Products and Processes

\ Emissions

Clean water water purification dyes and resins solvents m-

pulp bleaching plastics -

chlorine -

containment transportation sodium hydroxide ■

Dental health fillings

Heat

electricity generation

. chloralkali. process instrumentation-

dentistry -

coal combustion-

Figure 25 Complex network of material demands and environmental impacts

Mercury concerning the conceptualisation of services. It is such a crucial aspect of the discussion that I shall return to it in more detail in later chapters.

In the process of this investigation, however, we seem to have left behind the simplicity of a one-dimensional mercury contamination problem. And now we are in a position to see just how fundamental the changes are which the preventive approach demands.

In the oldest scheme of things, environmental management was just a blind faith that nature would solve materials management for us—even when we failed to respect its laws. The intermediate regime required some technological responses. But in institutional terms these technological responses were relatively simple ones. We asked industrialists to clean up their factories, and reduce specific emissions into particular environmental media. Usually, this would just mean adding a piece of technology on to the end of the pipe, to filter out particular contaminants.

Now that we look at the implications of the preventive approach, we find that we are led to intervene at many different places in a highly complex material network. This is no longer something that can be imposed in a unilateral fashion, or undertaken on an individual basis. Rather it demands creativity at many different levels. For instance, it clearly requires a sophisticated physical knowledge base. One aspect of this knowledge base relates to the behaviour of materials released into the environment. But we also need to recognise complex, interactive forces that govern the availability and quality of our material supplies. Equally, technical skills are demanded. The task of providing a safe sewerage system which minimises the impact on water quality is essentially an engineering task; it is not just a question of stresses and strains, but a development of engineering itself as a creative, innovative technical discipline.

This creativity and innovation is crucial throughout the technical basis of the industrial society. But it is not in itself sufficient to meet the demands of the new environmental management paradigm. As this example has illustrated, the preventive approach to a particular pollution problem has implications for many different actors across a wide spectrum, not just for one set of decision-makers in a particular company. We are not simply asking chlorine manufacturers to put a filter on the end of the pipe. We are trying to design a system which reduces the need to produce chlorine in the first place, replaces the use of chlorinated substances with intrinsically less hazardous ones, upgrades our sewage management systems, improves the efficiency of water usage, and protects the quality of our water supplies from industrial contamination.

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