For whatever reason, some people seem to have a difficult time differentiating between environments and ecosystems. Environmentsi generally refer to larger areas and a particular type of climate. For example, the Integrated and Adaptive Community Developments that are proposed to be built within the Verde Island Passage will be built in a tropical environment. In this case, it merely indicates the type of area wherein the construction will take place. Ecosystems however, are much smaller areas and incorporate a more limited scope of life and diversity. An ecosystem is further defined as a locale, generally smaller in nature, wherein a limited scope of life forms and/or matter interact. In the case of virtually every location where there is not a single, overwhelming environmental feature such as a desert, there are numerous ecosystems which all have their own unique needs and requirements and all of that must be taken into account before construction can even be considered, much less started.
The local ecosystems in and around the Integrated and Adaptive Community Developments and the Verde Island Passage are comprised of a great many, diverse and unique ecosystems. Factors so seemingly inconsequential as a few extra feet of elevation on an island can reasonably (and likely will) place you in an entirely unique and separate ecological system. You may have some of the same insects, some of the same wildlife, but the plants will be different, the soil will be different and there will be different and unique needs for that particular location. Unfortunately, even the best of intentions sometime lead to unintended consequences when it comes to environmental conservation and this is often merely due to people being able to look at the big picture without examining all of the individual components closely enough, much less adequately planning and implementing programs meeting the unique needs of the individual ecosystem.
The direct impact on the local environment should be kept to a minimal as well. Not all of the construction can take place underground, and people cannot live forever underground without coming out into the sunlight on occasionii. However, the more construction that can take place underground, the more the top of the constructs can be blended more seamlessly and beneficially into the environment and even the local ecosystems. Homes that are built largely underground tend to be very well insulated and require substantially less in the way of heating and cooling. Furthermore, those portions that do remain above ground can also be fitted with natural looking swimming pools that blend seamlessly into the surrounding environment, wet roofs that will allow for fish farms, vertical farming and other options, in addition to providing a great deal more room above ground for parks, ecological preservation parks and other more environmentally sound principles.
Great lessons can be learned from Disney and their construction in and around Kissimmee, Florida as well. While such a project would never be approved these days, given the need to protect swamps and wetlands, back in the fifties and sixties when the swamp lands were being purchased, a great many people believed it to be an inevitably failed venture, if for no other reason than attempting to build in the swamps. The solution was both ingenious and informative however.
What most people perceive when they wander through the theme parks is that they are walking on terra firma, rather than the truth of the matter which is that they are quite literally walking around on the roofs of a vast underground complex. In fact, back in the seventies, it was rumored that the underground complex was so vast that it was comprised of three fully incorporated cities. If such an “illusion” can be created for the sake of entertainment, it should certainly be a viable option for the sake of environmental sustainability.
The electrical grid is another area of major (and rightful) concern. There have been the occasional Coronal Mass Ejections that have occurred since as far back as the 1850s, and all have been very destructive in their own rightsiii. While one such CME barely missed the earth in 2012, none has hit the earth in the day of the modern electrical grid that remains so vulnerable to just such an event. There is little doubt that one will hit in the foreseeable future and it is not just a matter of if, but only a matter of when. Both of the major CME strikes wreaked havoc in the industrialized world throughout both the US and Europe. Imagine the prospects of such an event occurring these days?
Aside from the obvious aspect of riots, among which would certainly be included a great deal of arson, further poisoning our air, but an entire generation who has grown up on electronic gadgets now going through psychological withdrawal, rioting, an absolute inability to utilize cash machines, banking, credit or other viable mediums of exchange and the picture just grows increasingly ugly. While Point of Use electrical power generations and solutions may not be an ultimate solution, they would certainly decrease the risk of systemic losses that would otherwise occur. While there are increasingly diverse and viable technologies being introduced for such a solution, power storage and batteries remain the current weak link in such a system. However, it should be noted that even here, some progress is at least being made.
Food forests are yet another concept that has multiple purposes, all of which provide a mutual benefit to both the environment and to humanity. It is difficult to comprehend exactly why programs such as this have not been implemented on a large scale if there is really so much concern from the proverbial powers that be about ending hunger among the poor people of the world. Could it possibly be because such solutions are not so easily regulated and taxed? Whatever the reason, the food forests can and should be implemented on a large-scale basis not only out in the more rural areas, but in each and every park, greenbelt and other location within the inner cities where such a natural ecosystem would thrive and provide a host of benefits.
Large scale food forests produce fruits and vegetables on a virtually constant basis, depending of course on the natural surrounding environment and the availability of fruit bearing plants and trees. Furthermore, this level of the introduction of new forestation would greatly reduce the current concerns about the dreaded Carbon Dioxide whose numbers are increasing, as plants thrive on Carbon Dioxide and “exhale” oxygen in exchange for all of the CO2 that they “inhale”. These entirely natural ecosystems that were created as part of the introduction of the food forests would also provide viable habitat for birds, squirrels, insects (needed for pollination) and a host of other species, all of which are necessary in a healthy ecological system. Furthermore, organic waste from within the cities could be used for composting and digesting programs in order to create and constantly generate new sources of lively and productive soils to expand the existing food forests and create new systems at the same time, with seeds that were grown and produced locally and will subsequently, evolve into plants that thrive exceedingly well in the local conditionsiv.
Underground railroads and streets are actually very common in many large cities. What is to prevent the construction of entire systems underground with only a limited amount of road surface actually being located on the surface of the earth? Cost? What is the cost in the disruption of traffic for road repairs and repairs in infrastructure in any large city? Forced Air Ventilation systems would certainly seem to be in order, though all of the Carbon Monoxide, carbon particulate matter and other impurities and pollutants could also be more easily filtered as they were exiting through a contained ventilation system from a series of tunnels. People tend to forget in all of the hyperbole about carbon dioxide, that it is only one of many pollutants and at the same time, also a very important part of the symbiotic relationship between plant and animal life to sustain our planet. I am personally much more worried about breathing in the carbon monoxide from the car of my neighbor than I am about breathing a little CO2 that he may have inadvertently (or even purposefully) exhaled in my general direction … even if he does have a rather bad case of halitosis. Indeed, the question should not be what is the cost of implementing these roads and byways, but rather, what is the cost of not implementing these or similar solutions.
Land Reclamation and Land Restoration processes are often brought into play, though personally, it may be best not to delve too deeply in to such areas. What are the purposes of the deserts of the world? That very relevant little detail remains every bit as hidden as the purposes of oil within the crust of the earth and along the tectonic plates if in fact it is a naturally occurring abiotic substance. If the truth were to be told, if the earth and its surrounding atmosphere and innards were an orange, the human race would not even be able to give a comprehensive explanation of the peel … which is roughly equivalent to the area of the earth most relevant to our survival as a species. Peers of some of the founding members have developed a means to naturally bring moisture in to desert areas that has resulted in over forty centimeters of tenable soil in the middle of the Australian Outback, and while such programs show great promise in some regards, it is not ultimately known how this would directly impact the global environmental system.
The same theory holds true for many efforts to reclaim bays and other ocean-frontage. Again, the long-term environmental impacts are not fully understood to the extent necessary to realistically determine whether these programs are more viable for sustaining or more detrimental to the surrounding ecological systems in place. The current plans under way for the reclamation of Manila Bay would certainly endanger and possibly destroy great swathes of the Verde Island Passage at the tip of the Coral Triangle. This is by and large, one of the top three most diverse aqualogical ecosystems in existence in the world today and the runoff from such a project alone could conceivably incur irreparable harm to an environment that could not be replaced in tens of thousands of years at the natural growth rate of coral. Just because these kinds of programs can be implemented, does not by any means that they should be undertaken.
i ENVIRONMENT: the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates.
ECOSYSTEM: a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment. (in general use) a complex network or interconnected system.
ii There is every indication that people are working, and living to a limited degree in large underground government bases outside of Denver and on the Arkansas and Missouri border in addition to numerous underground government facilities around the globe.
iii A partial list of CME Events:
In 1859, what became known as “The Carrington Event” stemmed from a Solar Mass Coronal Ejection or CME coming from the sun. The Carrington Event was powerful enough to destroy the telegraph systems throughout Europe and the United States. It may be easy to laugh off the idea of losing the telegraph, but it should be noted that there was no electrical grid in existence at the time … had there been, it would have been completely destroyed as well.
“The Great Geo-Magnetic Storm of 1921” is considered to be one of the five worst recorded events of solar storms, it disrupted communications traffic from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River. On May 15, it not only disrupted but knocked out of operation, the entire signal and switching system of the New York Central Railroad below 125th street. This outage then was followed by a fire in the control tower at 57th and Park Avenue. The same storm burned out a Swedish telephone station and interfered with telephone, telegraph and cable traffic over most of Europe.
1958 – In the last century, there also have been other events such as the Feb. 11, 1958, solar storm which resulted in nationwide radio blackouts. According to various reports, auroras were visible in Boston, Seattle, Canada and Newfoundland. The storm reportedly was so intense over Europe that newspaper reports at the time said that there was concern for fires and the fear that war had broken out again.
1989 – The entire province of Quebec was blacked out from a glancing blow from a passing plasma storm. (The latter portion of the “tail” of the storm was likely the only portion that passed through the atmosphere of the earth … had the storm hit directly, the damage would have been substantially greater.
2012 – A geomagnetic plasma cloud resulting from yet another CME, barely missed the earth. This one was deemed to be larger than both the events of 1859 and 1921 which adversely impacted vast swathes of Europe and the US. The estimated damage and financial impact of a direct hit was estimated by the US government to be over two trillion US dollars … but that would not be the worst of it these days.
iv Granted, not all species will thrive in all environments. However … and just as a singular example, one variety of apple tree may grow exceedingly well but not produce the desired type of apple, whereas another apple tree may produce a more viable fruit, but does not grow so well in the local environment. Grafting and other principles of biology and ecology can often overcome virtually any similar challenges. Similar methods can also be used to create berry bushes that will be producing a variety of berries on single bushes growing in some locations.