Engineering the Nature of Change
Robert Nairn - School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science
Robert Knox - School of Civil
Solving the many environmental challenges facing the Earth requires a revolution in our thinking of the relationship between humanity and the planet. Twentieth-century solutions – based on “gray” infrastructure driven by fossil fuels – cannot sustainably address the complexity and interrelatedness of the 21st century problems we face. Nature-based solutions, based on renewable energies and recognizing the inherent, yet oft-neglected, interdependencies of humanity and nature, hold promise for building a sustainable future. In this class, we will ask the question –How can we work with Mother Nature and not against her to effectively address these challenges?
This slash-listed class will explore Ecological Engineering, the design of sustainable ecosystems that integrate human society with its natural environment for the benefit of both, along with related areas of inquiry including Engineering With Nature (the intentional alignment of natural and engineering processes to efficiently and sustainably deliver economic, environmental, and social benefits through collaboration), natural infrastructure, green infrastructure, natural and nature-based features, and nature-based solutions. Ecological engineering is distinct from both environmental engineering and ecology and uses a systems perspective based on the premise that sustainable solutions require working with natural ecological, hydrological, and biogeochemical processes and not against them. Ecologically engineered systems are designed to require less fossil fuel input, produce less pollution, and represent cost-effective alternatives to traditional energy- and resource-intensive technologies.
“Engineering the Nature of Change” will incorporate an in-depth examination of these promising ideas through critical analyses of current literature and access to extraordinary experts who expand and transform traditional academic boundaries, bridging the gap from academia to Engineering With Nature by examining grand environmental challenges (e.g., climate change, water availability, ecosystem restoration, hybrid gray/green infrastructure) and incorporating economic, social and behavioral drivers of acceptability and adaptability.