We are living in a material world. This is not just a comment on affluence in the consumer society. It is also the starting point for a critical examination of human development on a finite planet. We depend on material resources to survive. But the way in which we consume those resources has a potentially damaging impact on our environment. The increasing burden of environmental pollution presents us with a crucial challenge. Should we pursue economic development and risk environmental degradation? Or should we protect the environment and jeopardise our standard of living? Material Concerns sheds a new light on this time-honoured conflict; and by doing so provides a vision of what lies beyond it.
The approach is that of preventive environmental management. This strategy places the highest emphasis on reducing to a minimum the quantity of materials used to supply useful services to humanity. The book describes the technological tasks involved and illustrates them with numerous examples. It also highlights the importance of commercial innovation and elaborates a new conception of the 'service economy': profitability is based on the provision of services rather than the throughput of material goods. Ultimately, the author argues, we must reexamine the principles which underlie our modern society.
Material Concerns is essential reading for all those interested in the environmental problem. In a clear and accessible way it presents the scientific principles which govern material transformations, and the economic principles which govern material transactions. Material Concerns proposes a new and compelling thesis about our interaction with the environment. In doing so it reveals an exciting new arena for human development in which environmental management goes hand in hand with improving quality of life.
Tim Jackson is Research Fellow at the Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey, and an Associate of the Stockholm Environment Institute.
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