Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

When I first read this week's theme and missions, a wh*** bunch of designs came to my mind, which I've seen around, since my very first research activity on sustainable design.
Many kinds of different solutions have been conceived to help developing countries with water security issues. I'll be publishing some of them, but the most brilliant I found were already reported even before the water mission was officially published. Then, I choosed to report something different: a solution which is generally proposed for developed countries, in order to face a dramatically urgent water security issue. I'm talking about water pollution with toxic chemicals and waste from factories.

The beautifully creative and sustainable solution I want to report is called "Green Eco-Machines" (or simply "living machines"), and it was conceived by Dr. John Todd.
Dr. Todd is a biologist working in the field of ecological design. His ideas often involve applications that make use of alternative technologies. His principal interests include solving the problems of food production and waste-water processing.

The system they developed is an ecologically engineered technology conceived to restore, conserve, or remediate sewage or other polluted water, by replicating and accelerating the natural purification processes of streams, ponds and marshes.
In practical application, a living machine is a self-contained treatment system designed to treat a specific waste stream using the principles of ecological engineering. It does this by using diverse communities of bacteria and other microorganisms, algae, plants, trees, snails, fish and other living creatures.
This approach is generally known as "phytoremediation" and also applies, with different strategies, to soil and air.

Dr. John Todd won the Buckminster Fuller Challenge, in 2008. The principles he chose to follow for his work (and for his wh*** life) are admirable; they totally fit with Fuller's intuition of nature's importance and interconnectedness (which on his turn anticipated what's now called biomimicry).
A well-known quote by Buckminster Fuller is: ‘I’m not trying to imitate nature, I’m trying to discover the principles she is using’. And here are Dr. Todd's fundamental design principles, based on that same respect for nature and will of comprehension:
  1. the living world is the matrix for all design
  2. design should follow, not oppose, the laws of life
  3. biological equity must determine design
  4. design must reflect bioregionality
  5. projects should be based on renewable energy sources
  6. design should be sustainable through the intergration of living systems
  7. design should be coevolutionary with the natural world
  8. building and design should help heal the planet
  9. design should follow a sacred ecology

A beautiful doc**entary about Dr. Todd and his living machines is available here (sorry I would embed it in this post, but I didn't manage to):
More resources can be found here:
Also, Dr. Todd's Ocean Arks is listed among the "Resources for Water Conservation & Purification" at EcoSchools:

Below, you can see Dr. Todd's curious Eco Mandala (click on it to view it full-size):

Views: 469

Comment by Sarah Shaw Tatoun on March 28, 2010 at 1:37pm
Thanks, Stefano-- I love seeing things on John Todd. The books he and his wife, Nancy Jack Todd wrote in the late 60's and early '70's about his work were my first great inspiration.
Comment by MoE on March 28, 2010 at 1:54pm
Thanks Sarah for your feedback.
I read "Bioshelters, Ocean Arks, City Farming: Ecology as the Basis of Design" from his wife and him; I don't know if it is the same book you're talking about (probably not, as it should be written around mid 80s).
Anyway, as a designer, their approach has been greatly inspiring to me as well. I always keep in mind their words and their design when facing a problem and thinking of possible solutions. I hope one day I'll be able to produce something as meaningful as they did.
Comment by Elastika on March 29, 2010 at 12:22pm
Another great post, this Mandala map is just fantastic (I'm printing it at the very moment), the design principles are just so clear and logical.

Great share ... your post are always worth reading!
You forgot to add C2C tag :)
Comment by MoE on March 30, 2010 at 12:09am
Tagged! :)
Thanks for your absolutely appropriate suggestion, Elastika, and your always kind, positive feedback
Comment by MichalHuller on March 30, 2010 at 4:47pm
It's wonderful idea, to let nature fix our faults.
I hope this idea will spread around so more companies will implement this nature purification method.
Thanks for this interesting ans resourcefulness post.
Comment by Rahul Dewanjee on April 2, 2010 at 12:01am
+1 for knowledge share...this is one excellent, top of the line posts from Stefano.....commendable!!
Comment by Ken Eklund on April 9, 2010 at 1:28am
Really insightful analysis and helpful images – thank you for presenting such great ideas and presenting them so well.
Comment by Rauni Lillemets on May 6, 2010 at 6:44am
Really interesting! I will look into the EcoMandala!


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