Course

An Introduction to Biospherics

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An Introduction to Biospherics

Mark Nelson

Seminar topics:


1. Biosphere 2's radical experiment in global ecology: what synthetic ecologies can teach us


Review of use of microcosms and mesocosms in ecological studies including laboratory-sized closed ecospheres


Goals of the Biosphere 2 facility and experiments


Integration of engineers and ecologists


Eco-design of Biosphere 2


Biomes: the building blocks of a biosphere


Redesigning the technosphere to support and not harm/pollute life


Non-toxic, nutrient and water recycling approaches to agriculture


The values of wilderness biomes to biospheric life support


Designing a water cycle, purifying and recycling wastewater, engineering to do some work that happens naturally in Earth’s biosphere


The human dimension: learning to become biospherians and the change of consciousness it affords

2. Innovative eco-technologies for wastewater treatment and reuse and control of indoor air pollution


Indoor air quality, magnitude and causes of problem


Using plants and soils as biofilters, greening and cleaning indoor air


Case studies of soil biofiltration solving air pollution problems, indoors and outdoors


Sewage systems: a review of existing approaches; the high cost and wastefulness of conventional large-scale centralized sewage treatment; the lack of sewage treatment in poorer, less developed countries with attendant contamination of potable water sources leading to disease/death


New innovative approaches emphasizing water and nutrient reuse as well as treatment of pathogens: constructed wetlands, composting toilets, graywater irrigation, water conservation, potential synergies with greening cities


Examples of Wastewater Gardens, high diversity and beautiful constructed wetlands,
around the world


3. Biosphere, Noosphere and the Anthropocene: the historical development of our understanding


Original formulation and understanding of the biosphere (Edward Suess)


The Vernadsky revolution: how the biosphere has profoundly altered and still shapes Earth’s environment


The biosphere and the technosphere – how to coexist in a virtually materially closed Earth


The vision of the Noosphere, the growing recognition of the Anthropocene

4. Ecological engineering and Ecotechnics: new approaches to harmonizing human activities with our living world


Historical context within the evolution of technology. Readings from Lewis Mumford: “Technics and Civilization”


Ecological engineering: “integrating human society with its natural environment for the benefit of both". Using both ecological science and engineering, with an emphasis on using natural mechanisms and minimizing technology

Examples of ecological engineering: stream restoration, creation and restoration of wetlands, management of lakes, coral reef and aquatic/marine applications.


Discipline of Ecotechnics: aiming to harmonize technics and ecology. History and examples of applications in temperate semi-arid grasslands, tropical rainforests, savannahs, world cities, etc.