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Paul Mankiewicz: Integrating ecosystems with urban and industrial landscapes

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Good morning. I'm going to tell a story. I think I need a piece of technology here. Thank you. Now I just have to figure this out. I'm going to tell a story about -- ecology, which is a story of plants and their parasites. If you'd like to take a look at one of the parasites, you and I do every morning when we look in the mirror. (Laughter) This story is literally the flow of energy and there happens to be one exquisite transducer, the land plant. (Laughter) (Applause) And I'm not one of the people from Australia, either. (Laughter) That story is literally better told by another set of constructs which is basically the cycles that make life possible, because life is made of the same materials. You and I have the same molecules that were in Plato, were in the dinosaurs, were in literally the first blue-green algae, as they emerged 3.5 billion years ago on Earth. So, it looks like this. The story can be told in multiple ways, but in English we have a phrase, "What goes around, comes around." On the religious side, there's the golden rule, "Do onto others..." And the story we heard earlier on the Polish farm, basically internalizing in economic systems, what is otherwise thrown away, literally makes certain or ensures that the resources that we have are reinvested in our present and our future. You wear, as I do, the same phosphate molecules that were in Socrates, that were in Copernicus, that were in Tyrannosaurus Rex. We're breathing the same carbon dioxide, the carbon cycles unrestfully pass through us. And we either reinvest the carbon in the landscape, we reinvest the resources, or they are gone. And we have passed peak-oil, we are about at the point of peak-phosphate on the planet, that is to say the amount of phosphate that can be mined, has been mined, at least half of it, roughly speaking. And of course, water is an issue all over. That can't be my fault. We'll try again. So, it's a kind of strange way to tell this story, but literally, what we need to make room for in our cities is something like life in abundance. Because every terrestrial landscape literally is a space which life fully occupies. By "fully" I mean, the surface of the Earth, is something like the scale of Jupiter or Saturn, because a leaf covers another leaf, another leaf, another leaf, so there's something like 5 or 12 times the surface area of the Earth's surface in leaves. The interior of leaves is something like 200 times the Earth's surface. The roots are something like multiple thousands. The fungi, which are exceedingly well appreciated here in the Eastern Europe, are thousands of times the surface of the planet, and one cubic centimeter of humic matter, as you unfold it, is something between 1000 and more than 2000 square meters. What? Immense capacity. In one cubic centimeter of soil there's something like 10 million or 10 billion bacteria. So, immense numbers. Those bacteria take the hydrocarbons that comes out of our automobiles, and basically turn them into carbon dioxide and water, Pseudomonads on the surface, and other where the soil is more saturated. So, the "take-home" message is here: rooftops need to be covered, walls need to be covered, street edges need to be capable of capturing water, and literally we need to, also. Before we get to terrorism here, we need to, also, literally re-engineer our shorelines, because we've covered them with -- Literally, the rock surface is where the bulldozers end. What I'm proposing here is, something is happening in New York City because of a rather exquisite mayor, who first discovered how to share information quite thoroughly with people investing in stocks, and then turned his administrative expertise to literally remaking a city, or helping the rest of us do the same thing. So green roofs, green walls, street-side storm water capture. And what we want to have is something that looks like this, your exquisite forest, the only really archetypal forest in all of Europe, where a reaction that's exceedingly uncommon, in terms of nature, occurs. Because only water, when it goes from liquid to vapor phase takes with it 580 calories when it evaporates. Some of you know this, if we throw something like 100 grams of water over our bodies, our body temperature drops by about a degree Celsius. You can try this trick or you can just sweat during summer. Either way, it's the equivalent of 15 tons of dynamite, when about a half of a centimeter of water evaporates off a surface. And plants lower the surface temperature of the planet altogether, and you know this -- if you take a look at the upper leaves, they are kind of like what you see when you drive along in a hot summer day, hot air boiling off the roadway or off your toaster. Basically they act as convection distributors, creating sensible heat, so they feel hot to the touch, as the pavement does. Below that, though, the leaves are actually dropping cool air and cooling the environment. And as the Earth gets warmer, as the cities of Poland basically become more and more commercial and developed, more air conditioning will be used. And we have a choice, basically, of staying on this particular, probably disastrous climb, here, or actually, if you take a look at this curve, it's got some hope in it. Basically, during the summer, you'll notice the temperatures -- During the winter the carbon dioxide is going up, but then it drops down in summer, and that's a measure, or a function, of plant capture of carbon. So in other words, there's substantial drops. And if we can increase the extent of those drops, we can actually change the direction of this curve, which would be good for everyone. I simply want to say that the story of carbon, and the story of life, is basically an issue of regulation. Organisms regulate the temperature on the planet. Take a deep breath, and one fifth of that is oxygen. The other four fifths of it are nitrogen. All of those materials pass through organisms on a period of thousands to multiple thousands of years. In other words, the atmosphere of the Earth would be like Mars, carbon dioxide, were it not for -- and like Venus, were it not for the beings on the Earth that change the way it works. So... We, you and I, produce in our cities -- Something like a fifth of our waste-stream is being organic matter. That can either be dumped, as we do in New York, in Pennsylvania, on the happy people of Virginia, for something like a 100 dollars a ton. Or you can literally use composting capacity, basically the growth of organisms, bacteria and fungi, to make it into a medium of restoration, and also a -- Conduit for water into the ground. So, literally, in New York we're now building, with compost, storm-water capture systems. And this is based on a very ancient principle, which is an operative in all our major cities -- bribery. Basically by covering landscapes with compost you pay the worms to burrow up and down. The burrowing beetles, the roots to grow. And those create spaces which move water downwards, so it can be -- I have a patent on an in-vessel composting system, basically only so we can miniaturize it and put it into cities. Or you can compost at larger scale. Outside of urban areas. And with that material, you can build green roofs. So the green roof you see on the right there, has dropped the air conditioning cost of the Linda Tool Factory, it's about 4000 square meters, by a half, after the green roof was been put in place. And that soil is made out of recycled styrofoam plus compost. And the concept is very simple. All of landscapes take water and evaporate it, move it into the atmosphere. Literally, they feed the water cycle through their own bodies. And this literally changes the temperature of the planet. But also, it powers all of the rest of us, because those plants also support other organisms. So the air conditioner on the right is in a happy environment where it gets air that's someplace, something like -- 1, 2, 3 or 4 degrees Celsius below ambient. The ones on the left on the black roofs are basically running at something like a third or a half of the efficiency of the one on the right. Simply because the air coming off black roofs can be multiple times the ambient temperature in the environment. And also, they heat the surrounding environment at the same time. So, a little bit of text. Basically in New York City, we use a lot of water, about 5 billion liters a day. We dump into the Hudson River and the surrounding environments about 5.5 billion, just to give you a metric. Basically, the water flowing off the city's environment is something like 20 billion liters per day. And this in a fifth of a centimeter storm. And, a trillion -- In any case, the take-home message is it's a lot of water on a regular basis and half of it, were you to pile it up over half of the whole city, would be something like a meter plus in height. Enough water, were you to evaporate it through trees to make New York into a temperate rainforest. Parts of New Your city were a temperate rainforest when Henry Hudson came here. And you can see the red sections, which are warmer. Olmsted built a park in the center of the city. He was basically attacked, because he was ruining the development capacity. But you'll notice [the] rectangular section in Manhattan towards the middle is basically Central Park, which is degrees cooler than rest of the city. And Olmsted said: "Well, I don't think I'm going to drop the cost of real estate value, I think it's going to go up." And when he built it, he started measuring real-estate prices, and the last time I tried to get an apartment on 5th Avenue, it was quite expensive. So I think he's right. Parks everywhere, including Cracow, obviously have the same effect. The multiple effects, as mentioned with the Polish farm, are enormous. All of our ecologists in the US used to be raised on farms, because 50% of the people were, until 1950, raised on farms. But you can see, this is a green roof built on the -- first green roof built in the Bronx on the Catholic Grammar School. All of the kids are miles from the nearest green space, but they have native plants to work with, meadow on the right, and they actually grow tomatoes. So the church there often acts as the -- Basically, for gang members who don't make it, they're buried out of the church. This is another kind of opportunity for the children who live there to actually learn foundation works, which you need to do with your hands as well as with your eyes. And conceptually, this is a very neat exhibit that was built in the Museum of Modern Art, their Queens facility. On about 50 cubic meters of this lightweight soil that I make, you have about 70 species of vegetables growing. So urban agriculture is already something that occurs right outside your central cities, but this can also occur on rooftops, literally right in the market where people can be supported. The meeting in fairly short order with some other agencies in the city. Because if there's about 30 square miles, sorry to shift units here, of rooftop in New York City, there's got to be 3000 square miles of wall space. So you can literally change climate with wall covered like the one you're looking at here. That is a park that's actually fed by the water in the gutter. I think it's kind of psychologically cruel to be running water down the gutter and into the sewer when tree is needful of that water, so we changed this year. You can see a trench drain that actually feeds that park. And every time I go to one of the cafes, right on the right there, I get free espresso, because it's much more valuable for the property owner to have this park there than just simply the street itself. So, literally, diverting water from the sewer into the landscape cools the city, creates an aesthetic environment, and, apparently, greatly improves property values. What we need is space below ground. So all of our urban areas are made with this exquisite Roman invention, concrete, packed hard over the land, and the land is what are typically supported us. So by making much, much larger tree pits you create space for water. That water is literally a way of creating space for life. Trees can grow here [and] in a large tree pit in Brooklyn, to much larger scale. And so, here you have that green street park on the left. There's a green roof in the middle picture, where there's trees literally growing inside the foyer between 15th and 16th Street, just off 5th Avenue. And on the right is a native plant and tree system that's actually growing in an area where much much more water, multiple thousands of liters, are captured per storm. And this exquisite monarch butterfly flies from North America down to Mexico every year, and without flowers there's no place for her to feed, but obviously she's doing OK. I'm showing you this, because this is the first industrial facility, it's about, roughly speaking, 3 hectares, and all of the water on the previously unpaved section of the landscape now flows into a wetland system. And you can see the plant, Sims Recycling, on the left side. So literally, multiple thousands -- I'm sorry, multiple millions of liters of water are stored. Basically, purified in this wetland and evaporated by the plants. There's a small, maybe 5 to 20 gram embodiment of animal life, the Passerine bird, warblers, they pass here every year and they feed usually on this wall, in this wetland. And I bring them up because -- this kind of habitat is actually something that supports insects. And unless you can see -- going past New York, there's multiple flyways, unless those birds are actually supported along their migratory route, they literally can't increase carbon capture, and increase carbon capture they do indeed. Literally, birds feeding on insects increases the carbon capture by 15 to about 30 percent, about a third, because they eat insects and therefore make more carbon capture possible. Below grade, you have to make space. The yellow shows the water flowing off. And those structures are literally covered by the work area and they capture storm water, so that something over 4 million liters of water can be captured by this site. This is another site where, literally, they were going to build a children's garden on, one portion, 9000 parts per million lead. If you add composted bio-solids high in manganese, iron and phosphorus, it binds led mole for mole, such that when it is fed to pigs or rats, or probably children, it basically is not going to cause poisoning. And you can see it's a wetland now, with materials bound up. We have an estuary around the whole of the Bronx, whole of the city of New York. And literally one linear foot of rope like this, supporting mussels, can fill with thousands of gallons of water a day. And we can change the way, literally, the nutrients in the flows out of the cities are captured. I want to get to Poland here. We are building here this muscle habitat, right now around New York City. I'm going to -- This is a wetland built literally to be able to treat dioxins and PCBs by adding sugar. That's a capacity to literally make a methanogenic environment that's able to break down PCBs and dioxins. The problem is, if we continue on this track, we're throwing away half, as we do in New York, of our, literally, working capital for rebuilding ecological systems. So whether it's aluminum that's thrown away, that's worth someplace between 600 and a 1000 dollars a ton, or organic waste which you throw away, you cannot reinvest in the landscape that supports all of us and the economies on which all of our lives depend. So we have to remap ecology and economy onto the same framework, remembering, that ecology is what supports each and all of us. And you have in Poland, and only in Poland, the models of what Europe once was. And literally you are, and all of us are in a unique position to rebuild, because it's been saved here. It's an amazing thing, but the bird populations you can see, from 200 parts of Africa, overlap here. You have more bird species in Poland than almost anywhere on Earth. 200 plus need to nest here and 400 plus pass through here. So, it's a landscape that's unbelievably rich and regulated by literally the beings that make it possible to capture more carbon. And I think just investing, as it seems like your farmers do, in the landscapes that support these beings, will probably work for the rest of us as well. Thanks. (Applause)

Video Details

Duration: 19 minutes and 10 seconds
Country: Poland
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: TEDxKraków
Director: TEDxKraków
Views: 443
Posted by: tedxkrakow on Dec 15, 2010

Talk delivered at TEDxKraków, on October 15, 2010.

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