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  • 1. Ecosymbiotics : Integrating Economic Profitability with Environmental and Social Sustainability Martin Dudziak GEOST, Ltd. 1 March, 2002Economics and a comprehensive global systems ecology that includes the balanced growth ofcapital and wealth is a central aspect of building a sound approach to education and in general tothe growth and development of science and technology for present and future generations. Formost of human history education, even basic reading and writing, and certainly the naturalsciences and mathematics had been a guarded and sponsored special activity of an economicallydefined and sanctioned minority. Only in the past half-millenium have things evolved differently,and yet there are barriers that are not only economic but political, cultural, and generational.While every national and international program strives to enhance and sustain increased learningand education, there are growing gaps between nations and within even the most economicallydeveloped countries. Furthermore, there have been for centuries diverging and competing trendsand forces relating to the growth of the sciences and what may be called the research anddevelopment sphere in general, without restriction to only the classical sciences and engineeringdisciplines. "R&D" has typically been driven by the spirit of inquiry and funded by an uneasyand unstable mixture of the functional and the philanthropic, the former often being constrainedand funneled through filters governed by strict capital management and growth thinking and bymilitary and defensive postures and plans.Within the past century and especially the last half of the twentieth century all of this haseffectively "come to a head" like a pot of water brought to the point of boiling. the world haswitnessed not only the most massive deployments of resources and funds in history for thedevelopment of an armada of diverse weapons of mass and potentially complete destruction, butalso the development of consumer cultures that on the one side expend vast amounts of naturalresources and have created serious environmental damage and that on the other hand, in thecommonly-named Third World, consume less per capita but create in some cases more lastingand threatening damage to the physical environment.The historical processes involving industries, consumers, and nation states have led to aproliferation of efforts, arguments, discussions, projects, and indeed progress on the fronts ofpeace and disarmament, environmental protection and sustainability, and education. Still thereare barriers, rifts, and a non-optimality that calls for a greater sense of synergy and symbiosisbetween peoples, organizations, fields of study and industry, and especially concerning thegrowth of new and creative methods and problem-solving for issues that affect global health,security, energy, food, and in short all the resources and structures for normal living. This"boiling over" of the social pot has resulted in near-catastrophic and volatile conditions from timeto time. Of these the most dramatic and threatening at present may not (after all early signs anddespite expectations for the worse) be in the expected areas of ocean pollution, forest decline,ozone pollution, or food chain destruction, due to efforts and cooperation among major players ofindustry, government, and the public as a whole. However, the frailty of the global economic andpolitical situation, with the exacerbations of unrest that often explodes from frustration andignorance into terrorism and indiscriminate violence, offers a vision of what a world can become1 prepared for the Conference on Global Sustainability, INCAE, San Jose, Costa Rica, March, 2002 whilethe author was also employed by Intel Corporation; further edits 8/2002 and 1/2003
  • 2. without a serious influx of attention upon education and the inculcation of thinking and reasoningdirected toward solving problems constructively and systematically.Presently the world needs more education, more innovation, more creativity, and more minds thatare consumed and devoted with discovering, designing, building, and making rather than withgetting by, sitting back, or lashing out. Basic and fundamental scientific research is needed morethan ever to address the needs of a diverse world population and a diverse environment. Physics,for instance, is a topic that saw tremendous support for basic research during the Cold War andnow has suffered in the two countries, USA and Russia, that most actively pursued fundamentalphysics research for weapons development. The study and research should not stop because theimpetus to build more powerful weapons of mass destruction has dampened (or shifted to othertechnologies). Software, informational technology, project management, investment planningand business administration are important but not if the cost should be measured in terms of lossof next-generational capacities for both scientific and humanities developments. The stabilizationthat is perceived in terms of the environment, energy resources, pollution, and food supply is veryfrail and temporary and this has provided a false sense of security perhaps to some people and anopportunity for capitalizing on the weaknesses for others.These issues and concerns are at the heart of what is lately being referred to as ecosymbiotics, anew interdisciplinary field that is more a change in attitude and approach than an introduction ofnew subject material. Ecosymbiotics is defined as follows: the integration and mutual sustenanceof scientific, economic, and social discoveries, methods, and relationships deriving from multipleand interdependent origins for the purpose of developing commercializable, innovative, andecologically balanced materials, techniques, and industries. Ecology and economics are viewedas inseparable and essential aspects for attention in any technological and educational process.One implication of this view is that there are ways and means to move education, environmentalprotection, and basic research away from the chronic dependency upon not-for-profit channelsand resources and directly into the "metabolic cycle" of business and capital growth. Keeping theneed for profit and return on investment in the foreground of thinking is a guaranteed path toensuring that a gulf does not grow and widen between the purposes and resources of those thathave and control the capital and those that would like to work towards building as safer, cleaner,richer planet. Likewise, keeping the needs and activities of the next several generations in theforeground of thinking about corporate and capital development is a guaranteed way to ensuringthat there is an energy supply adequate for the world in the year 2200 and that there are people onthe planet living in no lesser standards of life than at present.Ecosymbiotics, then, is in the most broad terms a methodology for synthesis and interdisciplinarydiscovery, innovation and engineering, applicable into many fields of science, engineering, andbusiness, while directly focused upon the educational advancement and inspiration of children inelementary and high schools. This is where resources such as the INcyclopedia and KnowledgeGateways enter into the picture. The very process of building and deploying the INcyclopediawill help directly and indirectly (through what comes from others and the readers and students) indeveloping a consort of informational and physical research tools that will produce and aid withininvestigative and exploratory research worldwide. Certain of these tools, including works thatmay evolve directly from distance-based and collaborative educational projects involvingstudents from many countries, will be progressively identified as having value within thecommercial and consumer sectors, for instance. The basic model is not dissimilar to that of OpenSource software technology, but now applied to a much broader sphere of knowledge and ideasthat will emerge from individuals and even groups that have formed through the context of theINcyclopedia and some of the interactive, group-enabled models and exercises that will bedrawing people from around the world closer together.