Five Decades of Earth Repair

Episode #10

Episode Highlights:

  • From agriculture to ecology
  • The development of the eco-machine
  • What is an eco-machine and how to start one
  • Founding of the New Alchemy Institute
  • Cleaning toxic pollutants using only biology

About John Todd

Dr. John Todd began his ecological design work in 1971 when he co-founded the New Alchemy Institute with the mission to “Restore the Lands, Protect the Seas and Inform the Earth Stewards”. He began designing biomes and bio-shelters, structures for the cultivation of foods and other biological products utilizing sunlight and solar heating. The best known of these was the Ark on Prince Edward Island in Maritime Canada described in the book “Tomorrow is Our Permanent Address” co-authored with his wife, Nancy Jack Todd (Harper and Row,1980).

By 1980 he began working on an ecological hope ship designed to be powered by the sun and the wind and capable of housing and propagating a wide diversity of agricultural materials for impoverished regions of the world. A one-fifth scale model of the vessel was built and tested in New England waters. This work led to the creation of a series of sail powered work vessels known as Ocean Pickups, initially financed by the Canadian International Development Agency. This story was coauthored with his wife in “Bioshelters, Ocean Arks, City Farming” (Sierra Club Books, 1984).

In 1986 work began on the first generation of Eco-Machines, ™ living technologies designed to grow foods, generate fuels, treat wastes including toxic materials and restore impaired environments. This work was described in “From Eco-Cities to Living Machines”, (North Atlantic Books, 1994) and continues to this day.

The first decade of this century saw the commercialization of these ecologically engineered systems around the world, including in China, South Africa, Brazil, and Australia.

The 1990’s saw the invention of the first Restorer technology, a floating Eco-Machine designed to clean up polluted bodies of water. They are now widely employed for the treatment of pollution.

The first two decades of the 21st century led to wastewater treatment and recycling becoming integrated into architecture. This work included the Lewis Center at Oberlin College and the first Living Building Challenge structure at the Omega Institute at Rhinebeck, New York.

In 2008, he won the inaugural Buckminster Fuller Challenge for “the best idea to help save humanity”. His plan was to restore over one million acres of coal mined land in Appalachia using advanced ecological methods. His design work included the development of economic structures to permit the people of Appalachia gain ownership over their own lands.

Beginning in 2015, Dr. Todd began work on the design of living technologies to protect and restore the inshore oceans. It has culminated in the design of small wind powered ships called Ocean Restorers. These carbon neutral vessels are being developed for marine research and for the purification of polluted sea water. His new book “Healing Earth: An Ecologist’s Journey of Innovation and Stewardship” was published in January 2019. It includes concepts and technologies for sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide and for climate stabilization.