NAI-New Alchemy Institute
August 1, 2005 1:56 PM   Subscribe

The New Alchemy Institute spent about 30 years studying how living systems can be designed in order to help preserve the environment. They studied agriculture, aquaculture, and built bioshelters, called arks, that integrated greenhouses and living spaces. A hallmark of the NAI approach was to use and trap energy produced by nature, rather than building greenhouses that required electricity, hence, compost heated greenhouses. Here's an article from 1978 about the NAI at the Alicia Patterson Foundation, and one from a 1989 Whole Earth Review. In 1981 John Todd, one of the principles in NAI, founded Ocean Arks International in order to explore the issue of ecological water treatment. His concept of water treatment, a constructed wetland, or living machine, developed directly from work on the arks at NAI. Here is more on John Todd and NAI, and here is an interview with his wife, Nancy Jack Todd, and him. Here's a link to a recent CS Monitor review of the new Nancy Jack Todd book. Post inspired by my love of NAI and my current reading of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy.
posted by OmieWise (7 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you're interested in appropriate technology, search the archives at ALP for the other articles by Wade Greene on the topic.
posted by OmieWise at 1:58 PM on August 1, 2005

Nice post. Todd's work needs more recognition.

Either Todd or his son was recently at work on a Living Machine wastewater treatment plant for a mid-sized Chinese city.
posted by troutfishing at 2:47 PM on August 1, 2005

Sounds like Bill Mollison's Permaculture
posted by arjuna at 3:39 PM on August 1, 2005

I have to admit, I had the stereotypical Pauly Shore/hippie sort of thing in my head when I first read your post, but the links were great to dispel that. Thanks for the read Omie, good post as always.
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies at 3:52 PM on August 1, 2005

Isn't there a constructed wetland in the northwest somewhere? I'm too lazy to google it - but I remember reading a long article somewhere about how it was used to treat a whole city's wastewater and how effective it was. It all makes so much sense, somehow - no wonder it isn't more widely adapted.
posted by mygothlaundry at 4:34 PM on August 1, 2005

This one is in Minnesota but it does the wastewater filtering for the area.
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies at 5:28 PM on August 1, 2005

arunja-It's not quite like permaculture, which I also know about, but it is definitely related. I think Todd's stuff is more closely studied, closer to science. My NAI books and my Mollison books are on the same shelf.
posted by OmieWise at 6:48 PM on August 1, 2005

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