The Economy As A Provider Of Services

Chapter 1 presented a picture of the industrial economy in material terms. Figures 1 and 4 illustrated the essentially linear flow (from resources to waste) which constitutes the material basis of the economy. This linear flow is largely responsible for the environmental concerns which we now face. At the same time I pointed out that the aim of these material flows was to supply the demand for goods and services from consumers: households and individuals. Although there is a traditional distinction between goods and services, a little reflection reveals that material goods are themselves also required mainly to provide certain services.1

Let us take as a starting point therefore the idea that the economy is a provider of services. Figure 9 presents a simple summary of the material dimensions of this idea.

Figure 9 Material flows from the provision of services

MB Mini

Figure 9 Material flows from the provision of services

The system itself is presented in Figure 9 as a kind of 'black box'. There are certain material inputs and certain material outputs. But the main functional output from the system is the service which it provides. This could be a single service such as nutrition or health or mobility and so on. Or we could envisage the black box as a combined system with a variety of service outputs.

From a thermodynamic viewpoint, the concept of providing services implies performing some kind of useful work. We know from Chapter 1 that this useful work can only be carried out by accessing available energy in some form, and employing high-quality material resources. So we know that the black box always requires energy and material inputs. The system then processes these inputs in such a way as to provide the required service or services. Since there are material inputs to the system, there must also be material outputs. Again using the discussion of Chapter 1, we know that these material outputs are in a degraded form: energy which is less available to us, and materials which tend to be more dissipated and less useful than the input resources. In this diagram they are portrayed as waste emissions of various kinds.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment