Considering Appropriate spatial-temporal Scale — bigger and faster isn’t always better! Daniel Christian Wahl

Considering Appropriate spatial-temporal Scale — bigger and faster isn’t always better!

An excerpt from ‘Exploring Participation’ (D.C.Wahl, 2002)

In their book Ecological Design, Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan introduce the concept of ‘scale-linking’. They argue that since we traditionally have studied the world using the language, metaphors and tools of a single discipline at a time, we have been predisposed to “seeing process on a single scale”.

Van der Ryn and Cowan believe that this approach is insufficient in capturing the underlying phenomena, since:

“Nature’s processes are inherently scale linking, for they inherently depend on the flow of energy and materials across scales. … Global cycles link organisms together in a highly effective recycling system crossing about seventeen tenfold jumps in scale, from the ten-billionth of a meter (the scale of photosynthesis) to ten thousand kilometres (the scale of the Earth itself).”139

In their opinion:

“Scale-linking systems imply a holism in which everything influences, or potentially influences everything else — because everything is in some sense constantly interacting with everything else. Nature is infused with the dynamical interpenetration of the vast and minute, an endless dervish mixing. Matter and energy continually flow across scales, the small informing the large and the large informing the small …

Unless we work with nature’s own finely tuned scale-linking systems we endanger the stability of life on the planet… If we are to properly include ecological concerns within design, we must take seriously the challenge offered by scale linking. We need to discover ways to integrate our design processes across multiple levels of scale and make these processes compatible with natural cycles of water, energy, and material.”140

— Van der Ryn & Cowan

Van der Ryn and Cowan argue that fractal geometry provides a tool to study the geometry of scale linking, as it helps to connect remarkable ranges of scale “from twig to tree, from rivulet to watershed.”141 They see our failure not to pay attention to scale-linking and therefore not to match the human flows of energy and materials to the limits of a particular landscape as a critical cause of the current environmental crisis. [Note: This is an excerpt from my 2002masters dissertation in Holistic Science at Schumacher College. Be mindful that I wrote this 15 years ago and enjoy!]

Sim Van der Ryn’s Ecological Learning Curve (Source)

Continutes in source: Considering Appropriate spatial-temporal Scale — bigger and faster isn’t always better!