By Grant McCargo
Bio-Logical Capital is changing the way that businesses and people value, develop, and protect our landscapes. Our projects are testing grounds for new models of land investment, conservation, and revitalization. We work with landowners and investors to shape more habitable communities, diversify agricultural systems, and build connections between people and place. We have at our disposal a wealth of expertise and technologies that enable us to envision a new paradigm for human settlement, and create effective solutions rooted in decentralized, biologically inspired approaches.
We believe that there is a real opportunity to shift human development models from an “extract and move on” approach to one in which we “enrich, hold, and share” the land’s many resources. In an effort to inspire more individuals and organizations to take this holistic approach towards conservation and development, we’ve written a paper that captures what we mean by Stewardship Development. We invite you to read it, share it, and in turn, use this perspective to continue working towards a healthier planet.
If you look at nature, nothing is wasted. We are all part of one system and everything is a resource for something else. Think of a small patch of forest ecosystem. The most obvious organisms here are the trees, which take up nutrients from the soil, water from the ground, carbon from the air, and energy from the sun to grow trunks, branches, and leaves. These grand trees rely on birds and insects to pollinate their flowers, transport their fruit, and sometimes even break open their seeds to regenerate. When the trees drop their leaves, the detritus helps hold water in the soil and provides nourishment for many organisms living on the forest floor; these organisms, in turn, digest the leaves back into nutrients that are recycled into the soil and taken up again by the trees. The forest thrives as a single system because of the many different actors working within it and in synergy with each other.
A similar opportunity exists to integrate the many functions that are occurring in our disparate food, energy, housing, and water systems. For example, agricultural waste can be used as fuel in a biogas power plant that provides electricity for the nearby homes. Effluent from the biodigester can be recycled as organic fertilizer on the farm and wastewater from the homes can be treated in natural wetlands and reapplied as irrigation in the fields. In an urban environment, rooftop agriculture can produce fresh fruits and vegetables for the restaurants below, and in return, the waste from the restaurants can provide compost to the farms. Additional ecosystem services provided by urban agriculture are estimated to be worth $160B annually in total, encompassing impacts such as urban heat island effect reduction avoided stormwater runoff, nitrogen fixation, and energy savings (amounting up to 15 billion kilowatt hours of annual energy savings worldwide – or 50% of the power generated by solar panels in the US). By connecting these operations, we can find opportunities to transform “wastes” into resources and build a robust system that grows stronger and more productive over time, whether in a rural or urban environment.