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THE WORLD IS A CAPSULE

A CHAPTER FROM DESIGN WITH NATURE by IAN L. MCHARG

AKSHAY M. KORLEKAR

ROLL NO. 11

SEM 12

AIM OF THE CHAPTER


To plan any particular area it is necessary to study the principles of ecology in order to understand how it functions
The experiment is to create a self sustaining ecosystem whose only import is sunlight and only export is heat ; sufficient to sustain a human being for a certain period of time The chapter is essentially a lesson in Biodiversity In this chapter an analogy is drawn between an astronaut trying to build a self sustaining capsule in space and the life of first human beings when they started living on this Earth. In the first stages of life human beings discovered that physical fitness and exploring nature was most important astronaut realizes that the world is similar to the capsule simulation. The factors necessary to create the capsule are same as those which govern the ecology e.g. biomass, energy systems, food pyramids, etc.

FIRST EXPERIMENT : PRIMITIVE LIFE


Creating an ecosystem within a capsule with only algae, bacteria and the

astronaut
This is the most simple system and the astronaut has very less confidence in his survival If the algae or Bacteria die then the astronaut dies too The system is bound to fail because it lacks the development of biodiversity as required for the survival of humans over a period of billions of years The duplication, interlocking overlapping of roles of organisms that guarantee survival are absent in the capsule.

SECOND EXPERIMENT: AQUATIC ECOSYSTEM


The capsule is now enlarged to accommodate more biota Rules are better known now: pyramid of food needs to be created in the system also aquatic system is more productive than terrestrial so aquatic system simulation is done the complete range of trophic layers consisting of food producers (plants), Herbivores, Carnivores, decomposers(bacteria) the amount and nature of nutrients in a natural pond system is studied and used in capsule Is the ecosystem healthy? Ecosystem is healthy if the constituent members are healthy Transfer of nutrients in a system happens as reducing in percentage. Only 10% of nutrients from a lower trophic level are transferred to upper trophic level Testing the system: the levels of oxygen, CO2 are alright; water cycle, photosynthesis is happening well . . . As compared to first experiment there is variety of food for astronaut But after a few weeks there is erratic behavior : some organisms start declining rapidly This is due to decomposers releasing some environmental hormones which supports the growth of some organisms and curbs others. Important conclusion from this experiment : Organisms can acquire self regulation not important to understand all the constituent processes since stability of natural ecosystem is evidence enough

Success in creating a self sustaining environment lay in imitating a larger natural environment

THIRD EXPERIMENT: EARTH CAPSULE


The capsule is designed like a space bouy in the form of a rotating sphere with inclined axis providing day and night, changing seasons; a layer ( the ozone layer) to protect inhabitants from harmful insolation; a layer of air around (atmosphere) that contains necessary gases for life . . . In other words it means the capsule

is designed like the Earth itself.


The ecosystem selected is that of a Farm which is considered to be a self sustaining unit as compared to an urban environment. A farm can perform all essential functions which an algae and pond ecosystem could do ; but beyond that it is necessary to include all the organisms which a natural system has not only the most conspicuous ones that seem superficially important to man. The essential actors in this ecosystem are the food grains, vegetables, fruit trees, animals like the cattle, sheep, hens and other domestic ones. Along with other biota it is essential to consider , how much of human biota should the capsule support It is assumed that non-human biota will have pathogens and humans will either die of ageing or due to stresses in environment though the astronaut had many skills in science before, the greatest skill he had gained was to manage the ecosystem

CONCLUSIONS FROM THE EXPERIMENTS


Radiation levels cannot exceed a limit otherwise it would kill a lot of biota Extinction of species should be avoided altogether since each has a role to play No artificial herbicides , chemicals to be used since the chemicals passed
through the entire system and was bound to affect some organism

Wastes to be recycled and decomposed regularly No depletion of resources; top soil erosion to be avoided in the capsule
The above points represents what is required for the system to be sustainable At the start the astronaut had the typical human ambition of the early 20th century of conquering nature Pre-Copernican viewpoint as human beings the central and most supreme But the experiment changed the views of the astronaut from anthropocentric to ecological - Enlightenment !

WORLD IS INDEED A CAPSULE


Some humans today and even before have engaged in mass destruction with the excuse of survival. They have evolved powers which are too strong for nature to control Such people need to be controlled by humans themselves for the survival of human and non human biota in the future The next problem is of excessive radiation resulting in mutation. Some amount of mutation is necessary for natural selection, but too much can lead to evolutionary retrogression the next point is of population. Improved food, sanitation, shelter and medicine which have led to human well-being have also caused population explosion Hence the problems of weapons of mass destruction, excessive radiation, and population explosion must be solved for a sustainable future Requirements for life on earth humans are not required to be the architects of God. Earth has been an evolutionary process in which man is a latest entrant - he can either turn out to be a planetary disease or a prospective steward