MARK CRUVELLIER: So again, my name is Mark Cruvellier. I'm the Chair of the Department of Architecture here at Cornell. And it's my pleasure to welcome you to the second day of this year's Hans and Roger Strauch Symposium on sustainable design, this year titled Sustaining Sustainability: Alternative Approaches in Urban Ecology and Architecture.
And as I did last night-- and I won't do so quite as extensively this evening-- I wish to thank Hans and Roger Strauch for their gift to the department that has made this event possible.
Last night, I think we got things off to a remarkably great start with a keynote lecture by Michael Hensel whose big-picture viewpoint, I think, sets the stage for today's series of presentations by speakers from both near and far geographically, but also, I think, from quite different viewpoints and vantage points in their particular areas of interest and expertise.
And so I think each individual presentation needs to be put in the context of that larger picture that I think Michael set for us yesterday evening.
And all of this, again, is with the objective of reinvigorating and perhaps re-framing somewhat the discussion associated with that now slightly over word used of sustainability.
You have-- in a moment-- the schedule for today's sessions before you, in your program as well. Basically today will be broken down into four sessions, two this morning, two this afternoon. And each session is, almost without exception, composed of two speakers. I think there's one session this afternoon that has three, but basically, two sets of presentations and then a break between each of those sessions.
So basically the two presentations followed by a break, another two, another break, et cetera. So you shouldn't feel trapped in here for too long, opportunity for refreshment, stretching your legs, et cetera, throughout the day.
And I do hope that you and those who come after you will be able to stay here for a good part of it because I think it's by listening to everybody talk that I think you'll be able to pull things together. And to help do that, we've asked two of our faculty members here, Jonathan Ochshorn and Jenny Sabin, who are on the department faculty here at Cornell to both introduce the speakers through the day as well as to help frame and provoke some questions at the end of the day in a panel discussion after we're all done.
So that will take place-- where is the schedule here-- at 5:30 this afternoon. And that will be followed by a reception in the dome for you to discuss more in a one-on-one fashion with the speakers if you wish.
So there should be plenty of opportunity for you during the day. At the end of each presentation, there'll be five or so minutes, if there are any direct questions about that presentation that you wish to ask. And we will try and stick to the schedule, the announced times, just in case people are coming. We will stick to that schedule as we go along.
Just briefly, and I'm going to introduce Jonathan and Jenny in the briefest of terms. Jonathan, again, has been my colleague here for quite a number of years. Too many that, I think, either one of us now care to say.
His background is in structural engineering and urban design, as well as architecture. He's an alum from this place. His publications include studies on energy loss through tapered insulation as well as the political and economic underpinnings of sustainable design.
And he teaches in the areas of construction, technology, structures. And he's offering a course which seems to be growing more and more in popularity and drawing people from around campus, an elective course on the science and politics of green building. And that's only the beginning of things, but maybe the most relevant to the topic at hand.
Jenny Sabin is an assistant professor in design and emerging technologies in the department. And her work is at the forefront of a new direction for 21st century architectural practice, one that investigates the intersections of architecture and science and applies insights and theories from biology and mathematics to the design of material structures.
And just as a footnote perhaps, Jenny was in the past whatever months, two months, recently named a USA Knight Fellow in Architecture, one of 50 artists and designers given that award nationally. And she was given that back in December.
So they're going to be alternating, I think, sessions, introducing the speakers and then rounding things up at the end of the day. So I wish you a great day and I look forward to today's sessions.
Thank you, Mark, and welcome. David Ziegler is a professor and Chair of the Biology Department at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, having taught previously at Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
He received his PhD from the University of North Texas in entomology and ecology. He has taught a wide range of subjects, including zoology, parasitology, animal behavior, evolution, and marine biology. And his interests extend even further than this into the very nature of science, into phylogeny, which is-- I looked up in a Google search-- looking at life over long periods of time, as well as biodiversity and cognitive science.
He is the author of the book Understanding Biodiversity and is currently working on a new book about evolution. Please help me welcome our first speaker of this 2012 Strauch Symposium, David Ziegler.
DAVID ZIEGLER: Up and running, I guess. All right. Thank you for coming. I only got this invitation about a month ago and I was extremely surprised and honored to get that. Now that I'm here, I'm still a bit surprised and honored to be here since my background has little to do with architecture or anything of that nature.
As an undergraduate, I did do a written report about Frank Lloyd Wright. That's about my closest brush with architecture, other than that I do design and build some of my own furniture. That's about. It
I'm basically a biologist. . And I did, as was said and as Michael showed the cover of my book the other day, Understanding Biodiversity. That's apparently why I'm here. And I came up with the title of Living with Biodiversity, which I thought might be appropriate for this meeting.
I would start with just talking about the fact that so far as we actually know, Earth is the only planet in our solar system or body in our solar system that obviously does have life.
We've been to the moon a few times. Except for the astronaut up there, there's nothing alive on the moon. There's the little go cart they ran around on on the moon. I think we're fairly clear there is no life there.
Here is Mars. The question is still open as to whether there might be some subterranean life or life, probably microscopic though in some areas. And I don't know if we'll ever know that. I believe I'm correct in saying there's a new probe on the way to Mars that has more capability than some of the past probes to discover some things, including the signature of life, biochemical signature of life. But right now, it doesn't look like much is going on there.
Oops. Wrong There is a small shot of the surface of Venus. I think this was a Russian lander. The camera only lasted about five minutes or so because it literally fried in the heat. Venus is an extremely hellish environment. And looking at that terrain, I would say the chances of life existing on Venus are pretty slim.
And so it goes. There's still a few other holdouts in the solar system. I'm going to actually come to one of those later in the talk. But anyway, here we are on Earth with obviously a lot of living organisms that we share the planet with.
And the saddest thing to me is that a great number of people living on our planet have no conception, and no idea, and no appreciation for the marvels of the living world that we do share with all of these creatures. Another shot of another natural ecosystem, lots of diversity there.
Africa, obviously. Huge numbers of large herbivores and all kinds of other life. This is one of those hydrothermal vents areas I hope some of you are aware of. These were only discovered in 1977 to have an abundance of life living down there.
And it was quite a revolution because after-- it took some years to work this out, but these were the only communities, or the first communities, ever discovered that were not based on photosynthesis. All the textbooks up until that date and some continued afterwards said that everything on Earth depends on this process of photosynthesis.
Well, no it doesn't because these animal communities deep, deep in the ocean where it's pitch black all the time are depending on bacteria which undergo a process called chemosynthesis. And we've discovered similar communities around the world and we'll undoubtedly discover many, many more.
They're not all in the deep oceans. We've discovered some chemosynthetic communities living in caves that are supported by these bacteria. Just amazing brand new, unexpected discoveries about life on the planet.
I mentioned 1977. Really, most of the major and interesting things I know about biology have been discovered in my lifetime. Science is still pushing ahead at a tremendous rate on all fronts. And it's just so exciting but also difficult to keep up with what science is finding out day by day.
The term biodiversity is just short for biological diversity, life and all of its diversity of species, individuals, genes, ecosystems, and so on. The purpose of my book was basically to lay out the many parameters of life.
It's not just this is a species, this is a species. Ecosystems vary. Metabolisms vary. Behavior varies. So many things vary. And any parameter of variance within the living world is part of what we would call biodiversity. It's mind boggling.
We have discovered almost two million species. There are probably at least eight million more that have not even been discovered. That might come as a shock to you, but most living organisms are small. Most of them live in out-of-the-way places like those hydrothermal vents communities that it took extreme technology to even locate, and take samples, and start to analyze what was going on there.
They are now saying that microbes probably live as deep as three or more kilometers, straight down below our feet. Total shock, total surprise, revolution in our thinking about the places that life can live.
They can live in glaciers. I mean, within the glacier. Very small, tiny microbes that live probably some of the slowest metabolic lives of any organisms on the planet. But amazing discoveries there.
Let's see. Bear with me just one second. Allow me about a minute. I'm not even going to talk here. Those were six species of beetles. Hopefully five seconds per slide there. Oh, I'm sorry. I guess I only did five there. I miscounted. OK. There's the sixth one.
There are in fact though 350,000 species of beetles alone on the planet that we know of and probably many more undiscovered. If we were to view a slide show like I was starting there and time each one, just to view it for five seconds, we would be viewing 720 per hour.
Let's see, I think I wrote down a number per day somewhere. That would be 5,760 beetle species per day. I think we would all be blown away even after the first day, but it would take 60.75 eight-hour sessions just to view the beetles.
It would take 347.2 eight-hour days to view the two million known species of living organisms. And again, remember, that's just the known species, and there's probably vastly more. All the true experts on biodiversity would say we only know, at best, a fourth of the species on the planet.
I really wanted to entitle my book Comprehending Biodiversity, but I got into an argument with the publishers. They did not like that title for some reason. I thought it was perfect. Anyway, I gave in because, hey, they were going to publish my book.
I did entitle my last chapter, or one of the last chapters, "Comprehending Biodiversity", because to me, comprehension is something different than being able to say a number like two million.
We use these big numbers all the time, but they're truly beyond our comprehension. I'll show you some examples of how beyond our comprehension that actually is a little bit later.
Some new discoveries that have, again, taken place in my lifetime are just exactly how are all these organisms related, what is their history? Basically they refer to this as the tree of life. I think Darwin actually mentioned that phrase in his book back in 1859, but it's become a buzz word today in biology, and genomics, and biodiversity studies.
The tree of life. How are all of these things related? Who are they? What is their nature, and how do they fit into the evolutionary scheme of things?
Well, again, about 25 years ago, all it took longer than that to come out, a guy named Carl Woese came up with the idea, through a lot of work, that there aren't just these bacteria and these things with complicated cells. There's another whole group that's vastly different from either of the two called the archaea.
And of course, you can see, this is like the first living organism and supposedly the branching pattern. Now, that's probably going to change a lot as we learn more about these organisms and their genomes, which means all of their DNA content.
I know practically nothing about these two domains because I'm not a microbiologist, but there is a tremendous amount yet to be learned about these organisms, their importance, where they live, their diversity, et cetera.
The eukaryotic organisms over here, lots of one-celled eukaryotes. Here's animals on the whole scheme of things, which one of the important points there was to show that animals are just one little branch off of this gigantic tree of life and a fairly recent branch at that.
Plants and fungi, and these-- you know, plants and animals are the things we mostly see and talk about. But look at all this other stuff that mostly is too small that you're not going to be able to appreciate unless you have a microscope or-- but they're out there.
There are far more microbes in this room. I mean, millions of times more microbes in this room right now than there are people. There are more microbes in and on your body than the number of people that have ever existed on this planet. Don't get upset. Don't get alarmed.
It's not a problem, but they are there. E.O. Wilson is probably the best known name in the area of biodiversity. He's written a good bit about it, and he primarily promotes the preservation of biodiversity. He's one of my true heroes, not only for that, but for his other very important works within biology.
"Each species is a masterpiece of evolution offering a vast source of useful scientific information because it is so thoroughly adapted to the environment in which it lives." Biologists especially study and want to know how organisms are adapted to live in their environment.
And biologists do have a sense of aesthetics and beauty, and the beauty of organisms for a biologist is the perfection of their adaptations to their environment. Well, and several other things I might say.
Now, if you don't see anything here, there is a seahorse right here. There's his two little eyes on the end of his nose. He's facing us there. That's his body.
But look how perfectly he has adapted himself to be camouflaged among this one particular type of coral. I believe this is out somewhere in the Pacific somewhere, or Indonesia or someplace. And this one was only discovered, again, within my lifetime. But I've never seen such a perfect example of a perfect camouflage that this particular seahorse has adapted himself to his environment.
You may not appreciate them, but I do. I teach a course in parasites, which I'm teaching right now. And I find parasitology to be one of the most fascinating areas of biology. More than probably 2/3 of all the species of organisms on our planet actually are parasites.
Don't get too alarmed again, but they're out there and they're unavoidable, and they've always been a part of nature. And they do have some beautiful adaptations. I'm showing you some you can obviously link in to.
Hanging on. Tape worms, hook worms both live in the intestines of vertebrate animals. And they've obviously both got some great adaptations for hanging on and not being flushed out of the digestive system. Hooks, and in the case of tapeworms, suckers. Perfectly adapted.
And I heard a lady talking about these hold fast organs of tapeworms and how they were varied among species, and yet they were perfectly adapted to the particular type of animal that they lived in.
Warning coloration. two beautiful nudibranchs. Nudibranchs are small, little mollusk without a shell that crawl around, and they happened to be very bad tasting. They produce, or they gather from the environment, some very nasty chemicals that make them pretty much immune to predation. But occasionally, a fish will nibble at one.
So like a lot of other things in nature, if it's very brightly colored and you don't know what it is, don't pop it in your mouth. Very often the bright coloration is there as a warning to not mess with me because I'm dangerous. That's why a lot of bees have bright yellow and black stripes on their body and so on.
Obviously, one we all are aware of, the beautiful hovering flight of hummingbirds, if you've ever had a hummingbird feeder or watched them in their actions.
Here's something about architecture.
This is the larvae of a kaddisfly, a type of insect that lives in streams and rivers. And most kaddisflies do construct some kind of a shelter or housing for themselves.
This particular one has done so out of grains, mineral grains, out of the stream bed. Other kaddisflies actually construct theirs out of bits of wood. Very interesting structures that they build.
Adaptation to darkness, the efficiency of adaptations. There are, of course, another environment that we're learning a lot more about, are cave environments. There are fish, salamanders, and a variety of arthropods found in some cave environments.
And if they have been in the cave for a very long period of time, they tend to lose their eyes. These are blind, looks like catfish, cave fish of some type. And they also lose their pigmentation.
There's no need for pigmentation or eyes in a perpetually-dark environment. Natural selection will eliminate those things that are not useful. There will no longer be any selection for those structures. So any mutations that cripple those structures or prevent their construction will actually be favored because it's a more efficient way of living a life in a cave.
A quote I really like here by Albert Schweitzer, the great humanitarian. He did a lot of work with the people in Africa. "Man is ethical only when life, as such, is holy to him, that is, the lives of plants and animals as well as the lives of men." Kind of a mystical and spiritual statement, but I do find some value in that line of thinking.
This is out of my book, and I like to say this a lot since I found this line. It's a true statement that living organisms of this planet are the most complex and diverse known entities in the universe.
I hope I'm talking to people that don't believe in ancient aliens and all of this other nonsense that's now perpetuated with all the other nonsense on our media. There is no evidence of any life elsewhere in the universe.
Maybe some day, and I'm hopeful that there will be some evidence later on. But right now, we have all of these riches right around us and yet we're wondering is there life elsewhere when most people don't know anything about the life that we share the planet with.
Every living species is the successful result of almost four billion years of evolution, all fairly well adapted. And I put them here other questions, do they have innate value? Do we think this planet is ours to do with as we will for our needs, or should we respect our fellow creatures?
I truly believe that we are just one species among these millions. We've already done vast, unimaginable amounts of damage to the planet. Isn't it time to stop and think about what we're doing and try to preserve the rest of the life of this planet?
I most certainly think the answer is yes, yes, yes. It's time to make a difference and stop this destruction. I do think that they have value. I do respect them. I do stand in awe of-- I'm continually-- I've been learning biology for most of my adult life and I am still awestruck when I read about some of these new discoveries.
Even when I repeat to my students some of the amazing adaptations about some of the organisms I teach, I still get the hair on the back of my neck standing up because I am so awestruck that that's really true, that those organisms really have those abilities and adaptations.
Ah, you can read that fairly well and just see the point there. I am a biologist and I do value all of the life on the planet. I know some things cause disease. We have eliminated smallpox, which is a virus, which some biologists say isn't really a living organism.
We're on the verge of purposefully eliminating two animal species, which both happen to be parasitic worms in Africa. And they may achieve that.
And I have mixed feelings about this, I really do, because it would be the two first-- well, actually, there's one other one that was, for the most part, purposefully brought to extinction, but this was by uneducated folks.
If we eliminate these two parasitic worms in Africa, it will be the very first time that we have purposefully caused the extinction of two animal species. And I feel that that's a precedence that I'm a little bit troubled by, even though they do cause vast misery to the people that they infect. So it's-- I don't know-- something to think about.
Far too many people in the world do and always have viewed nature as something that is there for our use as a resource. Even the word conservation goes back to the idea that we're conserving these things because there may come a time we need to utilize them.
Well, that's different from preservation. When you say we want to preserve this part of nature, you're kind of saying, no. We don't ever intend to do anything with that nature. We just want to preserve it for its innate value. This is something I strongly believe in.
Now, not many people know that distinction. But again, conservation is prime-- you can conserve your forest. Why? Because we may want to chop them down some day and utilize the wood. That's different from we want to preserve this part of the globe and the biodiversity within it.
I just could not-- I struggled with whether to put this idea across or not to you. I'm afraid it may throw a little troubling kink in the talk, but I have to tell you because I believe in honesty so much that the widespread idea is that nature is a well-balanced machine and that every species out there plays a very important role in the environment.
And I have to tell you that's not really true. Nature is, again, vastly diverse, vastly amazing, vastly beautiful in my eyes and the eyes of a lot of other biologists. But it is not a planned thing. It is the result of evolution, chance.
Opportunity is a big word that is now making its way through our understanding of evolution. Organisms find opportunities. They take advantage of those opportunities and adapt to those opportunities, not always filling any important role in nature.
Now, there are many organisms that do have important roles in nature, but there are many that don't. But I value all of them. It doesn't matter whether they play an important role or not.
You could ask your same question about humanity. Some people are very important people that are very positive influences in the world. Some people have no influence, or very little influence, or even negative influences in the world.
But do we want to eliminate those, or do we not care about those people? You know, ideally, we would like to say all people are equal and all people deserve certain basic rights, and what is it, the opportunity to gain happiness and so on.
I think we should extend this to other living organisms, this very same philosophy. But nature is harsh, it is selfish. It serves no ultimate purpose. But like I said, it's awesome. And we are a part of that nature to assert-- well, we are and we aren't.
I'll get to something later in the talk that will make that point again, but fundamentally, we are one species among millions. And our origins lie within that tree of life, just like all those other organisms.
And at least, even if it is harsh, and selfish, and chaotic, nature does provide environmental services. The air that you breathe, or the oxygen that you breathe, all came from living organisms.
You probably think most of it came from these plants out here, but that's not true. Probably more than half of the oxygen that you're breathing came from tiny little microscopic microbes living in the oceans of the world.
And two of the most common species of these microbes were only discovered about 20 years ago. They had been missed all this time, and yet what a great discovery because we discovered that the two things that were generating probably 50% of the oxygen in the atmosphere. Amazing discovery. Amazing revolution in our thinking there.
I was talking to somebody. I don't know how we got on Easter Island, but I had this slide in here. Easter Island is, of course, this island out in the South Pacific, and it does have a civilization of Polynesians who, they think, reached there about 400 AD.
When they came to the island, all the evidence now-- and this is fairly newly arrived at discoveries about the history through the work of a lot of scientists-- the island was a very lush, tropical paradise.
It had particularly large palm trees, lots of ferns, shrubs, grasses. 25 species of birds nested on the island, some wildlife and so on. The people had obviously lots of resources to utilize and they started utilizing those resources. And within about 1,000 years, they totally destroyed the ecosystem of the island.
They cut down the very last trees. They killed off the very last birds. They killed off every species of bird that nested on that island because they had no tree. Of course, the statue thing that Easter Island is famous for, a lot of the trees, not all of them, but a lot of the trees were cut down to make rollers to roll these gigantic you know faces out to the sites they were going to erect them and so on.
And they also utilized a lot of the other planets for making rope, which was necessary in the movement of these structures and so on. That was part of the reason for their destruction of their environment.
They used to build canoes out of these palm trees and could go way off shore to the reefs surrounding the island and fish for fish. But after all the trees were gone, they couldn't make boats anymore.
So they basically, they-- well, the harshest thing here is they actually resorted to cannibalism because there was little protein left on the island. And when they were rediscovered, or I should say discovered by Captain Cook in the 1700's, there were only about 2,000 people still alive.
They think the population was at least five times that at one time. And they basically were just living a miserable life, barely scraping by because their environment was totally gone.
And this, of course, has been brought forward as an example of what we might end up doing to our own-- to the whole planet. It's just a matter of size and time. Believe me, it's just a matter of the size, the scale, and the time.
Just to show you three quick species. Of course, I could sit here for the next three hours showing you slides of things that have gone extinct, but one is called the Carolina Parakeet.
I live in North Carolina. I would love to have these birds flying around in my trees, but sadly, they went extinct. The last one died in the early 1900s.
Cutting down of trees, establishment of agriculture, spread of agriculture just basically eliminated their habitat. They were also considered a pest because they ate some of the crops.
They think that maybe even-- they don't know the exact reason, but they were hunted for feathers. They may have even acquired some of the diseases of our domesticated poultry. That's a hypothesis as well. But anyway, they're gone. Beautiful thing gone.
These little frogs called the golden toads were discovered in-- let's see, I've got to look here. They were discovered in 1966 in some high mountain areas in Costa Rica. And beautiful little toads. There are a whole bunch of them there in a pond.
Not much was known of their biology, but the sad thing is that they're-- again, discovered in 1966. Biologists by 1989 could not find them anymore. And they've looked for them again and again. They apparently went extinct.
Now, in this case, we don't exactly know the reason here. Always we suspect it was something to do with the human activities affecting the climate or something. We really don't know. There are natural extinctions as well. Could be-- I don't really know the answer, but still, there's another interesting thing gone.
If you're not familiar with this animal, this is called the thylacine. It's a dog-looking animal, but it's not a dog. It's not anything close to a dog. It's a marsupial, originally living in Australia. They were eliminated in Australia quite some time ago, but a few held out in Tasmania.
And the last one seen in Tasmania was in the 1930s. There's a little clip of film of some of these moving around a little bit and a few still shots, and that's all we have left of this very interesting animal, which to biologists would have been a very interesting creature to study and learn about its ecology, and behavior, and so on. But now we don't have that opportunity anymore. It's gone.
I was once in the back rooms of the Smithsonian Institution and in one-- in a couple of drawers, I saw in a scientific scan of that Carolina parakeet and they had a scan of the thylacine. And I-- just looking at it right in front of me there, it was almost like a religious experience for me as a biologist.
I was just awestruck that-- excuse me-- damn. There's the skin of a thylacine. I can't believe it. And there's a Carolina parakeet. And of course, they have lots of the remains of some of these extinct species. It's just incredible to me that these things are gone.
Since this is for the purpose of the meeting, I will say that in my mind, losing those wonderful, marvelous creatures would be like losing the Brooklyn Bridge. Whether you appreciate the Brooklyn Bridge or not-- I think most people do-- what if we didn't have that to appreciate, and to walk on, and to take photographs of, and to put in our movies and films?
This is the Biltmore estate in Ashville, North Carolina, which I've visited two or three times. Again, I don't know what architects think of it, but it's an amazing structure, I think a beautiful structure.
Frank Lloyd Wright's falling water house. I've never visited this, but I would love to do so. I'm just struck by the imagery of that construction and how he fit that right into the landscape so perfectly. There are places in the house where you're actually walking over a glass walkway with the water flowing beneath your feet. I just-- that man was a genius in my opinion.
Obviously, this is not nature. Nor that, nor that. We need these things to feed the world's population and our own population. They're absolutely-- some of these things are necessary, but I'm just pointing out, there's nothing natural about these environments I'm showing you. And they take up a large part of the globe's surface now.
Even though there's a lot of greenery on there, that's not nature. There's no ecosystem there. There's not natural animals working out a natural life in that environment.
This is not nature. A little bit of greenery, but it's not native vegetation. I doubt there are even any squirrels in that neighborhood. Maybe a few birds can nest and maybe a few insects. And I saw vast expanses of that very thing flying up here from North Carolina through the window of the airplane.
A big yard. That's not nature. Nothing can make a living in there. Maybe a few insects and such, but depends on whether they spray their yard with pesticides and herbicides and things as to whether even that little part of nature is there.
I don't know where this is. I said, this is certainly closer to nature because it looks like there's a variety of plants, probably which were not all selected and planted. I'm guessing these are native to the area and may have sprung up of their own accord.
And this-- that little environment right there which seems to be the yard of that house could support small animals, a lot of insects. The soil there is probably really rich and healthy with organisms.
Two other examples up in the mountains. Really no yard at all, just the natural surroundings surrounding the house. Another one out in the desert.
Now, I guess they might have positioned a few of those cacti there, but they're probably native to the area and they haven't disturbed-- let me put it this way. They're not going to be going out there spraying the ground with all kinds of toxic materials. They're just going to let nature take care of nature, which is what they want around their homes.
In nature, there are no weeds. Weed is a human concept. Weeds are part of biodiversity. They are part of what sustain life on the planet. We're the ones that go, ew. I don't want that thing in my yard. They are hardy, competitive plants.
And some talk about certain animals as being weeds. Well, when they're invasive, I can see the argument of calling invasive species weeds, but they really are hardy organisms that have found an opportunity and are making a living.
And point out again that much of nature is small and exist in the natural soil and water. A big part, I would hope, of future planning in terms of building would be to try to preserve as much natural soil and water and not make it so artificial.
I'm going to skip that because I see I'm getting short on time. I would like just to read that and think about the point I'm trying to make there. I find that sort of ironic.
No other species probably comprehends certainly, appreciates nature in any way at all except for immediate use. We can do that, but we are, without doubt, the greatest destroyer of the human-- of the planet.
I came across-- I found this book somehow, just luckily stumbled across this book after I was invited and quickly got a copy and read it. And I'm just going to say I would recommend it to many of you who are interested in this whole topic.
National Geographic. I've never heard of this guy before, but this is a really great book, where he talks about the problems that we face and what we could do.
And he's got lots of chapters on lots of topics. He's got one on land use, one on water, just a number of topics pointing out the problems and the possible solutions. I found it to be a very interesting book.
Here are a few of the points that he makes, and some of these are going to strike you as a bit odd. We should increase our use of nuclear power because it does take up less of the environment and is less destructive of the environment than anything else.
And I know we all go, oh, but nuclear power is bad. Well, I have mixed feelings about this myself, but I think his point is well argued that it is sustainable, much more so than oil, and coal, and things like that. And far less destructive and polluting than those sources.
And here's an interesting one. Urbanization is a good thing in terms of conserving nature. And he points out-- and I understand now and I agree-- that people that live in New York City are doing far less harm to the planet than people living out in rural areas.
They're living on top of one another, stories high, and not taking up so much land. They walk a lot of places and use public transportation to a far greater extent than most people across the country. They actually are having a far smaller impact.
If we've got to have all these people on the planet, it's better to push them together into one area and not spread them out across nature, what's left of it, because they're going to destroy it. I can see that.
Since I'm rushed for time, I won't-- unless you want to talk to me later and if you're one of those that disagrees with that statement, I'll explain that a bit later.
I just came across this construction in Denmark some place. And architecturally, I can't say anything about it since I'm not an architect, except that I do find it kind of visually striking.
And there are some things that it does achieve there. You do have a lot of people living in a small footprint, which is a good thing. It's utilizing, obviously, a lot of natural lighting. I don't know about-- I didn't read enough about this, about the efficiency of energy use and so on.
And you can just barely make it out that there, right there, is the entrance to an underground parking area. So they've not even paved lot of land apparently. I'm guessing that's the case there, that a lot of the parking is underground. So they're actually producing this small footprint on the planet there.
Quickly, I really need to wrap this up. Peter Raven is a very well respected biologist. He made that statement. The human population now-- I'll go through this really rapidly-- is the most frightening thing about our influence on the planet right now.
I'm just going to go ahead and skip to this. 1950 is the year I was born and there were two and a half billion people on the planet. And just this last year, we hit seven billion. And to me, that is one of the most frightening facts I know about. Frightening.
Four and a half billion extra people on the planet since I was born, an unimaginable number. And remember, all these people need food, water, shelter, and room that must come out of nature in some way.
And it's going to go on up, probably, hopefully not more than nine before we get a handle on this and start to use some intelligence in our use of the planet. If not, we're going to end up like those Easter Island civilizations.
This is just my way of trying to get you to comprehend these numbers. I always use seconds as a measure of trying to comprehend these big numbers. What is that? 3,600 seconds in an hour, so many in a day, so many in a year.
Ithaca, without the student population, 30,000-- that's eight hours and 15 minutes worth of seconds. Just skip on down. Seven billion. The population of the world is 220 years worth of seconds.
Now, if you can comprehend that number, you're doing far more than I can. And if you tell me that you can, I don't believe you. I don't think anyone can comprehend that number. It's unimaginable the number of people that we have on the planet.
Just a simple statement to remind you of that, that these people all need things that must come out of nature, that reduces part of the living world that biodiversity has to exist in.
I've had some arguments lately about what the word unnatural means. I think I'd like to have that mean something. And for me, the best definition of unnatural is something that humans have done.
And again, you can argue this point because humans are a part of nature, but this building is not nature. A lot of those other environments that I showed you are not nature, and I call those unnatural. I don't know what else to call them but unnatural.
Now, the goal of this symposium is hopefully to pull more nature into our unnatural instructions. At least, I hope that's the point of this whole meeting.
This is just-- I'm, again, a novice. I don't know much about architecture. But just in thinking about this really for the very first time, here's a few points that I would think would be worth considering at least.
Really, the first one's most important. Before you build something, consult with ecologist about the area that you're going to utilize if you're going to utilize some undeveloped land. A big very important one if you can do it, use land already made unnatural rather than going out into nature and making some-- destroying some more nature. And of course, we're at the point now that we can do that in a lot of areas.
Local built. You know all that stuff. You know about all that. Here's one that's not often thought about. Build so that rainwater can soak into the soil to feed that soil community, because again, there's a lot of nature in the soil. Build to last. Reduce maintenance materials.
A few buildings real quick, and I don't know much about these. But if you don't know, you might check them out online. The California Academy of Sciences is supposedly a building finished recently that incorporates a lot of environmentally-friendly solutions, like obviously the green roof, using natural lighting quite a bit, natural ventilation was discussed in the things I read about it.
Natural History Museum of Utah. First of all, fits into the landscape kind of strikingly, and uses-- you can't see it here, but there is a green planted roof there. Lots of natural lighting, energy efficiency, and so on.
Even on my own campus, although it doesn't look like much, we were just completing an allied health building that for a number of reasons, this is going to be the most environmentally friendly building that was ever built on our campus. I don't have time to go through any of those details there.
We always talk about being carbon neutral. You know, you've all heard that. Well, we need to be biodiversity neutral in the sense that when we build, we want to not reduce biodiversity farther than it's already been reduced.
Just read that for a second. I'm coming to the end. I showed some planets earlier that do not have life. So far as we know, this is one of the moons of Jupiter, Europa.
And this is mostly, according to all the information we can gather, this is covered with ice, water ice. We don't know exactly how deep this ice goes, but the suspicion is there might be liquid water underneath all of this ice. And of course, the next assumption is there just might be living organisms on Europa.
Well, it's a striking looking image. And I don't know that we'll ever get to Europe in our lifetime, your children's lifetime, your grand children's lifetime, but assuming that there, would you want it just to be destroyed right now because it might benefit us in some way, even though it's not even clear?
I would not. I would want to save that for future generations to explore. Right now, it means nothing to us in terms of any functional necessity or need whatsoever, like a lot of nature right here on this planet.
But I think we have to try to preserve and respect not only our planet, but the universe. And not be the destroyers of everything that we come in contact with.
So I know I've over stepped my time here. I will quit there, and I don't know if there's any time for questions or not, but thank you very much.
SPEAKER 1: If there is a question, I think we should at least have an opportunity for one. Raise your hand if you have one, and a microphone will find you.
DAVID ZIEGLER: Yeah. There's one.
SPEAKER 2: So I guess my question is just that do you really think that it's possible for humans to appreciate nature without somehow always reverting to some sort of utilitarian point of view? Because I mean, I think that when we talk about the need for wonder or awe, that those are also human needs. And so I'm somewhat doubtful that you can have a truly kind of non anthropocentric point of view. I mean, you can talk about Peter Singer and his kind of mode of conceptualizing where you draw the lines of value.
DAVID ZIEGLER: Well, I would answer that by saying two things. One is that when people's lives are harsh and survival is their number one issue, no. Biodiversity does not matter.
But lots of people will never visit the Brooklyn Bridge, but I don't think they'd want it destroyed for some silly reason. I think they would want that to be preserved for maybe their children to go see.
And I will say that as we get people in better conditions, where they can start becoming happy and don't have to worry about survival, and disease, and all these things, of course, the next step is to become more educated.
And I think all people need to become educated about the life that we share the planet with. And then that may be a pipe dream, but then I think we will have more, far more people concerned about what we're doing to these organisms that we share the planet with.
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David Zeigler, professor and chair of the Department of Biology at UNC Pembroke, gives a presentation at the 2012 Hans and Roger Strauch Symposium on Sustainable Design, "Sustaining Sustainability: Alternative Approaches in Urban Ecology and Architecture," February 4, 2012.
The symposium was organized jointly by the Cornell University Department of Architecture and the Oslo School of Architecture and Design Research Center for Architecture and Tectonics.