That balancing act reminds me of something engineer and professor Deb Chachra wrote in one of her newsletters. She wrote, “Sustainability always looks like underutilization when compared to resource extraction.”

That’s beautiful. Deb also writes about infrastructure as being care at scale, which I think is a nice way to think about it. Could there be a model where infrastructures don’t just care for humans, but also care for the ecosystems where they’re acting?

I’m obsessed with water leaks for that reason. If you look at a water pipe at the point where it’s leaking, you usually have these little gardens popping up, all these little ecosystems that are taking advantage of the water supply. There’s been fascinating research published on how leaks from water distribution systems in cities actually recharge groundwater aquifers because most of these systems leak 10 to 30 percent of their water.

Of course, there’s also research going on at MIT and all these engineering schools on how to to develop little autonomous robots that go into the pipes and find the leaks and plug them up. From the perspective of design and engineering, the system is not supposed to be porous; leaks are a problem, an inefficiency. But it actually takes more than just humans to make the city. What about the street trees that depend on those leaks? So then the question becomes: is there a way we can share resources with other species rather than completely monopolizing them?

Tega Brain :