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Nature 3.0: Designing a Better Planet

November 8, 2011

By Matt Artz

The software industry thinks in terms of releases.  As technology progresses over time, new features get added, the software reacts to changes in the marketplace, and occasionally developers step back and re-think their entire approach. All of these result in the release of a series of major (1.0, 2.0, 3.0, etc.) and minor (1.1, 1.2, 1.3, etc.) updates to the software.

What if we were to apply the same concept to man’s relationship with nature?

Man’s redefining of nature started when he began to conquer the environment around him and exploit its resources on a massive scale—with little or no consideration for nature.  Let’s call this Nature 1.0: the first version of nature significantly modified by man.  Like many 1.0 releases, there were a lot of problems with this, the age of exploitation.

When man began to understand the devastating effects of mass exploitation on natural earth systems, he reacted with Nature 2.0: the age of conservation.  This era began with the preservation of significant, unique examples of ecosystems, perhaps best exemplified by Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks.  This was followed by much preservation of dramatic and remnant pieces of ecosystems.  For all the successes of Nature 2.0, the age of conservation is not without its problems.  Just visit Yosemite Valley on a busy summer weekend.  But an even bigger consideration was fragmentation: we were preserving significant, unique, dramatic, and remnant pieces, but we were still losing ecosystems.

The fragmentation issue is huge in an era where land ownership and development preclude us from preserving all the pieces needed to make a complete, natural ecosystem.  But humans are incredibly smart, and have an amazing array of technologies available to extend their abilities.  We may not be able to restore complete ecosystems, but we now have the scientific and technical ability to design them.

“You and I are living in a world where we’re going to have to move from simply conserving places, to actually being proactive and creating healthy places,” says Jack Dangermond, president of Esri.  And what he’s talking about is the concept of GeoDesign, the act not of reacting to geography, but designing it.

Watch Jack Dangermond talk about GeoDesign at TED2010

Watch Jack Dangermond talk about GeoDesign at TED2010

So exactly what is GeoDesign? It’s a combination of geography and design.

Geography is about places and processes, the human and the natural. It seeks to organize, understand, and describe our world.

Design about intent or purpose. A creative act requiring imagination, design can produce something entirely new, or improve upon something that already exists.

GeoDesign combines the best of both of these worlds, using geographic information systems (GIS) technology to enable a new way of thinking that integrates science and values into the design process.

Nature 3.0
With the help of GeoDesign and other new technologies, Nature 3.0 is the dawn of a new era in man’s relationship with the environment: the age of designing.  As we move from exploiting geography, through conserving geography, to the new paradigm of proactively designing geography, we are redefining what it means to be masters of our environment.

Nature 3.0 is about to be released.  It’s a whole new way of thinking, and the new features will blow you away.  Are you satisfied with Nature 1.0 or Nature 2.0?  Or will you be upgrading?

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