Featured on Tangled Podcast

Tangled is a podcast about improving social and economic systems by Julian de Lorenzo. Episodes feature discussions with experts in sustainability, the circular economy and related areas like biomimicry. It is an exploration of business models and mental models. For Episode 6, I had the opportunity to speak with Julian about improving cities through integrating natural systems into the urban fabric.

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Show notes

In this episode of Tangled, I speak to Nadine Galle. Nadine is a consultant at Metabolic, meaning she is a colleague of Thomas Mason, who I spoke to in episode 5. If you’ve listened to that show, you’ll know that Metabolic is a consulting and venture building firm that helps companies, communities and cities to move towards a circular – and more sustainable – economy.

Nadine is also one of the academic directors of a summer school course at the University of Amsterdam, called The Circular City. The programme explores the urban metabolism – meaning the flows of materials and energy coming into and going out of cities. I recently took part in the first edition of the course, which involved lectures and field trips around Amsterdam and other parts of the Netherlands, hearing from people who are designing new and interesting ways of managing resources.

On top of her other work, Nadine is somehow also managing to pursue a PhD. Her research is in a new field called ecological engineering, which she will explain during our conversation.

We also talk about what a circular economy really means, why we need to redesign cities to take natural ecosystem processes into account, and what Rubik’s cubes can teach us about problem solving.

You can find Nadine online at nadinegalle.com and on Twitter @earthtonadine

02:16 Metabolic’s definition of a circular economy

02:55 The Stockholm Resilience Centre’s research on planetary boundaries

04:32 Using the principles of systems thinking – for eg, the concept of burden shifting.

04:40 The metaphor of the rubrics cube

05:21 Decision making hierarchy for a circular material loop: reduce > synergy > supply > manage

07:15 Ioniqa – Dutch plastics recycling company

08:27 Why are cities important places to focus attention on, when considering global sustainability issues?

10:47 Convincing people of the value of thinking about sustainability

11:58 What are nature-based solutions and ecological engineering?

13:14 Nadine’s research using novel datasets

15:55 Making sure “green” solutions area actually providing as much benefit as possible

18:18 Why it’s important to measure the progress and impact of initiatives (otherwise policy is hard to draft and implement)

19:50 Nadine’s childhood in Canada

20:52 The End of Suburbia documentary

21:04 The Geography of Nowhere by James Howard Kunstler

21:26 Jane Jacobs

21:56 Nadine’s work with festivals

24:28 Natural capital in cities and its importance to resilient urban design

26:11 Life After People TV series

27:04 Analysing the location of a city in relation to environmental and climatic conditions

29:15 The interdisciplinary nature of Nadine’s work

30:06 Building codes are established for grey infrastructure. But green infrastructure is much harder to analyse for longterm safety etc.

31:35 What has Nadine changed her mind about?

32:31 The climate change issue is so abstract that it’s hard for most people to think about how they can act on a daily basis