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Rethinking Existing Infrastructure Systems

On October 13th, I will be giving a talk to The Wharton Program for Social Impact and the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL).

The essence of what I will be speaking about is how the world needs to rethink or redo how we live. This is more than a question of sustainability, instead it addresses what will be needed to allow us to thrive again on this planet. While it might sound lofty, it is all about how to invest into and profit from the redesign of our core services. I will speak in depth on how Bio-Logical Capital, a land development and conservation company,  is looking at large landscapes to restore, redevelop, and conserve the land so the human settlement can thrive within the natural environment. We are creating a living model that will not only function well, but be a great place to live and profit so that many can follow.

Our basic services and systems of water, energy, agriculture, transportation and housing are all in major need of not only an upgrade, but a fundamental philosophy and design change. It is not that these services and systems were ever bad, they are now just outdated in function, design and technology. Just because something worked 100 years ago does not mean that it is right for today. These systems were never designed to carry the loads they are experiencing today. More importantly they never really looked at natural systems as an alley, but rather viewed them as an impediment and obstruction that needed to be altered to suit man’s needs. We keep patching a framework that is now a flawed design.

Let’s look at water and wastewater for starters. Water naturally flows down hill. It rains up top and runs in rivers to the ocean, then is evaporated into the atmosphere and back again. Our water systems do the same: We take water from a source use it, filter it and dump it back to the ocean. We take rainwater and wisk it away to big pipes and dump it in the ocean. Good right? Not really. Nature stores water everywhere. Good rich soils, forests, and aquifers store water and hold onto it for dry times.

Natural systems have cycles that the animals and plants learn to work with.

Our water system interrupts all that evolutionary work and short-circuits it. So how do we redesign this? First, we must think decentralized solutions. We need to recycle water on a local basis, using gray water (which is practically potable) where ever possible. We need to use natural water stores for rain in the land, soil, and aquifers.  We need to use more decentralized natural filtration techniques (biomimicry). We should use that big brown pipe full of wastewater and harness the energy from the waste, which will either be additional revenue or an offset of cost.  We can also resell the nutrients from the wastewater as well as sell the gray water itself as a product. This shift is so fundamental that the costs of such a system are dramatically less and the profits much more.

To touch on agriculture as I have written before, if we use the natural systems we can grow food more sustainably, growing healthy soils and healthy food in a post industry agriculture system that is robust, resilient and abundant. Food and agriculture are central to the health of a community. Knowing where your food comes from is not only necessary for good health but wonderful in that it brings people together. A large part of the failures of our healthcare system can be attributed to our food system. Natural agriculture solutions work in cooperation with nature and leverage its resourcefulness.

I use these two examples to show what is possible in all the basic services. Bio-Logical Capital is in process of rebuilding communities based on the principles of natural systems, as pioneers of stewardship development. How can mankind fit into this landscape and build a living environment that we all would like to see and be part of?

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