4 Laws of Ecology: Revisited

Four Lawas of Ecology

I undertook the task earlier this week of reviewing references for our upcoming RESTORE working group publication {Sustainability, Restorative to Regenerative}. One of those references was to Barry Commoner’s popular quote and definition on ecology, that the first law of ecology is that everything is connected.

This lead me to pick up a copy and re-read deeper into Commoner’s 1971 The Closing Circle and revisit the Four Laws of Ecology.  The Closing Circle describes the ecosphere, how it has been damaged, and the economic, social, and political systems which have created our environmental crises. It gives us a clear and concise understanding of what ecology means that is evermore relevant today.

And timely, Commoner’s second law – everything must go somewhere – resonates with a comment I gave to our local Lancashire Evening Post on plastic pollution. (We need to We need to be critically questioning single use plastics and acutely aware of plastics impact on health and the environment – and be aware of what happens when we throw plastic away – as really, there is no ‘away’)

The First Law of Ecology: Everything Is Connected to Everything Else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all. “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” John Muir

The Second Law of Ecology: Everything Must go Somewhere. There is no “waste” in nature and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown. Any waste produced in one ecological process is recycled in another. A core principle for the Circular Economy.

The Third Law of Ecology: Nature Knows Best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but any human change in a natural system is, says Commoner, “likely to be detrimental to that system” And in the context of chemicals of concern we are looking to eradicate from buildings (through eg the ILFI Red List) “The absence of a particular substance in nature, is often a sign that it is incompatible with the chemistry of life”

The Fourth Law of Ecology: There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. Exploitation of nature, will always carry an ecological cost and will inevitably involve the conversion of resources from useful to useless.

The four laws warn that every gain is won at some cost. Because our global ecosystem is a connected whole, any impact, anything extracted from nature by human effort must be replaced. There is no avoidance of this price and delay only creates the ecological disruption and biodiversity loss we are witnessing.

This reinforces statements I make so often in presentations (see Specifi Edinburgh and RESTORE Budapest for example) and within FutuREstorative, that sustainability is the point at which we start to give back more than we take, and that we no longer have the luxury to just reduce our impact but we have delayed too long to do more good to rebalance the ecosystem equilibrium.

 

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Available via RIBA Bookshops

 

They Paved Paradise: (How) Can Buildings Heal? … Regeneration Edition3

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The third edition of the Regeneration Design Competition concluded with its conference in the wonderful setting of the Riva Del Garda Museum.

“The biggest barrier to sustainable and living building is ourselves” Amanda Sturgeon 

Following presentations from the three Regeneration Teams, attendees from across the EU heard talks from Amanda Sturgeon (CEO International Living Futures Institute) Emanuelle Naboni (KADH, Copenhagen) Emmanuel Pauwels (Green Living, Spain) and myself.

It was a real delight to work with the three teams over the course of the design competition, sharing sustainability and experience of the Living Building Challenge. Congratulations to all the teams, and to the Yellow (Coltsfoot) Team for their winning presentation.

Based on the passion and integrity of the Regeneration students, the future of restorative design, construction and operation of buildings to the Living Building Challenge standard is in very good hands indeed.

‘They Paved Paradise: (How) Can Buildings Heal?’

My Riva Del Garda presentation introduced a number of themes, sharing insights from FutuREstorative and current research work on biophilia in relation to birth centers.

taking carbon out

Carbon reduction and its impact on health is now recognised as a major health imperative, and with the built environment responsible for 40% of carbon emissions measures to address zero carbon buildings and construction must be on all sustainability agendas

A green Built Environment supports the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDG’s are emerging as the vision for Built Environment sustainability, addressing the positive impact the sector can have, replacing the ‘doing nothing today’ Brundtland definition that hasn’t moved the sustainability needle fast enough.

solastalgia

Solastalgia – With the reduction of nature, access to nature, reduction of natural light within buildings and absence of dark skies we are starting to feel distress and nostalgic for the ‘natural’ environment we recall from our youth, or the innate relationship with nature that is part of our human psyche:

Biophilia, the secret sauce for sustainability

The rise of interest in biophilia and connectivity with nature is encouraging. Biophilia can offer so much more than just better healthier places to work and live. It is the secret sauce for sustainable behaviour, improving the way we respect and look after our environment, our buildings and our planet.

And a big thanks and congratulations to the students, teams, fellow tutors, organisers and trade presenters for a wonderfully inspiring Regeneration!

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Regeneration 2017 Ed3 … Students, Tutors and Organisers …

NW England: for the best of this year’s Autumn colour.

If you’re keen to catch autumn leaves at their best then this may be the best time to head out with your camera. In fact, recent research highlights that 2016 is a particularly vibrant year for autumn colours. Owing to 2016’s wet spring, followed by above-average amounts of sunshine and a mild August and September, trees […]

via Where to see the best of this year’s Autumn leaves — Wild about Scotland

Cities setting biophilic commitments.

Pittsburgh has become the latest city to be inducted into the Biophilic City network, setting ambitions and commitments to eliminate the use of all pesticides, fungicides and herbicides, to increase the city’s tree canopy from 42 percent to 60 percent by 2030, to pursue  the daylighting of streams in stormwater management efforts and to develop more greenways.

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To qualify as a Biophilic City, cities work within a number of guidelines and monitoring indicators:

Guidelines:

  • Biophilic cities are cities of abundant nature in close proximity to large numbers of urbanites; biophilic cities are biodiverse cities, that value, protect and actively restore this biodiversity; biophilic cities are green and growing cities, organic and natureful;
  • In biophilic cities, residents feel a deep affinity with the unique flora, fauna and fungi found there, and with the climate, topography, and other special qualities of place and environment that serve to define the urban home; in biophilic cities citizens can easily recognise common species of trees, flowers, insects and birds (and in turn care deeply about them);
  • Biophilic cities are cities that provide abundant opportunities to be outside and to enjoy nature through strolling, hiking, bicycling, exploring; biophilic cities nudge us to spend more time amongst the trees, birds and sunlight.
  • Biophilic cities are rich multi-sensory environments, where the sounds of nature (and other sensory experiences) are appreciated as much as the visual or ocular experience; biophilic cities celebrate natural forms, shapes, and materials;
  • Biophilic cities place importance on education about nature and biodiversity, and on providing many and varied opportunities to learn about and directly experience nature; in biophilic cities there are many opportunities to join with others in learning about, enjoying, deeply connecting with, and helping to steward nature, whether though a nature club, organised hikes, camping in city parks, or volunteering for nature restoration projects;
  • Biophilic cities invest in the social and physical infrastructure that helps to bring urbanites to closer connection and understanding of nature, whether through natural history museums, wildlife centres, school-based nature initiatives, or parks and recreation programs and projects, among many others;
  • Biophilic cities are globally responsible cities that recognise the importance of actions to limit the impact of resource use on nature and biodiversity beyond their urban borders; biophilic cities take steps to actively support the conservation of global nature.

Indicators

  • Natural Conditions (eg % of forest or tree canopy cover, % working/living within 300m of green space, area of green roofs, living walls)
  • Biophilic Engagement ( eg daily visits to green spaces, flora and fauna eco-literacy, outdoor activity membership)
  • Biophilic Institutions, planning and governance, (eg city budget allocated to nature conservation, restoration education)
  • Human Health and Wellbeing (% spending 30 mins + in urban nature, in outdoor activities, equitable and just access to nature)

Other aspects of a biophilic city include bird friendly, water friendly (blue urbanism) and dark sky preservation.

Other Biophilic Cities include Wellington, NZ; Birmingham, UK; Victoria Gasteiz ; Spain; Portland, USA and Singapore.

The Biophilic City website has a wealth of information, stories and resources.

UK among the most nature-depleted countries in the world…

Agriculture, Urbanisation, Wetland and Forestry Management alongside Climate Change are the cause in a significant drop in the health and state of UK nature and wildlife. The State of Nature 2016 report published today describing the UK as “among the most nature-depleted countries in the world”

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The 2016 Report led by the RSPB and the collaborative effort of over 50 conservation organisations details the dramatic decline in nature as a result of climate change “overwhelming negative” agriculture, industrialisation and urbanisation, pointing out that it is not just historical but continues today.

The report highlights the positive efforts with examples of natural habitat and wildlife recovery but sadly points out there are too few to prevent a tipping point, citing how public funding for biodiversity has decreased by a third over the last 7 years.

Of particular interest, relating to the current surge of interest of nature within the health, wellbeing and biophilic agendas, and recognition of biophilia and rewilding as the secret sauce for sustainability, is the report’s Connection to Nature Index.

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  • Nature can have positive impacts on young people’s education, physical health, emotional well-being, and personal and social skills,
  • Only 21% of eight to 12-year-olds in the UK currently have a level of connection to nature that is considered to be a realistic and achievable target for all children.
  • Children who were more connected to nature had significantly higher English attainment” and that there are “strong correlations between [connection to nature] and pro-nature behaviours and pro-environmental behaviours.”

 

 

3 R’s for rethinking built environment sustainability

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Its over ten years since rethinking construction became the driving force for improving the construction industry. Back then, in 1998, sustainability wasn’t on the agenda for many construction organisations, and didnt feature in Egans influential report.

Now at the close of 2012, it is of course one of the key challenges for construction.

But is it now just a ‘must do, tick box’ matter, rather than a real agenda for improving, reducing costs and reducing our impact?

Earth2.0 Hub in an excellent blog post ( The Future of Business – inspired by and in harmony with nature.) provides a framework and the language of 3 R’s for future businesses working in harmony with the earth .  And its a framework we should learn from, borrow, adopt or adapt  at project and business level in rethinking built environment sustainability; Re-Design, Re-Connect and Re-Kindle.

Re-Design. Not only design of buildings, but to re-design the way we build. No longer are transactional efforts (reducing waste, conserving energy and recycling) enough.

How?: Take a look at Cradle to Cradle thinking, Circular Economy, Designing out toxic materialsDesigning out Landfill

Re-Connect. Time to rethink our relationship with nature. However just including nature as a natural capital to be costed is not meaningful approach. We need a relationship that is deeper, that is deep green thinking.

How?: take a look at Living Building Challenge – what if every building, like a flower, contributed to its environment. Or the One Planet Living ten principles

Re-Kindle. Time to rekindle the sustainability debate – moving away from the negative, harassment to doing less bad, to encouraging a move towards a positive new world of doing more good,  better. Resilience.

How?: Learning and benchmarking from other industries and sectors, for example Patagonia, or closer to the built environment, Interface Flooring

This blog, since 2005, has had as a tagline built environment improvement and its connectivity to the natural world . Since then, it has been a core philosophy within fairsnape.

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Since 2005 we have organised and facilitated benchmarkwalks, discussing sustainability issues , across and within sectors, whilst walking in the natural environment. Rather than in the conference of training room. You would be amazed how diffierent, how green, sustainability discussions when conducted in the great outdoors. Try it !

Cradle to Cradle, Circular Economy, Healthy Products Standard, Designing Out Landfill , Interface UK, and the UK Living Building Challenge all featured in our #GVis2012. Green Vision Conference in Leeds on the 12 Dec 2012.

>>> See Green Vision event material, links, blogs and more here  <<<<

<<< Read the Cradle to Cradle tweetchat transcript here <<<

The Living Building Challenge UK Collaborative will be ‘launched’ at this event on the 12th.

And, Cradle to Cradle is the book-topic for our Dec #GVisChat tweetchat on Dec 10th at 8pm.

Sustainability: Closing the Circle

Barry Commoner, scientist-activist, whose ability to identify and explain complex ecological crises and advocate radical solutions made him a pillar of the environmental movement, died last week. Source

Commoner whose seminal 1971 book, “The Closing Circle: Man, Nature and Technology,” argued for the connectedness of humans and the natural world.

Commoner was particularly known for boiling down his philosophy to four simple principles as he wrote in “The Closing Circle.”

Four simple rules that still have huge relevance today in the world of built environment sustainability and resilience:

  1. Everything is connected to everything else.
  2. Everything must go somewhere.
  3. Nature knows best.
  4. There is no such thing as a free lunch

Simple Rules:
Through facilitated workshops, we can help you explore a ‘simple rules’ approach to dramatically improving effectiveness of your processes and procedures, increase buy in whilst reducing red tape bureaucracy.
Behind seemingly complex issues there are simple rules. The concept of Simple Rules is a key principle within complexity and emergence thinking. The oft cited simple rules being those for flocking birds. 
This blog series will explore application of simple rules to sustainability and the built environment. Based on the premise: if we were to discard all strategies , policies, processes, procedures, work instructions and checklists, what simple rules would emerge or would we need.