HUMAN VS BIOLOGICAL SYSTEMS Cities as consumers of energy and resources and producers of artifacts, information, and waste have often been compared with biological entities, in both classical studies in urban sociology as well as in recent research concerned with urban ecosystems and sustainable development. Recent analogies include cities as ‘‘living systems’’ (Miller JG 1978) or ‘‘organisms’’ (Lovelock 1969) and notions of urban ‘‘ecosystems’’ (Botkin, Beveridge 1997). Findings of recent studies undertaken by Bettencourt et al. show that these terms aren’t just qualitative metaphors, but, at least for the infrastructure of a city are quantifiably similar to biological and organic and ecological entities as they are economies of scale. In cities, the data associated with infrastructure bares characteristics of an economy of scale, analogous with those found in nature. As an organism, or an ecosystem gets larger, its metabolism decreases, it uses less energy, less material. Economies of scale are described by:
The resources driving growth are ultimately limited, thus, if conditions remain unchanged, such boundless growth is unsustainable, consequentially leading to stagnation and ultimate collapse. This pattern of growth is inherently unsustainable as it must constantly re-invent and innovate, effectively resetting the initial conditions and parameters of living. Not only does the super-linear development require constant adaptation and reinvention but each new cycle, each change must arise at an accelerated rate in order to maintain growth.
The human systems that have developed over the last century rely primarily on the use of fossil fuels. Energy has become central to the “human/mechanistic” solution. Shown in the graph opposite by the red mass. The lower graph shows how nature solves problems, it is obvious to see that energy usage is minimal, and they rely far more heavily on structure and information - which in human systems are largely ignored. Nature presents a far superior methodolgy of problem solving, and it would seem that we need to re-think our approach, and look to nature for advice.
Many studies of biological and technological systems show that there is a mere 12% similarity between the human (mechanical) and natural problem solving methodologies. (Vincent et al. 2006)
Ω = 0.8 < 1 Such scaling is found throughout nature as exemplified in Fig (016). Data shows that if infrastructure and city size were to be plotted in such a graph, they would look remarkably similar (Appendix). Thus proving that we should be considering the planning and design of our urban infrastructure as an organism or ecosystem. A shift must be made in how the built environment is created and maintained. Bettencourt et al. predict an imminent collapse of the current super-linear rate of growth of the population of cities.
Biomimetic Design for Landscape Architecture