Inventing for the Environment
418 pp., 7 x 9 in, 49 illus.
- Published: September 23, 2005
- Published: August 15, 2003
Essays by historians and practioners on how invention can benefit the environment.
This ambitious book describes the many ways in which invention affects the environment (here defined broadly to include all forms of interaction between humans and nature). The book starts with nature itself and then leads readers to examine the built environment and then specific technologies in areas such as public health and energy.
Each part focuses on a single environmental issue. Topics range widely, from the role of innovation in urban landscapes to the relationship among technological innovation, public health, and the environment. Each part features an essay by a historian, an essay by a practitioner, and a "portrait of innovation" describing an individual whose work has made a difference. The mixture of historians and practitioners is critical because statements about the environment inevitably measure present and future conditions against those of the past. Early in the industrial revolution, smoke stacks were symbols of prosperity; at its end they were regarded as signs of pollution. Historical examples can also lead to the rediscovery of an old technology, as in the revival of straw bale construction. As it explores the history of invention for the environment, the book suggests many new ways to put the past to use for the common good.
This remarkable book mingles the insights of historians and innovators for a number of industrial ecology topics—and thereby lays a realistic foundation for the world's future. The preface and the final chapter are jewels that clarify the book's unique, interactive interior. Reading the book will motivate you to interpret the future both more wisely and creatively.
Paul B. MacCready, Chairman, AeroVironment Inc.
Inventing for the Environment opens a dialogue between the new environmental history and inventors, architects, and planners who seek sustainability. This is not the old formula of identifying problems that can be 'solved' through a technological fix. These contributors see a far more complex interpenetration of nature and culture. They identify biological solutions to technological problems, see urban forms as natural, argue that fires and watersheds have become cultural, and describe ways to recycle waste into substances more durable than steel.
David E. Nye, Center for American Studies, Odense University, author of America as Second Creation: Technology and Narratives of New Beginnings