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Dickson Despommier Distinguished Speaker Series
Open to the Public Thursday, January 8, 2009
4:00pm 08-1250 Van Peursem Auditorium

Dickson Despommier
Department of Environmental Health Sciences
Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

The City as Ecosystem
ABSTRACT: Ecosystems behave by capturing energy from the sun and then distributing it among the biota contained within a given definable geographic region. The energy "circulates", starting with plants, then herbivores, and finally carnivores. Detritivores "clean" up all dead organisms and facilitate the re-cycling of resources back into the ecosystem to insure sustainability. Cities should emulate this behavior in many ways to establish for the first time a truly sustainable urban pattern of life stye, in which there is zero waste and re-capture of energy streams such as black water. Food production is key to sustainability inside the city. In this way, the vertical farm in all its forms can be a catylst for changing the behavior of cities. Once energy re-cycling occurs between people and their source of food on a local level, then capturing waste water, solid waste energy and other ecological activities becomes possible and necessary.
Biography: I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and grew up in California area before moving to the New York area, where I now live and work. I have two sons and three grandchildren. I was trained as a microbiologist (Ph.D. from U. Notre Dame) and I have always been interested in the environment. At present, I am a professor of Public Health at Columbia University engaged in a project whose mission is to produce significant amounts of food crops in tall buildings situated in densely populated urban centers (Vertical Farming; see www.verticalfarm.com). This initiative has grown in acceptance over the last few years to the point of stimulating planners and developers around the world to incorporate them into their vision for the future city. It is highly likely that some form of the vertical farm will soon become part of the skyline of the built environment.

Vertical Farm featured on the October issue of Scientific American