Tomer Fishman: Socioeconomic metabolism – the weight of the city and how its materials mediate societal function and environmental impacts

Faculty Colloquium


The built environment is composed of processed and synthetic materials: construction materials, metals, and so forth. These materials are often taken for granted, yet they serve as critical links between the natural and human environments: they function as provisioning systems of societal services in their roles as buildings, goods, and infrastructure, while also being the source of major environmental impacts, caused directly and indirectly by their extraction, production, usage, wastes, and energetic uses. Curiously, there is a substantial gap in our knowledge of the quantities of these materials and their life cycles, causing major bottlenecks for research into sustainable resources, urban mining, and circular economy. In this presentation I review the central yet obscured roles of materials as the physical means to provision societal services through the concept of socioeconomic metabolism and the research methods of material stock and flow accounting and life cycle analysis. Using several of our recent case studies from around the world, I discuss the opportunities that these approaches offer to inform policy towards sustainability from the scale of individual cities to countries and the entire world.

Dr. Tomer Fishman is a lecturer in the IDC Herzliya’s School of Sustainability. His research is focused towards the materials that accumulate in our buildings, vehicles, infrastructure, consumer products, and green technologies, and how they form the interlinkages of wellbeing and welfare, economic development, and the environment. His work combines multiple approaches, including industrial ecology, material flow analysis, geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing, econometrics, and computational models. He was a postdoctoral associate at Yale University’s Center for Industrial Ecology 2016-2018. He has a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies and M.A. in Environmental Engineering from Nagoya University, Japan, and a B.A. in Economics from the Hebrew University, Israel.

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