Meet The Visionary
Dr. Culhane is an urban planner who trains people from all over the world to build and install biodigesters and other renewable energy, water, and waste management systems. A visiting faculty researcher at Mercy College and recipient of two National Geographic Blackstone Innovation Challenge Grants, Dr. Culhane is working with fellow explorers to apply these technologies to tackle deforestation and indoor air pollution in rural areas and to help provide energy and promote health and food security in urban slums.
Thomas H. Culhane, Ph.D.
Graduating with honors from Harvard in Biological Anthropology, Dr. Culhane held a Rockefeller Fellowship, working in the primary rainforests of Borneo. In the jungle Dr. Culhane found that most organisms in environments with large biodiversity and cultural diversity quotients adopted “evolutionarily stable strategies” that led to long-term sustainability. This experience led Dr. Culhane into inner-city education in deprived and underserved communities in Los Angeles. He spent a decade working with at-risk youth, focused on common urban environmental challenges and their technological solutions.
In the late 1990s, Dr. Culhane conducted field work in rural rain forest villages in Guatemala, earning a Master’s in Regional and International Development from UCLA. He then entered a Ph.D. program in Environmental Analysis and Policy to explore how recent immigrants from rural areas to the inner-city could transform their adaptive knowledgebase to facilitate survival in degraded urban environments. Simultaneously, Dr. Culhane performed urban ecology experiments of his own in waste recycling, water and energy management and self-provisioning, living among the poor at the Los Angeles Eco-Village.
Dr. Culhane believes that these home biogas and solar energy systems are the easiest and most logical first steps toward creating sustainable grass-roots industrial ecology systems, something that he feels could unite people of all faiths toward a common goal. He believes, in true circus fashion, that though things may get tough, “the show must go on.”