As Agents of Habitat it is our task
to make our place in the world more conducive to life. It really does not take much to keep something alive. It just takes obtaining what we need consistently. A habitat on the barren end of the spectrum provides for the needs of only a few individuals. A habitat on the healthy end of the spectrum provides for the needs of many individuals of a wide variety of species. We all live on the barren end of the spectrum compared to the biological potential of the planet.
The processes that we humans use to provide the things we need to thrive are not sustainable. They cannot be sustained because they dissipate resources. Each process is conducted in isolation and byproducts are treated as waste . . . dissipating resources. To the extent we rely on unsustainable processes our own existence is at risk. If we want humans to continue to have a place on this planet we will need to produce what humans need to thrive in sustainable ways.
Sustainable production requires that we learn to cycle resources
(energy, materials, nutrients, and information) back on themselves at small scales . . . soils and neighborhoods. A neighborhood working to cycle resources back on themselves could be thought of as a cell of sustainability. A sustainable region can only be created from a collection of sustainable cells. The planet we want will be populated by individuals living in cells of sustainability. As we learn to create these cells of sustainability we begin to create the world we want. Let's review some basic concepts.
Life requires 1) the ability to keep our bodies in an acceptable temperature range, 2) clean water, and 3) an intake of calories. Nature addresses these issues by creating communities of organisms appropriate to each combination of moisture level and temperature swing on the planet. As an Agent of Habitat your goal is to balance each of these needs within an inclusive pattern of interactions that welcomes all participants. Let's explore some of the elements we want to balance.
First we balance the flow of heat
Water is perhaps the best thermal mass. Ideally we can produce
clean water as a part of the heat flow function.
The water that we use to absorb excess heat will condense as the air cools in the
circulation system and on the glazing when the sun goes down. This collected clean
water can then serve as thermal mass.
With adequate temperature and water we can begin producing calories. Each species has a
cycle like the one in the first illustration. If we include a full range of species including plants,
animals, fungi and bacterium we can produce a cycling of nutrients that will build on itself
cycle over cycle.
This is the basic concept of the Food Cell. It is a technology of balanced inclusion. The technology
has the potential to be miniaturized in a way similar to the way digital technology has been
miniturized. What nature takes whole biomes to accomplish might be done in a suburban back yard.
For the current state of our research see Integrated Closed Loop Production Systems.
Three simple rules:
When balancing a living system we follow three simple rules.
1) every individual of the many species gets to make their own decisions.
There is no should, only a fit or not a fit. It is up to us to make participation worth while
to the prospective participant.
2) whatever we do is open to all residents.
We are already a part of a community that consist of all the living things around us.
Our work is on behalf of that community.
3) we measure progress by the diversity of participation.
We heal the community by creating more places to fit in the pattern of interactions.
We will know that we are doing 1 and 2 correctly if we achieve an ongoing increase
in diversity of participation.
Following these rules of balanced inclusion move us in the direction
of sustainably producing what humans need to thrive.
The principles of integrating natural processes do not originate with the Living Systems Institute. We are inspired by many important thinkers and doers in this field. Perhaps first would be John Todd, formerly of the New Alchemy Institute and now with Ocean Arks International. We would be remiss not to mention Gunter Pauli and Zero Emission Research and Initiatives. We are always looking for more inspiration and recently ran across the wonderful program at Green Wave.
What we explore at the Living Systems Institute is how we and our habitat can benefit from these processes through community.