Consciousness & Knowledge
Jim's Videos
Green Papers
Jim's NEW Book
Jim's 1st Book
Local Issues
Meet Jim Bell
The way I see it
New Articles
Jim's Blog






 

ACHIEVING ECO-NOMIC SECURITY*
ON SPACESHIP EARTH

By Jim Bell

CHAPTER VI

ON OUR FINITE PLANET WHERE IS
IT APPROPRIATE TO DO "WHAT?"

Developing A Plan
Eco-nomically Integrated Planning
EIP Mapping Tools
Watersheds and Their Importance
Using EIP Maps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Synopsis

One of the most important aspects of eco-nomic security lies in how we answer the question, "Where is it appropriate to do What" on our planet? Where are the best places to site our cities? What land should we set aside for agriculture, for wildlife habitat? What hazards, like flood plains and geologically unstable areas, should we avoid?

Eco-nomically Integrated Planning (EIP) Maps are designed to make it easier to answer such questions. Preparing EIP Maps involves the development of a set of maps for your region or country based on the watersheds which lie within its boundaries or flow into it or through it. As land forms that direct the flow of water, watersheds are nature's planning units. In addition to directing the flow of water, the plant and animal communities that inhabit watersheds protect us from floods and soil erosion. These natural communities have also created all the organic materials in our soils and play a vital role in groundwater recharge.

EIP maps consist of a set of base watershed maps and corresponding sets of transparent overlay maps. Each transparent overlay map highlights a particular resource like agricultural soils, groundwater storage, and wildlife habitat or hazards like unstable geological formations or floodplains. Because EIP Maps allow us to see the synergy between the various resources and hazards in an area, the question, "where is it appropriate to do what" in that area can be readily answered. If our goal is eco-nomic security, it is obviously better to have intense human settlement sited in locations that are not subject to flooding, or that do not use up prime agricultural soils or irreplaceable habitat.

EIP Maps can be used on two levels. They can be used to determine the best locations for new developments. They can also aid in the relocation of existing developments or other improperly sited activities to more eco-nomically productive areas.

This second use would allow for the reclamation of resources, like prime agricultural soils, that have been used improperly in the past. For example, floodplains have been developed world wide. In addition to being subject to flooding, floodplains often overlie alluvial deposits, which are subject to liquefaction (to liquify) during earthquakes.

On the positive side, many floodplains are covered by prime agricultural soils as well as providing valuable wildlife habitats. Obviously floodplains are dangerous places to develop. They are also costly places to repair when floods or earthquakes occur. It therefore makes sense to prohibit further flood plain development and hope that a major flood or earthquake does not occur until we have had the time to relocate the development that has already been built on them.

 

 

 

 

 

 
Developing A Plan
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Understanding how national defense, population, and the economy are connected to our planet's ecology is clearly important to our goal of creating an eco-nomically sustainable future. But in order to make the most productive use of this and other information, it is necessary to develop a unifying planning process.

To get a clearer picture of what this planning process would look like, let's imagine that we are the crew of the Starship Enterprise and we've just received a distress call from the people inhabiting earth. The message from earth is that human activities are threatening to cause a planet-wide ecological collapse and that our help is needed to avoid the disaster.

Our mission then is to develop a habitation plan for the earth that would allow 8 billion inhabitants to live and make livings in ways that are ecologically sustainable. Eight billion is the approximate number of people that are expected to be living on earth by the year 2020 if our present rate of population growth continues. (105)

 

 

 

 

 

 
Eco-nomically Integrated Planning
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whether we are the crew of the Enterprise or planners here on earth our first logical step would be to develop a planning strategy that is consistent with our goal of supporting 8 billion people in ways that are economically and ecologically sustainable. Let's call this planning strategy ECO-NOMICALLY INTEGRATED PLANNING or EIP for short.

The goal of EIP is to help us to do two basic things. One, decide "where to do what" on our planet. In other words, where are the most suitable locations for intense human activity? What lands should be set aside for growing food and for wildlife habitat? Where are the hazards like flood plains and unsafe geological deposits that we should avoid developing? For example, it makes more sense to grow food where the soils are fertile and to build cities where they are not.

Once we have answered the "where" question, the next goal of EIP is to illustrate how to build and maintain cities and practice agriculture and industry in ways that are truly eco-nomically sustainable.

 

 

 

 

 

 
EIP Mapping Tools
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok, that's the general idea. But in order to fulfill our first task of deciding "where to do what", we are going to have to develop some EIP mapping tools, using advanced Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to help us locate and organize the resources we need to protect and the hazards we should avoid. For example, we need to know where our best agricultural soils and groundwater deposits are located. We also need to know the location of the most valuable plant and animal habitats and where hazards like flood plains, steep slopes, and earthquake faults are located.

Ultimately, to meet our goal of sustainability, this and similar information should be developed into a set of maps for our whole planet. But since we wouldn't be able to see much detail if we looked at the whole planet at once, smaller land areas would be mapped in more detail for actual planning.

The first step in developing a set of EIP maps is to develop a base map. The borders of a base map are determined by assessing the density and distribution of a region's or country's population and delineating the watershed boundaries in which that population resides.

 

 

 

 

 

 
Watersheds and Their Importance
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The focus on watersheds as planning units is very important to the EIP process. Watersheds determine the flow of water and to some extent the flow of air that passes through them. Also, any heavier than air material, such as a pollutant, that is released into a watershed will eventually impact its lower elevations. For example, a heavy gas like chlorine will tend to flow to lower elevations until it is dissipated by winds. Even solids will be carried to lower elevations and eventually to the ocean by flowing water. These are important considerations when deciding where to locate an activity (industrial or otherwise) that may release toxic materials or other pollutants into the environment.

Watersheds are also important as planning units because they form semi-autonomous biological units. Though there is considerable interaction between the biologies of adjacent and even distant watersheds, (birds and other animals that migrate long distances), each basin functions as a somewhat autonomous mutually inter-dependent, self-perpetuating plant and animal community.

Although natural watershed communities are inherently valuable as unique examples of life's complexity and vitality, they are also resources that benefit humans in a number of profound and practical ways. For example, watershed communities create soil. All the organic materials found in the soils on our planet today were created by watershed communities. When plants and animals die or when animals eliminate wastes or plants lose their leaves, soil organisms convert them into soil.

Watershed communities also protect the watersheds from soil erosion and the loss of nutrients. They also help watersheds to store water. Plant foliage and dead plant debris protect the soil from pounding rain. Root systems in concert with tunneling soil organisms, make it easier for water to be absorbed into the soil. In the soil this water is used by plants or becomes groundwater that emerges at springs or is stored in groundwater storage basins. By absorbing rainwater and snow melt runoff, healthy watershed communities help minimize downstream flooding. (106)

In addition to base watershed maps, a set of map transparencies will need to be developed for each watershed. These transparencies will be used as overlays on the base map with which they are associated. These transparencies will use color and patterns to delineate the various resources and hazards in a region.

To make them more manageable, map transparencies are divided into four categories; ecological resources, human support resources, potential hazards, and the human constructed environment. Ecological resource maps focus on environmental features. These would include resources like wetlands, and other wildlife habitats. If the area being mapped has a coastal zone, map transparencies would also include features like kelp beds and estuaries. Though they are closely related to the ecological resources listed above, the human support resources are listed in a separate category. The maps in this category include agricultural soils, forest lands, rivers and streams, groundwater recharge areas, and groundwater storage basins. Since not all agricultural soils are equally fertile the maps representing them will feature several colors to differentiate between the various levels of fertility. A third category includes maps showing potential hazards. These maps would highlight areas susceptible to earthquake damage and other features like steep slopes and flood plains. Finally, the human infrastructure maps focus on zoning and the location of existing and proposed developments.

 

 

 

 

 

 
Using EIP Maps
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By laying map transparencies over the base map, one at a time or in combination, or through computer manipulation, the synergy between different resources and hazards and their relationships to existing and proposed development can be readily seen. When maps are used in combination, it becomes relatively easy to determine whether a particular area should be left natural or used for agriculture or intense urban activity. It is obviously less desirable to develop where it would cause valuable resources to be damaged or where hazardous conditions are present. This is especially true where more than one resource and/or hazard are located in the same area.

In most areas flood plains, agricultural soils, and valuable plant and animal habitats frequently occur in the same areas. In addition to the risk of flooding, such areas often lie over alluvial deposits. Structures built on alluvial deposits are subject to earthquake damage due to liquefaction. During severe earthquakes alluvial deposits literally liquify and will not support structures.

On the other hand, it makes sense to locate development on sites where such resources and hazards are absent or marginal. It may even make sense to develop marginally productive soils, if the tradeoff is preserving soil with more agricultural potential. Similarly, it is better to develop an area with marginal habitat value if doing so would facilitate the preservation of environmentally rich habitats.

 

 

 

 

 


Jim Bell 4862 Voltaire St. San Diego, CA 92107 jimbellelsi@cox.net