The Timing Of Prevention

Figure 10 presents the different stages in the provision of services as sequential. In reality, of course, there is no strict temporal order. It was already noted in Chapter 1, for instance, that some of the material outputs of the secondary (manufacturing) sector are destined for use in the primary sector or in the secondary sector itself. Also, there is inevitably a sort of feedback process in operation between the service provision stage and the design stage. The emergence of new demands and the decline of saturated markets will lead automatically to product innovation and design changes.

Perhaps most importantly, in a modern market economy there is no single identifiable process of conceptualisation within a definite temporal framework. Rather, conceptualisation is something that occurs continually throughout the complex operation of the system as a whole. This is not to suggest that conceptualisation cannot be influenced within the industrial economy. In fact, as we shall see below, it is by intervening during the conceptualisation process that the preventive strategy can have its biggest impacts. But conceptualisation is a rather broad interactive process involving many different parties and occurring over a longer timescale and in a more complex fashion than is suggested by Figure 10.

At the same time, the simplicity of Figure 10 highlights an important distinction between previous environmental management strategies such as dilute-and-disperse or end-of-pipe management and the emerging preventive approach. This difference is one of timing. Or—if the strict temporal nature of the system is denied—we could say that the difference is one of 'placing'. Figure 11 illustrates this difference.

The earliest laissez-faire attitude to the environment really involves no action at all during the provision of services. But it often leads to the need for remedial measures to be taken after environmental damage has occurred. The dilute-and-disperse and the containment philosophies both involve taking action at the stage of waste management. But these actions are often limited to controlling the rate at which pollutants enter the environment or to fortifying landfill sites. The end-of-pipe approach requires intervention mainly at the manufacturing stage.

By contrast, the preventive approach is about foresight. It must therefore operate both during the conceptualisation and during the design of service systems. The importance of appropriate design can scarcely be overemphasised. As the US National Academy of Engineering has pointed out: 'Design should not merely meet environmental regulations; environmental elegance should be a part of the culture of engineering education.' The different elements of designing preventive environmental management into the provision of services are discussed in the following sections.

Figure 11 Timing of environmental management strategies

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