation; Redesigning the suburban base plan.
Human habitats need to coexist with the local ecosystems however our living requirements and building habits often strip nature, reducing bio-diversity. Redesigning the plan of human habitation by land forming to incorporate and live with the local ecosystems is not only possible but desirable. This starts with good planning and preparation. There is a simple ethos that many small parts in nature contribute to generate bio diversity.
Land forming to establish water catchments, perma- culture and low impact building techniques together with materials science and innovative design can reduce or promote bio-diversity in symbiosis with nature.
Exploring these ideas in conjunction with local government, to create safe and sustainable housing is one of the challenges facing eco-sciences. The aim is to prove to local planners that sustainable development can compete and better established planning regulations. By saving government infrastructure costs, promoting land value and contributing to the livability of the planet.
- Key concepts: Landscaping, Water Catchments, Nature corridors, Hydrophobic soils, Housing Foundations, Permaculture, Biological Engineering, Government and Council Planning, Regulation, Real estate profitability.
Low Energy Building Techniques.
Using smart, low energy building techniques has been practiced by humanity for centuries. The industrial age has changed our application of these technologies to wasteful, high energy and carbon producing industry. The challenge is to re-examine building techniques such as Rammed Earth Construction, Adobe and Compressed Earth Block techniques. Together with modern materials sciences, bio-mimecry, thermal exchange technologies to create sustainable, innovative homes that use natural sources of energy for cooling and heating.
Smart Energy generation innovations such as solar and wind power, water collection from the air and hydrogen and methane generation. The challenge is to engage architects and designers to create homes people will want to live in while automating and incorporating human beings.
The house is the eco-system for a human being.
- Key concepts: Rammed Earth construction, Potash form Coal Power plants (cement substitute) , Recycling, Thermal Exchange systems, Water collection and storage, Solar energy, hydrogen and methane production from urine and waste, waterless toilets, bio-organisims in the home. Hydrophobic surfaces for self cleaning homes. Hydrophyllic designs for dew collection from humidity. Computer home eco-system management.
Water is a commodity essential to our survival, however its also essential to our prosperity.
Although food security has been significantly increased in the past thirty years, water withdrawals for irrigation represent 66 % of the total withdrawals and up to 90 % in arid regions, the other 34 % being used by domestic households (10 %), industry (20 %), or evaporated from reservoirs (4 %). (Source: Shiklomanov, 1999)
As the per capita use increases due to changes in lifestyle and as population increases as well, the proportion of water for human use is increasing. This, coupled with spatial and temporal variations in water availability, means that the water to produce food for human consumption, industrial processes and all the other uses is becoming scarce. http://www.worldwatercouncil.org/index.php?id=25
The aims are to reduce the need for Agricultural water usage and find better ways to manage human usage. Reducing Agricultural usage of water requires the decentralisation of agriculture. Although the challenge is great, by exploring the issue in terms of agriculture on a local scale for local consumption the expected water usage for agriculture can be reduced. More so the energy spent in transporting foodstuffs is also saved.
It starts with local water catchments, developing landscaping that promote water collection to house designs that catch and preserve rainwater. Smart microbiotic water recycling and challenging human attitudes regarding usage.
However there is much more that can be explored, once again from biomimecry, by exploring the use of condensation technologies to extract water from the air to using heat exchange systems for desalination. The challenge is to apply principles from research and the sciences to everyday living. As part of this experiment, the importance of keeping local biodiversity active in the water cycle should be explored. The Philosophy is that we should leave enough water after usage for local flora and fauna to prosper and work in harmony with local ecosystems.
* Key Concepts: Water catchments, Water capture, and storage, Water recycling, Hydrophillic & Hydrophobic materials, Ionisation of surfaces for Water capture, Cultural ethos of water usage.
Practical applications of material science: BioMimicry
Academics write papers, that inspire engineers to build technology to better our lives. This integral system should also apply to building a sustainable living. By deconstructing known technology in chemistry, applied engineering and materials science to the aim of sustainable living it is possible to change the way we build, grow and sustain ourselves.
The emphasis on the creation of a Bio-Sciences field of study is a catalyst towards crating a economy for bio-Friendly technologies and skills. The practical experiment in building a sustainable suburb seeks to engage academia, science and the public via the media (reality tv show, documentaries) to explore and create energy friendly technologies for sustainable living.
More importantly, this open research seeks to build local skills in bio-technology, from building, to manufacturing that will benefit present and future generations. The aim is not just to create an island of sustainability, but to educate and foster ideas that will spread.
Not because they are hard, but because they make sense. In a way science is about ideas. Good ideas spread, by finding good ideas for sustainability and creating a demand we can create the catharsis for a whole new economy.
* Key Concepts: Bio Technology, Sustainable Manufacturing, Power Generation, Materials Science, Education, (transforming science to knowledge that empowers skills) i.e. To create Hydrophobic materials Silica coatings are required. Silica is essentially glass or quartz. Turn this into a local knowledge.
Im open to comments and suggestions on where else such ideas could go.