as an Ecological System
As the outlook
changed from waste management as the environmental objective to pollution
prevention, looking at the "ecology" of and industry in a group
of industries began to be advanced. Graedel and Allenby, (1994) in the
first textbook published on Industrial Ecology, writes:
Ecology is the means by which humanity can deliberately and rationally
approach and maintain a desirable carrying capacity, given continued
economic, cultural, and technological evolution. The concept requires
that an industrial system be viewed not in isolation from its surrounding
systems, but in context with them. It is a systems view in which one
seeks to optimize the total materials cycle from virgin material, to
finished material, to component, to obsolete product, and to ultimate
disposal. Factors to be optimized include resources, energy, and capital."
(Graedel and Allenby)
"internal" approach means that we need to understand the underlying
science, technology and decision-making aspects so that each of these
can be adjusted and the whole system optimized, not just for performance
of the product to meet the needs of the user, but also to minimize the
environmental damage caused by the life cycle of the product.
approach would help us make a transition from thinking of industry solely
as an economic system to a more holistic framing of the industry as an
ecology, compatible with the ecology of nature.
In the unit
on Ethical Systems, we discuss the gradual dawning of the philosophy of
Industrial Ecology. (I.E.) The main focus of I.E. is to look at the whole
system of production, use and disposal. The major focus of I.E., writes
Ayres, is to:
opportunities for reducing wastes and pollution in the materials-intensive
sections by exploiting opportunities for using the low-value byproducts
(i.e. wastes) of certain processes as raw materials for others. Technical
feasibility is the primary criterion for initial consideration."
(Ayres 6). This view is an engineering perspective.
A more global
approach to Industrial Ecology (I.E.) would be to plan and carry out all
industrial and related activities including consumer use, in a way as
to minimize environmental harm, to think of ecology as a guiding principle
for our economic-technological systems. Very briefly, the principles of
nature's ecology are: cycling, a web of interaction and interdependence
among parts; stability, and diffuse boundaries. These are discussed in
more detail in the unit on Ecological Systems.
Exercise: What do these principles of ecology mean if we are to apply
it to a particular industry? Take the example of paper or plastic
and outline how that industry could go about applying these principles
of nature's ecology.
___ shows a scheme of the entire industrial - ecological system as
represented by Bob Ayres and Kneese in the early 1970's. It is a beautiful
representation of this system. It shows the two basic inputs: sunlight
incorporated into natural materials through photosynthesis, and minerals
from the earth. Starting with those two inputs, and adding air and water,
we get quite a complex system of materials and energy in our industrial
society. Note the large amounts of "residuals", or wastes.