Technoecology in brief
Solar Energy Technoecosystems
TECHNOECOLOGY is my 1976 word for looking at our
industrial systems by analogy to biological ecosystems. Cars and airplanes
are like animals; solar collectors are like plants. In the 1970s, this
bio-techno analogy, this way of seeing things, was radical and new. Today, though much more
common, it is nevertheless still an innovative and useful way to see the
How did I start seeing things this way? As a child,
I noticed the similarity between a car and my dog -- both had bilateral
symmetry, faces, four moving appendages, tailpipes, and even a bump between the
hind appendages (the differential of the car, the male organs of the dog).
Airplanes looked obviously like birds in the same way.
Flying back and forth between home in Tucson and
college in Massachusetts, I was mesmerized by the view out the airline
window. Cities looked like coral reefs or other strange ecosystems, with
populations of animal-like machines moving in organized ways with type-specific
behaviors. Like ants, or blood cells. People, politics, news, media,
are all invisible from the air. All you see is this big, orderly, dynamic,
self-organizing, and essentially living technoecosystem.
Working as an exploration geologist in summers, I felt
like I was a taste bud or forager ant, looking for food for a hungry organism or
This vision became clearer and I felt driven to explore
it. So I decided to drop normal career goals and pursue this
vision, cataloguing and exploring the similarities between biological and
technological systems. This metaphor that is so obvious to children, so
invisible to adults. Exciting work, lonely work. The result was two monographs,
the first on Geothermal
Technoecosystems (a very limited niche), and the second on Solar Energy Technoecosystems
(a large, sustainable niche), both available from NTIS. My
dissertation, Solar Energy Technoecosystems in Arid Lands was a
close derivative of the solar monograph
(Available from UMI
Dissertation Services by order number 7824364).
I did publish this work, but only on a small scale.
Each of the monographs was published by the University of Arizona Office of Arid
Lands Studies in an edition of about 500 copies. Originals are quite rare now. I
was not ready to
take a public role at the
time. Much of what I wrote then has still not been said by others.
So one of these days I plan to write a short book bringing these ideas up
to date, freshened for the new millennium...