A very old documentary showing the damage visited on the people of a Pennsylvania steel town by the deployment of new technology. Director: Willard Van Dyke. Script: Spencer Pollard, Willard Van Dyke. Photography: Roger Barlow and Bob Churchill. Music: Marc Blitzstein.
An interview with Amory Lovins on the concept of Natural Capitalism. It has received the following critiques:
- Herman Daly said: “Some folks, like Amory Lovins, think that GNP could grow 10 fold or more with a constant throughput. I tend to doubt it. I believe the coupling is stronger than that, but if Amory is right that’s fine with me. Let GNP grow forever as long as throughput is constrained and held constant.” (see also Sustainability and the scale of the economy (Herman Daly))
- Lovins argues that just as it was impossible 250 years ago to conceive radical labour productivity, it is equally difficult today to imagine radical resource productivity. It is not hard to imagine: what about the 110 year old lightbulb? Others argue that the problem is not technological, it is with our focus on quantity instead of quality. See: Pyramids of Waste (Cosima Dannoritzer) and in Moving Forward (Zeitgeist).
- For another critique of the concept, check out: Trainer, F. E. (2001). Natural capitalism cannot overcome resource limit. Minnesotans for sustainability
A documentary on the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) design concept of Michael Braungart and William McDonough. It present ideas about how to ‘close’ cycles in our production/consumption systems. They have received the following critiques:
- C2C states that “biological nutrients” will easily reenter the water or soil without releasing synthetic materials and toxins. Other argue that increased emissions or ‘wastes’ consisting of ‘biological nutrients’ are in fact not ecologically irrelevant. They participate in biogeochemical cycles, but can still have negative effects if inputs increase in those cycles. E.g. nutrient enrichment causes eutrophication (stimulates the growth of one species (algae) at the expense of the overall biodiversity). See: Reijnders, L. (2008). Are emissions or wastes consisting of biological nutrients good or healthy? Journal of Cleaner Production, 16(10), 1138-1141
- C2C states that “technical nutrients” will permanently move as pure and valuable materials within closed-loop industrial cycles. Others argue that the laws of thermodynamics aren’t fully addressed in C2C: “waste as food” is not a loop, more of a very slow downward spiral. Also, a growth-based C2C economy still relies on growing energy inputs. See: Reay, S. D., McCool, J. P., & Withell, A. (2011). Exploring the feasibility of cradle to cradle (product) design: Perspective from new zealand scientists. Journal of Sustainable Development, 4(1), p36. For posts explaining thermodynamics, see: Entropy (Caltech) and Second law of thermodynamics (Through the wormhole).
Video clip on ‘intrinsic obsolescence’. See also Pyramids of Waste (Cosima Dannoritzer) on ‘planned obsolescence’.
Common arguments against the idea of intrinsic obsolescence:
- You won’t build a table using the best materials (just strong enough, with best materials you can afford, with the time you have).
- Consumers decide how long they want things to last, some consumers decide they want to buy a cheap watch that won’t last as long.
- Cost efficiency mechanism is ignored. Regardless of your intent, you can’t produce the best quality from an environmental perspective in the market system.
- For some products (disposable bags and cups) the inferior quality is clear, this is what you buy. Is there a strategic need for a cheap watch? What about the resources and waste?
Documentary on planned obsolescence. See also Moving Forward (Zeitgeist) that talks about the economic roots of planned obsolescence, which they call ‘intrinsic obsolescence’.
Excerpt from ‘In Praise of Idleness’ by Bertrand Russell: “Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day. Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price. In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacturing of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralising. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work. There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined?”