Earth Day, 2011: Aquaponics
April 22, 2011

Charlie Price: Aquaponics – Getting More Out of Less

“Charlie Price from the social enterprise Aquaponics UK, explores the role aquaponics can play in the future of our collective food supply. He provides an insight into both the applications for aquaponics but more specifically a new approach to urban agriculture, turning wastes into resources and transforming disused urban spaces to provide not only food, but resilient communities.”

ATTRA: Aquaponics—Integration of Hydroponics with Aquaculture 

Integrating Aquaponics With Deeply Sustainable Systems Feat. Don McCormick: – “Don McCormick was the MBA in Managing for Sustainability Featured Speaker for December 3, 2010. McCormick is the president of Carbon Harvest Energy, and his presentation addressed his company’s landfill gas-to-energy project in Brattleboro as a practical model of sustainable and responsible resource use. The central principle of this project is to replace a linear model of resource extraction-to-consumption-to-waste with a circular model based on nature, where waste/outputs are recovered to become new inputs for further processes–until no waste remains. McCormick has over 20 years of entrepreneurship, management and engineering expertise. Prior to founding Carbon Harvest Energy, he designed Laughing Duck Farm, a sustainable aquaponics business that produces year-round food (microgreens and Tilapia) in a cold climate, as well as a greenhouse that uses all renewable energy inputs and eliminates waste through a closed-loop water system.”

“The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower…”
April 20, 2011

 MIT Chemist Daniel Nocera Harnesses Photosynthesis to Store Solar Power:

Sun Catalytix Company Website (has not gone public yet!!)

Dr. Daniel G. Nocera @ MIT

[PAPER] Powering the Planet: Chemical Challenges in Solar Energy Utilization

ABSTRACT: Global energy consumption is projected to increase, even in the face of substantial declines in energy intensity, at least 2-fold by midcentury relative to the present because of population and economic growth. This demand could be met, in principle, from fossil energy resources, particularly coal. However, the cumulative nature of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere demands that holding atmospheric CO2 levels to even twice their preanthropogenic values by midcentury will require invention, development, and deployment of schemes for carbon-neutral energy production on a scale commensurate with, or larger than, the entire present-day energy supply from all sources combined. Among renewable energy resources, solar energy is by far the largest exploitable resource, providing more energy in 1 hour to the earth than all of the energy consumed by humans in an entire year. In view of the intermittency of insolation, if solar energy is to be a major primary energy source, it must be stored and dispatched on demand to the end user. An especially attractive approach is to store solar-converted energy in the form of chemical bonds, i.e., in a photosynthetic process at a year-round average efficiency significantly higher than current plants or algae, to reduce land-area requirements. Scientific challenges involved with this process include schemes to capture and convert solar energy and then store the energy in the form of chemical bonds, producing oxygen from water and a reduced fuel such as hydrogen, methane, methanol, or other hydrocarbon species.

The supply of secure, clean, sustainable energy is arguably the most important scientific and technical challenge facing humanity in the 21st century. Energy security, national security, environmental security, and economic security can likely be met only through addressing the energy problem within the next 10–20 yr. Meeting global energy demand in a sustainable fashion will require not only increased energy efficiency and new methods of using existing carbon-based fuels but also a daunting amount of new carbon-neutral energy. The various factors that conspire to support the above far-reaching conclusions and the basic science needed for the development of a large-scale cost-effective carbon-neutral energy system are the focus of this paper.

Self-Sacrifice and Sustainability: The Hero Twins of the Popol Vuh
April 16, 2011

“Then again they sacrificed themselves. One of them would die, surely throwing himself down in death. Then having been killed, he would immediately be revived. And the Xibalbans simply watched them while they did it. Now all of this was merely the groundwork for the defeat of the Xibalbans at their hands.”

Chris Hedges: Throw Out The Money Changers!

” If we are to save our country, and our planet, we must turn from exalting the self, to subsuming of the self for our neighbor. Self-sacrifice defies the sickness of corporate ideology. Self-sacrifice mocks opportunities for advancement, money and power. Self-sacrifice smashes the idols of greed and envy. Self-sacrifice demands that we rise up against the abuse, injury and injustice forced upon us by the mandarins of corporate power. There is a profound truth in the biblical admonition “He who loves his life will lose it.”

“Life is not only about us. We can never have justice until our neighbor has justice. And we can never recover our freedom until we are willing to sacrifice our comfort for open rebellion. The president has failed us. The Congress has failed us. The courts have failed us. The press has failed us. The universities have failed us. Our process of electoral democracy has failed us. There are no structures or institutions left that have not been contaminated or destroyed by corporations. And this means it is up to us. Civil disobedience, which will entail hardship and suffering, which will be long and difficult, which at its core means self-sacrifice, is the only mechanism left.”

Competition vs Cooperation
April 16, 2011

“Competition undermines sustainability in the long term.” — Dr. Joseph Tainter

Introduction to Game Theory

LECTURE DESCRIPTION: We introduce Game Theory by playing a game. We organize the game into players, their strategies, and their goals or payoffs; and we learn that we should decide what our goals are before we make choices. With some plausible payoffs, our game is a prisoners’ dilemma. We learn that we should never choose a dominated strategy; but that rational play by rational players can lead to bad outcomes. We discuss some prisoners’ dilemmas in the real world and some possible real-world remedies. With other plausible payoffs, our game is a coordination problem and has very different outcomes: so different payoffs matter. We often need to think, not only about our own payoffs, but also others’ payoffs. We should put ourselves in others’ shoes and try to predict what they will do. This is the essence of strategic thinking.

Course Materials

Interactive Prisoner’s Dilemma Game

Evolutionary Stability: Cooperation, Mutation, and Equilibrium


LECTURE DESCRIPTION: We discuss evolution and game theory, and introduce the concept of evolutionary stability. We ask what kinds of strategies are evolutionarily stable, and how this idea from biology relates to concepts from economics like domination and Nash equilibrium.

Course Materials

Evolutionary Stability: Social Convention, Aggression, and Cycles


LECTURE DESCRIPTION: We apply the idea of evolutionary stability to consider the evolution of social conventions. Then we consider games that involve aggressive (Hawk) and passive (Dove) strategies, finding that sometimes, evolutionary populations are mixed. We discuss how such games can help us to predict how behavior might vary across settings. Finally, we consider a game in which there is no evolutionary stable population and discuss an example from nature.

Course Materials

Interactive Evolution Games

Beyond the Tragedy of the Commons with Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom

“That all persons call the same thing mine in the sense in which each does so may be a fine thing, but it is impracticable; or if the words are taken in the other sense, such a unity in no way conduces to harmony. And there is another objection to the proposal. For that which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it. Every one thinks chiefly of his own, hardly at all of the common interest; and only when he is himself concerned as an individual. For besides other considerations, everybody is more inclined to neglect the duty which he expects another to fulfill; as in families many attendants are often less useful than a few.”

— Aristotle, Politics, Book II, Chapter III, 1261b

Elinor Ostrom, a political scientist from Indiana University and winner of the 2009 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, looks at a variety of research into why some groups self-organize and others do not, and the relevance of the theory of collective action to the governance and management of natural resources.

Ostrom is considered one of the leading scholars of common pool resources–forests, fisheries, oil fields, grazing lands, and irrigation systems. In particular, her work emphasizes how humans interact with ecosystems to maintain long-term sustainable resource yields.

Collective Action and the Commons: What Have We Learned? (Ostrom @ Cornell, 2009)

Companion Powerpoint (From Ostrom’s Tanner Lecture @ Stanford, 2011):

“The Challenge of Sustainability: Frameworks”

Abstract: Currently, the scientific approaches to the study of sustainability of complex ecological systems and complex socioeconomic systems are quite disparate. Over time, biology and ecology have accepted the necessity of understanding complex systems in developing a nested, scientific language to study them. Over time, many of the social studies that focus on the question of sustainable ecosystems or the sustainability of market systems or political systems have attempted instead to develop the simplest possible models and theories to explain what is occurring in the world over time.

The biological and ecological sciences have been extremely successful in understanding ecological systems that are remote, and thus, not strongly affected by human action. When humans play a major role, both the biological sciences and the social sciences are lacking effective theories and explanations of failures as well as successes.

One of the steps necessary to solve this problem is the development of a shared language that links what is going on in regard to resource systems and resource units with what is going on in relationship to governance systems and actors as they jointly affect action situations, incentives, and outcomes.

In this first lecture, Ostrom will review some of the work being done to build a better framework for understanding complex ecological and socioeconomic systems.

Elinor Ostrom Delivers Her Nobel Prize Lecture

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