Industrial Ecology
Industrial Ecology
Image from Steve Bowers
This large bioforge on Iota Horologii IX is integrated into the local ecology.
It produces fresh water and waste nutrients for the surrounding agritech fields and biosphere,
heat and power for local dwellings, and digests worn-out and degraded biotech products

Industrial ecology is the study and implementation of efficient industrial systems coexisting with the natural environments within which they operate.

Practitioners of this school of thought believe that industrial systems are not separate from, but integral to, the ecosystems surrounding them. In order for a system to maintain long term sustainability it must move from an open system — where input resources are processed and create waste — to a closed loop system where waste becomes inputs for another part of the system. Although the concept of closed loop systems originated with bionts in mind, the philosophies presented by industrial ecology can be applied equally to non-biont ecologies.

Despite the methodology tracing its lineage back to the atomic age, it still touches on many aspects of our modern world. When colonizing a new world, with its own individualized eco-system, new considerations come into play. Waste management and recycling may not work as they have in the past. Processes formerly considered safe may become highly destructive to the new environment. Similar considerations are important to any terraforming effort. Understanding how the various systems work together is vital to a successful, balanced program. The creation of artificial closed loop systems allows for the success of long-term space travel, and self-sufficient space habitats.

Today industrial ecologists are able to draw upon thousands of years of experience on millions of worlds and countless virch simulations. A new world may be seeded with life from a dozen others, all selected for compatibility and purpose. If something isn't already available to do the job, it may be custom designed to handle the task.

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Development Notes
Text by Chris Shaeffer
Initially published on 23 January 2008.