【Sustainable Development】Transition: Considering Change from and Ecological Engineering Perspective

Dharma Drum College invited Prof. Edwin Herricks of the Deaprtment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to give a lecture entitled "Transition: Considering Change from and Ecological Engineering Perspective" on August 22, 2011.

Prof. Herricks is an internationally renowned ecological engineering scholar. His expertises are ecology, stream and wetland habitat restoration, systems analysis of man-nature interaction, and engineering designs that can minimize impact to the environment and ecology.

Prof. Herricks first illustrated the trend and necessity of ecological engineering by presenting a number of existing cases of environmental change. Then he focused on how to evaluate various engineering measures that take the whole ecosystem into consideration.

Prof. Herricks used a dose-response curve from toxicology to demonstrate how ecological health is measured. However, he pointed out that the accuracy of data and information to construct such curves is possibly the greatest issue. Because of the data is not independent of human dimensions and will always be subject to human flaws in analysis and interpretation. Nevertheless, the theory of “dose - response relationship” is one of the reasons why ecological engineering is necessary to replace the traditional engineering thinkings.

Prof. Herricks further defined maintaining ecological health as “services to ensure sustainability of all species in the ecosystems” We all know this service is "limited”. When human beings consume natural resources without self-control and exceed the capacity of natural recovery, we will face unexpected consequences from environmental disasters. Prof. Herricks showed pictures from damages caused by Typhoon Morakot in Taiwan and the recent earthquake/ tsunami/ nuclear disaster in Japan as the examples. This kind of rare-occurring but catastrophic environmental disasters will be the most difficult problem facing current scientists and engineers.

Prof. Herricks ended his talk to say that ecosystems require different types of transition. Considering ecosystem constraints, we can transition from traditional engineering to more ecology-friendly engineering practices by understanding the causes and effects. Ecosystem is complex. We must continue to assess how our actions fit in the long history of our environment. He looks forward to the thinking and actions of mutual respect between man and nature, and expects them to bring satisfactory results to environmental sustainability.