Living In A Material

WORLD Rough guide to a lonely planet We are living in a material world. To say this is not just to say that the affluent consumer societies of the Western world are excessively materialistic. It is not just to claim that our priorities and our values have become increasingly embedded in the ownership of material possessions. These claims may be true, and at a later stage of this book, I shall examine that possibility further. But there is something much more basic involved in saying that we...

Welfare And Human Needs

Let us return to a very basic view of what society is. Clearly it has something to do with ensuring collective and individual welfare. The economy is a system for providing the services (see Chapters 4 and 7) which deliver that welfare. This begs the question of what welfare is. If we spurn the conventional economic assumption that consumption provides a proxy for welfare, then we have to face the difficult question of what exactly we do mean when we speak of it. There are a number of possible...

Prevention As An Institutional Challenge

What emerges from this system case study is that the preventive paradigm entails a very different approach to a particular environmental problem from that implied by the end-of-pipe philosophy. We started out thinking about mercury contamination. We followed the roots of the problem back into a complex network of material flows that embraced chlorine, organic chemicals, nutrients, sewage and water resources (Figure 25). Underlying this complex network, we can identify the need for certain kinds...

Designing Industrial Pollution Prevention

Much of the early initiative in pollution prevention focused on redesigning industrial processes to reduce the generation of process wastes. It is clear from the previous discussion that this cannot be the limit of our attempts to design environmental elegance into the system of provision of services. But it is certainly an important part of it. There is now a considerable body of experience and expertise in this important area. So it is worth while summarising briefly the key elements in...

System Case Study

Next, I want to illustrate some of the complexity associated with preventive environmental management using a particular system case study. This case study starts out by considering a specific pollution problem, related to a single toxic substance. But when we address this problem using the preventive paradigm, we are led rapidly into considering a complex system of material interactions. This example serves therefore to illustrate the peculiar demands which preventive environmental management...

Six Key Strategies For Industrial Pollution Prevention

The first key strategy of industrial pollution prevention is the implementation of good housekeeping measures. This means generally improving the way in which materials, particularly hazardous ones, are purchased, stored, conveyed, handled and used in the industrial facility. Good housekeeping means identifying and reducing leakage and spillage, carrying out regular maintenance of all materials processing equipment, and instituting better inventory controls. A particular prerequisite for good...

Some Further Examples

There are a number of other examples illustrating the way in which services can be provided with reduced material intensity. For instance, let us consider the case of washing machines. Obviously, as a consumer durable, the washing machine might be considered a prime candidate for operational leasing, as described earlier in this chapter. Essentially, service companies would provide, maintain and recondition the machines, and ultimately be responsible for recycling or disposal of the component...

Economic Scepticism And Optimal Pollution

These umbrella projects and hundreds of other individual experiences corroborate what appears to be a very general trend preventive environmental protection really does carry with it the potential for economic benefits. One of the reasons for scepticism amongst industrialists is that this conclusion runs almost completely counter both to the conventional viewpoint and to their own previous experience. The received wisdom has always been that environmental protection costs money. It would be...

WEALTH vs Welfare

This brings us back to the second of the two arguments for economic growth with which I started this chapter. According to this second argument, economic growth offers the prospect of continued improvements in human welfare. It is largely this equation of wealth with welfare which makes the pursuit of rising levels of GNP so attractive in political terms. Clearly, however, increased wealth is not the same thing as improved welfare. We saw in Chapter 2 that the industrial revolution delivered...

Needs And Satisfiers

One of the most important elements of this emerging body of work is the crucial distinction between needs and satisfiers. Each culture attempts to satisfy collective and individual needs in its own way. The underlying needs may be universal. But the satisfiers vary from culture to culture and from time to time. In our own culture we have chosen a very specific development path characterised by the system of production and consumption in the industrial economy. The fact that this same...

The Failure Of Dilute And Disperse

This example illustrates just how dangerous assumptions about safe levels of release into the environment can be. Our best knowledge of the behaviour of materials released into the environment is extremely sketchy. Perhaps the most extensive knowledge we have about global material behaviour concerns the major nutrient cycles such as the carbon cycle. This is the cycle which is so critical to the vexing question of global warming. But even in this area, the answers to crucial questions are...