In the Anthropocene…

By november 3, 2015 Algemeen

Overwhelming evidence demonstrates that most of the terrestrial biosphere, including its biodiversity and ecosystem processes, has now been permanently reshaped by direct interactions between humans and ecosystems. While climate and other geophysical and biotic factors continue to constrain the form and functioning of the terrestrial biosphere, human populations and their use of land increasingly determine the realized form and dynamics of terrestrial ecosystems, including the cycling of the elements, biodiversity, primary productivity, and the presence of trees and their successional state.

In the Anthropocene, there is no possibility of removing human influence from ecosystems: anthropogenic transformation of the terrestrial biosphere is essentially complete and permanent. What has not already been altered directly, we are now altering indirectly through anthropogenic climate change and other effects mediated through the atmosphere. As a result, the future of all species, including our own, now depends on better understanding and managing the human ecology of our anthropogenic biosphere.

Advances in integrating agronomy, forestry, ecology, and the environmental sciences will help. Yet this is not enough. It will take bold action and experimentation at socially and ecologically relevant scales, great patience, careful observation, and perpetual adjustment to make substantial progress in learning how to design, create, and sustain the landscapes, anthromes, and biosphere that we want in the Anthropocene. We have never had more power to do great things, to design better landscape ecologies both for sustenance and for nature, to create beauty, and to manage a biosphere that will nurture, please, and honor our children, ourselves, and our ancestors. And with creation comes both opportunity and responsibility.

The concept of bionic cities is an urban design and planning model that proposes cities be reconceptualised as interconnected ecosystems. By embracing an envirocentric agenda it opens the door to new paradigms for restorative urban programs through applying equal weight to socio-cultural, ecological and technical processes. The principle of bionics relates to structures and processes imitating nature’s mode of organization, optimization and adaptation. This does not only mean to imitate singular solutions but rather the application of holistic systems. Bionics implies using the most efficient solution while employing a minimum of resources. Cities that efficiently cycle matter require less energy input. By doing this the bionic city concept respects the earth’s abundance enabling a recognition that humans are not divorced from natural systems. Sensitive to their surroundings, fused to form a complex adaptive system in sync with the Earth’s natural processes. The build environment within the software of the city -its culture, society and economy- convergence technologies and connect with natural systems. In contrast to the sprawling mass of disconnected, static and inert structures, a bionic style means synthesis of natural forms and high tech developments. Operating as a seasonally adaptive collective of interconnected and interdependent shape-shifting, color changing, dynamic architectures.

The transition to a bio-economy will be far-reaching. It will involve much more than replacing fossil-based raw materials and introducing new technologies; society will need to change in a way that clashes with the status quo in some cases.

Our economic model is currently hitting a brick wall. Industrial development has brought enormous economic growth, but the linear economic model is unsustainable. Resource-scarcity risks are increasing, leading to more volatile prices and supply chains. Our society is headed for global overshoot and collapse. Steering away from this course requires breaking the current bond between prosperity and material consumption, or ‘decoupling’. A circular system is restorative or regenerative by design. Within the circular economy new business models are developed that reduce the need for virgin raw materials. This is accomplished by rethinking how production chains can become closed loops. The circular biobased economy aims to become a new paradigm that essentially changes the functions of resources in the economy: waste material of one (industrial) process will be input for another, and products will be repaired, reused and recycled.