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REGENERATIVE DEVELOPMENT
Can the right approach to co-habitation with nature actually allow us to leave ecosystems better off than when we found them?


That’s a hopeful idea that’s coming of age, in part because millions of young people are looking for non-traditional careers that focus on cleaning up our generation’s environmental perversions.


Schools are catching on, too. Goshen College, a private Christian school in Indiana (www.goshen.edu), now has an Institute for Ecological Regeneration. The school is “committed to bringing renewal and vitality to ecosystems through research and education.” Would be eco-champions of any age or interests can take roving courses with the Regenerative Design Institute (www.regenerativedesign.org) before setting out to save the world.


Architectural firms, too, have identified regenerative principles as key to fixing the housing footprint. Fantastical designs of the future mimic natural shapes, rely on clean, non-extractive energy, and generally stay out of the way of wildlife.


“I’d like to think that we can leave behind evidence of our habitation that somehow enhances this already unspeakably, breathtakingly beautiful planet,” Richard Heinberg says, “but that probably requires a lot of humility and an approach that is slow, thoughtful, and sensitive.


“In a way, we can’t do any better than nature is already doing,” he adds. “Carbon cycles, water cycles—those are already happening, and the best we can do is avoid screwing them up. But maybe there is something that humans can add to nature’s conversation that is uniquely ours. When I look at some ancient and vernacular structures, I see buildings that appear to grow out of the landscape, and add beauty to it in the same way that a tree or songbird does.”


Watch a video of Jason Jackson’s award-winning regenerative community design here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08_EZKwd0Y0


 


ROBOTS -RELIABLE HOME BUILDERS OF THE FUTURE?
Imagine building a custom home in just one day at just a quarter of the cost of existing manual methods. Contour Crafting (CC), an innovative automated construction technology, thinks that vision could become reality. Developed by Behrokh Khoshnevis, director of the Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Technologies at the University of Southern California, CC is a hybrid fabrication method that robotically builds up structures layer by layer. Walls are built up by forming their outer surfaces via extrusion of a paste-like material, such as concrete—and a robotic trowel provides a smooth, contoured surface. Info: www.ContourCrafting.org


 


Running Low
“We are suffering the worst resource crisis in history,” laments Mander. “We are operating on the assumption that we can keep achieving high levels of economic growth forever on a finite planet, that there will be ever-increasing resources, markets, and economic activity to sustain expansion, profit, and growth,” he adds. “But critical resources such as energy, water, forests, fisheries, arable topsoils and key minerals like lithium, coltan, and rare earths are rapidly running out.”


In a couple of decades they will be nearly gone, and without this resource base, continued economic growth won’t happen, he says. “We need to make very rapid responses now,” he asserts.


“We are unquestionably moving into a period of resource scarcity— more expensive energy, minerals, food, you name it,” says Heinberg. “The evidence is simply overwhelming that this is the case,” Heinberg says. “Where we do see an increasing availability of resources—for example, of unconventional ‘fracking’ natural gas—production costs are higher or environmental hazards are greater. We can move from increasingly scarce high-grade mineral ores to more abundant low grade ores, but that means using more energy for extraction and processing. Wherever you look, we’ve already picked the low-hanging fruit.


06.2011
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