John Todd - The Ecological Design Revolution | Bioneers

John Todd – The Ecological Design Revolution | Bioneers

it's really great to be here it's it's always one of the high points of my year to to be able to be at pioneers it's just incredible and I want to dedicate this talk to all of you and all of those everywhere who are working to defend the sanctity of the Earth's precious land waters and life over the past several decades we have begun to decode and decipher the inner workings of nature the three plus billion year old language of nature is being revealed and in its teachings we are discovering the principles of design the principles of ecological design and it's upon these that we will be able to change how we live with nature's instructions we can evolve a technological and social framework that can heal the earth and support all beings including humans and a symbiotic harmony this we are learning from the workings of the natural world and through ecological design we can cultivate a generation of stewards of stewards of the earth an ecological knowledge as Kenny alluded to transcends human intelligence and I just give you an example of that if one is to take as you see in that drawing a pond and connect it to a marsh and you do this as a sort of human architect or gardener if you will and then in turn you connect it to another kind of ecology in the background when you link those three subsystems from nature together you create with the help of hundreds or thousands of species of organisms a new kind of meta intelligence and when they come together as a living technology they then allow you to do things that were impossible before for example you can use them to generate fuels you can use them to grow foods you can use them to transform wastes into clean and usable products you can use them to regulate climate in buildings or even as you will see to restore damaged integrated environments so it is the bringing together of different ecologies and directing them with the human intelligence the smallest part of it all that marvelous things can begin to happen here you're looking down at Lake Champlain which separates the Adirondacks to the west and the Green Mountains in Vermont to the east and it's a lake that is truly beloved by many people it's also a lake in danger and down below on the edge of the lake is a greenhouse like structure and inside that structure is the most wonderful and rather magnificent garden there are over several hundred species of plants many many different forms of life and that garden is a sewage treatment plant using ecological strategies to transform in just a little over two days raw sewage from the city of South Burlington into pure water and it's made up of a whole bunch of Tanks big deep tanks that go down into the ground and it's in these tanks that the ecology of life hundreds of species interacts with the wastes at each stage in its transformation to provide an optical system powered by the that great forest sunshine to transform the way and in there many many different kinds of plants some plants that help grow bacteria and feed bacteria other plants that break down carcinogens and those chemicals that Kenny was talking about other plants that sort of sequester metals and it's this symphonic action rather than the sort of the Magic Bullet of a simple solution that allows this rapid transformation to take place pure water the top line basically shows over a several year period how dirty the water is coming in the bottom line did you can barely see shows how clear it is crystal-clear going out the top line shows the organic loading coming in over a two year period the bottom line shows the absence of organic material and again the interesting thing is that with the help of a combination of native and tropical plants it does this in winter spring summer and fall and here is a here at the top line is a toxic material that's produced biologically called ammonia and the bottom line is the level of that material going out so that here it is detoxifying the water making it possible downstream for fishes and clams and many species including those endangered to survive and help in the process and part of the journey of the ecological designer is to look for allies in fact the ecological designers journey is really a natural history tale to find those creatures that can be abuse to it these are snails which basically keep these systems clean and here is a tank full of several thousand species of fish and what they do is eat the dead and dying bacteria and because they do that there's no noxious by-product called sludge sludge – an ecological designer is incomplete design and then the plants they spend their first year or so of their life with their roots on special racks in the water and after that they are separated out and then they go out into the horticultural market and there they become in essence purifiers of air the early parts of their lives they were purifiers of water so what you're beginning to see is a new economic paradigm waste sewage as a source of economy those fishes you saw a couple of images ago in a period of 8 or 9 months go from being worth less than a dollar to being worth close to $10 so you get some sense that there's a new economy at work here an economy made possible by building into the restoration process these economic elements here we're looking at a drawing of a small lake Kenny talked about it that was polluted so badly he still polluted 30 million gallons a year come in from a landfill into this lake and when we started to work on it a number of years ago it was comatose it was dead we then began to work by using windmills to bring the oxygen-deprived water from the bottom up to expose it to light and air and the the patient began to sort of coughed and resuscitate but it couldn't quite sort of take care of itself but just the windmills so then we began to think is there a floating equivalent of that living ecology that you saw on the green house is there something like that that could be placed on the water and what would it be like and so here we designed the first very small unless you'll see in a couple of moments they get larger with time and in this with the Sun and the wind a hundred thousand gallons a day of this highly polluted water were pumped up through nine cells and at each stage in the process the water was transformed and then the great pond itself began to be transformed bottom sediments were digested carcinogenic chemicals were were broken apart in a very short period of time it was brought back to life but because it still gets 30 million gallons a year toxic material coming into it it requires the ongoing support of a floating technology like that this is a drawing of a lagoon and into this Lagoon goes 1.3 million gallons a day roughly of high-strength waste from a poultry slaughterhouse that kills a million chickens a week and that Lagoon that was there was all there was between that slaughterhouse and Chesapeake Bay and this is not an unusual story and so here you see a drawing of a very much more complex now restored technology under the water we've created artificial kelp forests and things like that to provide a sort of a three-dimensional living space and on the surface some 25,000 plants have been assembled on these restores that you see there to provide a sort of a really powerful ecological environment for the transformation of this waste and here it is it's it's just finished construction you can see the real thing down there you can see it's miles and miles the material in the water and you can notice there that there's very gentle aeration to cause the sort of water to turn over in fact by developing this technology as compared to the conventional one we were able to reduce the energy costs by 74 percent in the treatment of this kind of waste but I'd like to show you what I'd like to show you is what happens when you get the plants right in these case all the plants but one are natives there they are in June there they are in just in there and they are October it's just amazing they're responding mind you this is 20 years of looking for plants that like to do this but it's quite amazing what nature can do what about the canals for as long as I can remember I wanted to clean up the canals of Venice and you know and still be able to eat at night there in some of those fancy restaurants and finally this is a drawing of a canal restore and finally this last year we got a chance to start a canal restoration project this is the city of Fujio in South China it is a city of canals and into its canals about three-quarters to four-fifths of its waste as sewage goes untreated directly into the canals so you can imagine what it smells like but I bet you can't imagine what it looks like well here's what it looks like you can see these just about everything under the Sun is in there look at that I mean you can imagine and that thing that you see on the left is the beginning of the restorer technology under construction so that's also the working environment that some of us delight in and here it is partly finished you can see it's still under construction but the plants have just been planted you can see how long this is this is almost a kilometre it's the first and if this is fully successful we'll go 80 kilometers or roughly 56 miles of canals but here's what it looks like here's what it looks like a couple of weeks ago it's coming clear and it doesn't stink we're just beginning a similar kind of project in a river within the city of Curitiba in Brazil that'll get underway in the next few months what we'd like to do here eventually is to have these things be where they the medicinal herbs are grown I would also love the canals to eventually become places for the ancient Chinese poly culture which is more sophisticated than most of us can manage to think about and as an outgrowth of this water restoration work we've created a global network of practitioners called the water stewards Network and then there's architecture in ecology this is a school it's an unplugged school where inner-city children in Canada are taught in the countryside it's called the Boyne River School it gets its energy from the Sun and the wind it gets its water from the sky which it captures it gets its heating and cooling by the presence of human beings inside it and good design and as I say it is completely unplugged this is where the children for the first time are exposed under the escarpment to Native American studies for the first time the kids go there for a couple of weeks you step inside this school on the south side and the first thing you see is this wonderful sculpture with marshes and ponds and these tall tanks and what this is is the sewage treatment plant for the school so the kids are actually seeing the ecological transformations going on right before their eyes they're the marshes on the left and then the ponds here is a photograph about the rock sculptures inside the ponds which transform the sewage which is then recycled and on these are the mosses and the children study mosses and begin to realize that these so called lowly creatures are in fact extraordinary water purifiers one of the best on the planet the last thing I want to come to is a story about making new connections new arrangements new economies it's the story about connecting entities that are normally for example in an ordinary industrial park it's a cluster of businesses that really don't have much in common with each other except that their businesses in an eco industrial park one business will provide the input for another and another business will provide some of the shaping or dominating factors and so an eco industrial park is in fact a new kind of an economy an economy that doesn't have to be large to work an economy that can be local and integrated to work in a world that is dominated by largeness and and what we are trying to do in Burlington Vermont is to create the country's first agricultural eco industrial park and I'm gonna show you some of the pieces the idea there is to bring together interested parties these would be people like Brewers you always got to have a brewer around in my view and and a bakery and a sauce maker and a soy company because in the center of Burlington is the inner Vale which is an incubator of many many many farmers in the heart of the city they've devised a system where anybody with the right motivation can become a farmer and therefore to expand this idea from a summer activity to a year-round activity and the other thing about the Eco park here is the connections and I'm just going to tell you about a few of them first in the background that white building is a power station that power station wood-fired throws its heat up in cooling towers and the idea here is to use it as the heart of the agricultural eco park and then to begin to build on the basis of its energy the various elements and many of the food growing elements are are being developed by ourselves at Ocean arcs international it's the food group that will fit into the Eco Park which should be finished in about a year from now but I'm going to show you the bits and pieces as where as them in the background there is an experimental wine vineyard and then some research being done on strawberries and the Intervale about 1,400 species of edible plants are being evaluated by chef Bogdan this is gardeners supply which is a tool company that's also part of the interval which will also be integral to the eco park these are some of the research gardens and then in the background there is a tiny little greenhouse and inside that greenhouse is amongst other things my son Jonathan who's here now the tanks are connected to create a solar warm water growing systems and these tanks are connected together in closed loops and inside these tanks the water is purified that we grow fish and in the whole process the feeds are grown as part of the purification process so it is it is an ecological some Island within and these are what they look like these are the four cells with the fish living in only one we went to the eel grass community on the edge of the sea one of the most productive communities in the world and we said to it what do you know that we have to know to grow fish ecologically and economically what can you teach us how do you do things and that study resulted in this design and it is them that we have to honor for that design and there are the fish that come out very abundant very energy-efficient they get about almost 50 percent of their foods internally and the remaining come from outside then the last thing that I want to sort of tell you about is a whole new idea that we are working on and that is the idea of taking really no or low value stuffs and using different forms of life inserting it into this stuff and transforming it to something that becomes higher and higher and higher value and what you're looking at is waste from a brewery but we also do this with cow manure and other things and this waste then is taken and blended with manures from an organ poultry operation and then into that we inject the spawn of mushrooms and we do that inside these special chambers and this stuff then gets put inside bags and what happens is the spawn becomes the my Celia of the mushroom and it grows itself through and transforms the waste into something that is very very useful it starts to create essential amino acids like lysine and in fact what it's doing is taking the base material and actually making it into a highly valuable food safer an animal and along the way because there's holes punched in these things we're also producing a crop in this case you're looking at Oyster mushrooms so that not only is the base material valuable it's cascading out the side in this case the crop and then after up several crops of mushrooms come out of that material that was in those bags which wasn't worth anything when it started to speak of that material is then put into these large bins and after a period of a few weeks the material is transformed one more time and the crop that comes out of that is thousands and thousands of earthworms and what we do with these earthworms is blend them with aquatic plants these little floating plants like duck weed and make feeds for our animals including the fish and so after that is done and the earthworms are mostly removed their eggs are left behind by the way then it goes into the next stage in the wintertime and this material is a perfect medium for growing greens and so all winter when our local farmers are not growing these things we're growing these crops on that same material that started out so we're now at the fourth level or the fifth level of the Cascade in the spring that material is bagged and sold as worm castings and worm composting and the cycle repeats itself and this allows us to begin to assemble the pieces of an agricultural sort of eco Park that that is in fact cost-effective in an urban environment within two years we predict that this kind of food production will be completely demonstrated we've demonstrated at all at a pilot scale next year we demonstrate it at a commercial pilot scale and so the idea is to be able to take the things that we scarcely value find the right kind of life-forms to partner with to transform them into things that everybody values we're already beginning to think that some of the marginal farms could be could be in fact saved by having ancillary activities with perhaps new partnerships between new kind of agricultural entrepreneurs working say with the existing dairy farmers or other kinds of things the sort of the the the the the scope is really limitless what I want to end by saying is that everything that said at the outset by Kenny is true also I believe that we have enough knowledge at hand now to shrink the human footprint on this planet by 90 percent I don't know if we can overcome the inertia that the dominant culture has I can't that one I can't answer but I do feel sometime like a small little mammal in the late dinosaur age kind of scurrying around these behemoths creating a new world without their even noticing it and I want to end by thanking all these incredible people who work with me thank you

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4 thoughts on “John Todd – The Ecological Design Revolution | Bioneers

    John Todd – The Ecological Design Revolution | Bioneers
    Reclaiming our Polluted Waters The Final Lecture: Dr. John H Todd on Planetary Healing & Ecological Design GundInstitute Published on Dec 16, 2010
    This video features the final lecture of the ecological design course, NR 288, taught by Dr. John H Todd on Thursday 12/9/2010. Todd is Research Professor in the School of Natural Resources, a Distinguished Lecturer at the University of Vermont, and a Fellow at the Gund Institute For Ecological Economics. In the past, this ecological design course is taught in the fall and the ecological design studio during the spring semester. Both courses explore the theory and practice of employing ecological knowledge to address urgent human and environmental problems.

    Dr. John H. Todd, President of Ocean Arks International, and pioneer of ecological engineering is the brilliant mind behind "Living Machines". Living Machines are ecosystems technologies which treat wastes and purify water with plants, animals and bacteria, rather than chemicals. Such "Machines" have earned three U.S. patents, have won numerous awards, and have been built or are being constructed in many cities, towns, villages and schools in a number of countries. John Todd and his wife Nancy Todd have published several books on ecological design and authored more than 200 technical and popular articles and essays on biology and planetary stewardship.

    This video is a production of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, an affiliate of the Rubenstein School for Environment & Natural Resources at the University of Vermont.

    The Gund Institute is a transdisciplinary research, teaching, and service organization focused on developing integrative solutions to society's most pressing problems. We conduct integrative research and service-learning projects on a broad range of topics, offer hands-on learning through our problem-solving workshops and courses, develop online teaching resources and international collaborations through metacourses, and support professional and graduate education through our Graduate Certificates in Ecological Economics and Ecological Design. Learn more about the Gund community of students, scholars and practitioners by exploring our news, publications, and video archives, then contact us to help us build a sustainable, widely shared quality of life.

    For more information about Dr. John Todd, his work, or the Gund Institute, visit:​,​giee/​?Page=about/​John_Todd.html&SM=about/​about_menu.html, and​giee/

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