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Ecological Models for Society. Lecture 6. 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!

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Ecological Models for Society

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Ecological Models for Society

Lecture 6


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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


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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)


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  • 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)


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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


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  • 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


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Character of Natural Systems

  • Highly efficient in mass-energy

  • Diverse and complex

  • Occupy narrow niches

  • Mature from fast growing to high maintaining systems


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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)


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  • 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


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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.


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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


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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


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