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Center for an Ecology-Based Economy

Resilient Communities Restoring the Earth


A Pathway to Ecological Design

Learning from EcoVillages

By Phil Hawes Ph.D., 28 March, 2015

DOWNLOAD (PDF, 43 pages, 692kb)


"Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex,

 the solutions remain embarrassingly simple."

- Bill Mollison, co-founder with David Holmgren


It's All Very New

The understanding of living systems and how they function is all very new to "civilized" humanity. Our ancestors were able to fit into their niche in Earth's networks for perhaps two million years, apparently without doing any permanent damage, but that changed about 10,000 years ago, with the invention of cities, and we lost the sense of, and the desire for, how to harmonize with nature.


During the last two hundred or so years, our cumulative intellectual knowledge has begun to refocus on the world of life, with its transmission made readily accessible through the prior inventions of first written languages, and then the printing press. We are now rapidly piecing together at least a rudimentary understanding of how living systems work. To give an idea of both the newness, and the rate of acceleration of our knowledge, here is a partial list of developments in life-sciences and supporting fields. It is interesting that the time period approximately matches the historic era called the "Industrial Revolution."


Considering the newness of our scientific understanding, it is no wonder we have had difficulty in checking our destructive behavior. However, little by little, a self-conscious realization is creeping over the world-around human family, just what impact we are having on the planet.


Lessons from Biosphere 2

As recently as 1926, Vladimir Vernadsky wrote his book, "The Biosphere," and as the founder of the science of Biogeochemistry, he showed for the first time the enormous impact humanity was making on the Earth. Since he was Russian, he remained essentially invisible to the English-speaking scientific community, until about 1985, when a small condensed version of "The Biosphere," and translated from French into English, was published by Synergetic Press, the publishing affiliation of the builders of the Biosphere 2 Project in Arizona. In 1991, eight people entered, and stayed for two years in Biosphere 2, the world's first large Closed Ecological Life Support System (CELSS) capable of supporting humans. This was a scientific first, and of great value in furthering the study of ecological systems and their powers of air and water purification and recycling. (Another crew spent six months sealed inside in 1994.) READ MORE (PDF, 44 pages)

Quick Facts


Phil Hawes Ph.D, an architect and town and regional designer whose area of interest and expertise is sustainable community development. A member of the CEBE Advisory Board.



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