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Ecological Models for Society

Ecological Models for Society

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Ecological Models for Society

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  1. Ecological Models for Society Lecture 6

  2. Overview • Humans are natural systems and have an ecology directly connected to natural systems • The behavior of Natural Ecosystems are the preferred model for Human Ecology • In nature, all waste is food. Therefore there is no such thing as waste! • Nature lives off current solar income • Nature thrives on diversity • Natural systems have evolved through 5 billion years of engineering into complex, elegant systems • Humans should learn from this engineering and adopt its principles • Natural systems provide an immense and diverse array of services benefiting humans • Natural systems need to be protected because these services are probably irreplaceable

  3. Basic Terminology • Ecology: • Greek root: oikos (the study of the household) or the study of the total environment in which we live. • Origin: Haeckel (1869) • The basic science of the environment • the study of the interactions of organisms, populations, and biological species (including humans) with thei living and nonliving environment • the composition change and stability of geographically localized groups of species and the flow of energy and matter within such groups of species (an ecosystem) (Istock 1973)

  4. Ecosystem: • biotic and abiotic components considered as a whole (Sir Arthur Tansley, 1935) • system = an organized unit • Ecosystem unit of study: space and time (a seascape, piece of landscape)

  5. Ecological System Concepts • Entropy: every use of physical resources leads to a net loss • Feedback: information sent back and received by the ecosystem • Adaptation: change of behavior to reduce costs • Efficiency: organisms use resources more effectively, become more specialized, fit into narrower niches • Integration: Increasingly specialized organisms rely more on each other, making an interdependent community, drawing them into a larger whole • Emergence: As pieces are integrated, new capabilities emerge, the system becomes more complex, unpredictable qualities and values result

  6. Synergy: Cooperation leads to quantitative gains (efficiency) and qualitative gains (new properties), profiting the overall system • Sustainability: Systems, by using resources more wisely, balance entropy and synergy and operate sustainably

  7. Character of Natural Systems • Highly efficient in mass-energy • Diverse and complex • Occupy narrow niches • Mature from fast growing to high maintaining systems

  8. Malfunctioning Human Ecology • Destruction of natural systems through development, mining, agriculture, toxics generation • The economic system and national accounts (GDP) do not take into account the destruction of natural systems nor the depletion of resources • Humans are appropriating vast portions of biomass and water and are moving enormous quantities of materials • Humans are coopting 40% of terrestial and 30% of aquatic Net Primary Production (NPP) (Vitousek et al 1986)) • Humans are coopting 26% of all evapotranspiration and 54% of available water runoff, a net of about 30% of all the solar powered hydrologic cycle (Postel 1997) • Humans are moving more material than all natural forces combined (Schmidt-Bleek 1997)

  9. Ocean fisheries around the world are under threat of extinction • Soil loss is occurring at staggering levels • In the U.S. human ecosystem, 90% of all material resources are wasted. Within 6 months, over 98% becomes waste

  10. Some General Rules for the Design of the Production-Consumption System (James Kay) • Interfacing: the interface between human-made and natural systems must reflect the limited ability of natural ecosystems to provide energy and absorb waste before they are significantly altered; the survival potential of natural systems must be maintained. • Bionics: the behavior and structure of large-scale human-made systems should be as similar as possible to those exhibited by natural ecosystems • Use of Appropriate Biotechnology: where feasible, the function of a component of a man-made system should be carried out by a subsystem of the natural biosphere • Non-Renewable Resources: non-renewable resources should be used only as capital expenditures to bring renewable resources on line.

  11. Golden Rules of Ecodesign (Stefan Bringezu) • Potential impacts to the environment should be considered on a life cycle-wide basis • Intensity of use of processes, products, and services should be maximized. • Hazardous substances should be eliminated. • Resource inputs should be shifted toward renewables. Note: Specifically for design of products and buildings

  12. Team Exercise • Use Kay’s and Bringezu’s rules to redesign a new community • Be sure to include: • Interfacing • Bionics • Use of Appropriate Biotechnology • How Non-Renewable Resources are utilized • Issues of resource intensity, toxics , durability