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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.

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