About Dickson Despommier, Ph.D.

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Dickson Despommier is Emeritus Professor of Public Health and Microbiology. He was born in New Orleans in 1940, and grew up in California before moving to the New York area, where he now lives and works. His Ph.D. degree is in microbiology granted from the University of Notre Dame, and for 28 years conducted laboratory-based biomedical research with NIH-sponsored support at Columbia University. He has always been interested in the environment and the damages caused by our encroachment into natural systems (mostly destruction of hardwood forests to make room for agriculture). 

At present, he is engaged in a project whose mission is to produce significant amounts of food crops in tall buildings and situated in densely populated urban centers (see: www.verticalfarm.com and The Vertical Farm: feeding the world in the 21st century, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2010; paperback, Picadore Pubs. 2011). This initiative has grown in acceptance over the last five years to the point of stimulating planners and developers around the world to incorporate them into their visions for the future city. There are commercial vertical farms in Korea, Japan, Singapore, China, England, Scotland, The Netherlands, France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Dubai, Qatar, Canada, Panama, and the United States. 

As an extension of applying vertical farming to the urban landscape, Dr. Despommier has now extended his interests to how cities of the future might function if they were able to produce a significant portion of their food. By a nearly complete re-modeling of the built environment, using all available technologies, an eco-city can be created, equivalent in every aspect to an intact functional ecosystem. The reward for doing so is long-term sustainability. Examples of cities employing cutting edge methods for the conservation and re-use of resources (e.g., water, food, energy) exist in many places (Copenhagen, Denmark; Linköping and Malmö, Sweden; San Diego and Santa Ana, Ca.; Curitiba, Brazil), but none of them have incorporated all of the possible re-use/re-cycling technologies needed to become independent of the food and energy grids. An autonomous city is envisioned that will supply most of its food from urban agricultural initiatives such as the vertical farm. 

Dr. Despommier has received numerous teaching awards, including the national American Medical Student Golden Apple Award for Teaching Excellence in 2003, and the Dean’s Distinguished Teaching award (Columbia University). In 2012, he received the Distinguished Service Medal from Columbia University’s Medical School. In 2013, he received the Plantagon Corporation award of excellence. He has authored four books, written numerous peer-reviewed scientific papers, and many review articles on a wide variety of subjects. His latest book is: People, Parasites, and Plowshares: learning from our body’s most terrifying invaders (Columbia University Press). 

He has lectured on the subject of vertical farming and related urban agricultural issues at The American Museum of Natural History, numerous public and private schools around the metropolitan area, at universities (MIT, Harvard, Cornell, NYU, Columbia University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Brigham Young University, The Singularity University, Fordham University, University of Arizona), to various architectural establishments (New York and Chicago Chapters of AIA, Grimshaw, FxFowl, Kiss and Cathcart, SOA), city (Chicago; New York; Seattle; Newark, New Jersey; Jersey City; Los Angeles; Seoul, Korea; Amman, Jordan; Beijing, Shanghai, China; Bangalore and Coimbatore, India; Berlin, Germany) and federal government agencies, including the IMF, USDA and USAID, and The United Nations. He has appeared on the Colbert Report, and given talks at Credit Suisse Bank, Taliesin West, The Monterey Design Conference, The Sarasota Design Conference, TED, seven TEDx, PopTech, PINC, 21 Minutes Of Knowledge, Ars Electronica, Pecha Kucha, The World Science Festival (5 times), The Secret Science Society, The Edinburgh Science Festival, Equilibrium, The Singularity University, and The Manchester International Festival. He lives with his wife Marlene Bloom in Fort Lee, New Jersey.