Urban symbiosis and the nature-based economy

Planning a city or town to maximise symbiotic relationships between major flows of bio-material, water, heat and energy offers a way forward to living without fossil fuels. This video explains how it all hangs together.

It requires some major rethinking. For example:

  • Nutrients from sewage and household organic waste go directly back to the soil via composting. New forms of nutrient capture.
  • New forms of food provision, including completely new commercial models that reduce food waste while maximising circularity.
  • Well-insulated homes.
  • Maximum use of heat – including urban gardening.
  • Reduction of the need for transport, and transport powered by electricity and biogas.
  • Manufactured products need to remain in the economy, being reused, repaired and recycled as long as possible.

In this way, the urban footprint can be rapidly reduced.

Reduced fossil-powered transport decreases carbon emissions.

Nutrient capture repairs the nitrogen and phosphorus cycle, one of the nine planetary boundaries being exceeded.

Ensuing the forests and agricultural land retain their ecological functionality means that nature can continue to provide for future generations.

Reducing energy input levels and replacing fossil fuel with renewables decreases carbon footprint, another one of the nine planetary boundaries.

New forms of business models, possibly based on community ownership, increase levels of service while reducing material footprint.

A new way of seeing the forest’s economic value.

A circular, urban symbiosis view of the forest encompasses the understanding that the forest should be a mature eco-system, and stay that way. In the area, ecologically mature forests stabilize soil, retain rainwater, have a cooling effect on their surroundings etc. These functions are dramatically reduced if the forest is clear-felled as is the practice in many places.

The clear-felled forest also loses much of its recreational value.

If lost from the forest, the functions have to be paid for by the citizens in other ways, for example the increased cooling demand may have to come from air-conditioning and the water retention function may be replaced by flood damage costs.

So the value to the region of the function of the forest is much higher than the value of the forest owner of the sawn timber.

The case for common ownership

This means that in any region, it makes more sustainable sense if the forest, agricultural land, water purification and management and energy production facilities are all owned by the people who use them.

The value to sewage handling companies of their operation is the profit it generates.

The value to citizens of the area is clean water, nutrient recycling, and living waterways.

It is obvious that it is better that sewage handling is owned by the people who need it.


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