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"The New Report to the Club of Rome (Factor Four by Weizsacker and Lovins published by Earthscan) describes how we can double wealth whilst halving resource use. Schumacher (in Small is Beautiful 1973 published by Blond & Briggs) discusses how communities can establish fulfilling work for everyone without aspiring to traditional markers of economic success.


Society is ever changing, technology is rapidly changing too. How can sustainability be incorporated into our civilisation under these conditions?"


by

Rhys Haden

Assignment from Module Nine

MSc Intelligent Buildings Reading University

11th May 2000


Synopsis


Technology is changing at such a rate that it is all too easy to lose sight of the long-term effects on our world. Technologies exist that can harm our planet and technologies exist that can help us measure and protect our environment.

I seek to uncover some of the critical points that can drive the direction that we go whether for the good of the environment and its resources or to its detriment. What emerges is that rather than relying on chance discoveries and corporate policies to protect our world we can have a strategy that demands responsibility in all areas of our society from the individual to organisational through to international levels.

This strategy involves taking these critical points and applying the right decisions at the right times in order that we minimise resource use and provide a far more broad 'economical' long term future.

The study examines these critical points in a number of areas. A moral examination, an economical viewpoint, a view of resource use itself leading to national responsibility for sustaining our environment.

There then follows a discussion on the drivers and incentives that mitigate against sustainable development with a look at alternative technologies and design methods that can prove economical not only in the pecuniary sense but also with respect to our environmental wealth. We finish on the benefits to employment and to the work ethic that has been rocked over recent years as newer technologies have minimised the need for large workforces.

The conclusion draws together the critical points and provides a framework for future sustainable use of our resources.

Introduction

'A farmer, newly arrived on the Great Plains of the Midwest, drove his team of horses to plough up the virgin prairie. Without expression, the Indian stared at the mouldboard plough, slicing through the thick mat of prairie grasses and turning them under, roots in the air. After a long time, the farmer paused and asked the Indian, 'Well, what do you think?' Replied the Indian, Wrong side up' - and went away.'

Dr Wes Jackson of the Land Institute in Salinas, Kansas related this to illustrate the adverse impact that 'monoculture' is having on our earth and the fact that it cannot be sustained indefinitely (Weizsacker et al (1), 1998).

Chris Patten in his opening Reith lecture this year gave one definition of sustainable development as the attitude that 'we should live here on earth, as though we were intending to stay for good, not just visit for the weekend' (Patten, 2000). However, it seems as if we are doing quite the opposite. Animal and plant species are becoming extinct daily, mountain glaciers are melting at such a rate that they could be gone in 20 years, and the US has 4.8% of the world's population yet produces 26% of the greenhouse gases (Lovejoy, 2000).

In addition to this we are losing our land as 6,500 hectares are being converted from rural to urban use each year (DETR, 1999) and around 50% of the current world population of 6 billion are now living in urban areas (Wenban-Smith, 2000).

Science and Technology have developed at a pace such that the dangers to our planet have grown even faster. The global output of goods has grown from $5 trillion in 1950 to $29 trillion and technologically advanced countries such as the UK have Carbon Dioxide emissions 50 times that of Bangladesh (Thom, 2000). As water demand doubles every 21 years water tables are falling all over the world making less available for the irrigation of crops.

Much of humanity's energy and time is taken up with maintaining the financial economies of our respective countries, corporate decisions are based on financial indicators, governments are swayed and lobbied by big businesses which themselves seem to become increasingly volatile as the recent 'dot.com' saga has demonstrated. The question we need to ask ourselves is are we being seduced by wrong thinking? Are we so engrossed in financial wealth that we are allowing the true wealth of our Earth to slip through our fingers like sand? Are we turning the Earth 'wrong side up'?

As we look at the issue of sustainability we will see emerging critical points during humanity's continuous use of the Earth's resources. These points of criticality are key junctures that can be influenced or modified so that modes of thinking and operation can be changed in favour of better resource use. These points are very important since they remain constant in their influence despite the fact that societies and technologies are rapidly changing.

Moral and Social Responsibility


Ken Nelson worked as an engineer for DOW. For 12 years from 1981 he encouraged the ground troops to elicit projects to save energy and that could pay for themselves. For most years the return was in triple digits. The only reward for the employees taking part was recognition from their peers (Weizsacker et al (2), 1998). Not only were they saving substantial sums of money for their company they were also taking individual responsibility for the resources that the environment had bestowed on them. This contrasts heavily with the recent lapses in safety that have come to light within BNFL where there has been a lack of responsibility both on an individual level and a corporate level. Who can tell the consequences of nuclear material contaminating the environment where the only antidote to the pollutant is time?

There are now too many people on earth for everybody to live an American lifestyle (Lovejoy, 2000). Those that have access to resources must think seriously about their use of these resources. Resource use is a moral issue. Technological change will help us avoid the harsh trade off between the desire to increase living standards and the desire to preserve a clean environment (Browne, 2000). Surely we need to look at this notion, of increase of living standards as a sharing out of achievable living standards. Only in this way can we move away from the situation where only a small proportion of the world's population have ever increasing standards of living whilst the rest make do without or worse.

Reversing our attitudes to resource use is vital. Going back to DOW, they have recently introduced a rent a chemical scheme so that it can remain in control of a particular hazardous material throughout its life and responsibility remains with the manufacturer. This is a critical point where corporate responsibility has been shouldered for the impact that the chemicals will make throughout their lives.

So, regarding the environment the critical points are:
  • Put our own house in order and take individual responsibility.
  • Take corporate responsibility, be it a political or corporate body.

Economics


The modern Keynsian economical strategy is to follow the road to riches and this will lead to peace as the rich give to the poor. Does this normally happen? Ultimately this is incongruous with the traits of greed and envy required for the modern economy. Much of modern economics is dependent upon this approach and as a result there is much disregard for the consequences for the environment the poor and for the rural communities.

Economics encourages the view of individual buyers and sellers being only responsible for themselves and getting the best deal with little responsibility to those who may not be able to afford the product. Traditionally, industries work to targets that are purely financial and are obligated to meet them. The modern economical view is that everything has a price but only in terms of money i.e. that money is the highest of all values (Schumacher (1), 1973).

We would have a very different society if our values were not based on money but mainly on qualitative distinctions. Modern economics requires the ecologist to prove the case that there is damage to the human race before any notice is taken of environmental concerns, and even then there is no guarantee that action will be taken. Perhaps, as Schumacher suggests, (Schumacher (2), 1973) the study of Ecology ought to be compulsory for all economists so that the economist will be able to ask if it is right to assume that depletion and pollution costs nothing?

This could lead to sustainable development being transformed into a competitive advantage. Free-trade problems would be more easily overcome, as environmental policies would no longer be seen as a burden but a benefit.

Darwin described the increase in diversity within evolution, this is different from the economic version of evolution which is the destruction of diversity. Examples include local beverages going out of business as multinational drink companies provide standardised tastes throughout the world. Only one variety of rhubarb is left out of 35 in 1903. Of the 7,098 varieties of apples around in the 19th century 6,121 have been lost. Having lost these varieties we have lost variation of taste, spread over the growing seasons and soil types and robustness against pests (Weizsacker et al (3), 1998).

What a local community produces for itself is far more important than what it produces for other cultures or what other cultures can sell to the local community. Is it right to sell milk substitutes to developing communities when The World Health Organisation clearly indicates the benefits of breastfeeding for the health of infants (DHCD, 1999)? Surely we should concentrate on helping cultures develop their own internal market for products. This would encourage the local traditions and customs to flourish rather than force developed cultures on to a developing population. Why should MacDonalds foods or Coca-Cola be sold to a culture that already had perfectly good food and drink in the first place.

The cities have the wealth but they are only secondary producers. The precondition of economic life begins in the countryside. This is where the food is produced to feed the cities, however there is only so much that people will pay for food and consequently there is only so much that the food producers can earn. Large subsidies have been common within the rural communities and often lead to overproduction of beef, milk, cheese and grain in some areas and a dearth of these products in other areas of the world. The difficulty with concentrating on exports in an economy is that if there is nothing in the rural area then how can the rural community become competitive in the world market? A different paradigm has to be developed leading us back to local production for local use and a soft de-coupling of subsidies from products (Weizsacker et al (4), 1998). This would mean that the true cost of large-distance products would be evident and help provide a level competition field between remotely produced goods and the small-distance produce.

The criticalities related to economics are thus:
  • A reassessment of economics to prioritise on resources.
  • A healthy local rural economy is crucial as bedrock for the broader economy of the secondary urban-based producers.
  • A de-coupling of subsidies to introduce a level playing field consisting of true costs of production.

Resources and the Environment


Throughout history, many civilisations such as Easter Island have developed and then declined as they have spoiled their land. We are now able to measure how we are affecting our current environment. Carbon Dioxide levels have increased by 25% in the last 200 years through deforestation and fossil fuel burning. Once in the atmosphere Carbon Dioxide remains for 200 years and acts as a greenhouse gas which is causing climate changes throughout the globe (Highwood, 2000).

Wilhelm Ripl (1994) has shown that earth movements are seriously eroding the cation concentrations in soils leading to desertification (Weizsacker et al (5), 1998). We need to carefully consider our attitude to the land (including the life on it). The land is not merely a source for production. Agriculture cannot be considered purely as an industry and farming is not a 5-day week occupation, it requires full time dedication. The current attraction to Genetic Engineering for the economist is that Genetically Modified foods fit the mould of the industry view of agriculture, more products for less effort. The farmer is being forced to cut costs and produce food even if the health of the soil and the beauty of the landscape are compromised. Ten years ago a tonne of grain could be sold for 115, whereas now you would be fortunate to get 60. In order to survive farms are turning traditional fields into large prairie-style sweeps of crops.

Dr Wes Jackson of the Land Institute (The Sunshine Farm project) believes that it is possible to replace an energy consuming and soil-losing agriculture with an energy-producing and soil-building one and highlights these 4 principles (Weizsacker et al (6), 1998):
  1. Deep cultivation of the soil
  2. Production of compost crops
  3. Intensive spacing of plants to provide micro-climates
  4. Inter-planting of different crops to foil pests.
These principles require labour intensive farming, have no need for GM technologies since crop varieties and natural fertilisers minimise the risk of pest damage and minimise the chances of the development of damaging intensive single-crop farming. These principles are not new. In his book The South Downs, Dr. Peter Brandon describes the ancient symbiotic relationship that used to exist between the sheep and corn farming on the chalk. Up until the mid-nineteenth century the sheep were folded on to the arable land at night in order to fertilise the nutrient-poor chalk with their dung (Brandon, 1998).

What about our use and disposal of resources in a broader sense?

Paul Hawken estimates in the US that 99% of the materials used in the production of or within the goods themselves is discarded within 6 weeks of sale (Weizsacker et al (7), 1998). Perhaps it is more constructive to consider pollution as a resource out of place, we can then use the concept of resource efficiency rather than resource conservation that just simply implies cutting back. Germany have taken a lead in this respect with their Closed Substance and Waste Management Act where there is no such thing as waste, only resource (Thom, 2000).

One of the biggest enemies of material efficiency is waste incineration since it negates the ability to reuse the materials thereby minimising waste dissipation. Technology has made finding other mineral resources cheaper so that resource shortages are no longer so high on the agenda as they were in the early 1970s. As a result many believe that supply-side technical means rather than an efficiency revolution will solve problems. We must not allow this temporary let off to lull us into a false sense of security.

Incineration is often resorted to because it is seen as a quick fix and has overtones of conservation when aligned with producing energy for heating as a by product. However, The Sound Resource Management Group (SMRG, 1992) found that recycling materials such as plastics could save up to 5 times that used when burning it and this included energy used in transporting materials. Other issues with incineration include the dioxins that are released into the atmosphere when the halogens within the plastics are burned and the toxic ash that remains afterwards taking up to 40-50% of the volume of compacted landfill waste (DOE, 1995). Another issue is the very high cost of setting up an incinerator such that contracts between county councils and waste companies run for long periods with clauses that require minimum amounts of waste to be supplied. Such waste management is not sustainable as it can lead to 'waste maximisation' as authorities attempt to avoid penalty clauses.

Recycling plastics is an alternative to burning them but mixing plastics leads to a deterioration of the properties. The American State Vermont, encourage its residents to separate their plastic waste into 7 different containers in order to maximise the quality of plastics that are recycled. A relatively new innovation Belland plastic (Switzerland) has a pH > 7 and is water-soluble but can take many forms, stiff, wrapping foils etc. Washing waste with water dissolves the plastic and adding a low pH substance causes the plastic to form granules that are easily collected for reuse. The recycled material has not deteriorated in its properties (Weizsacker et al (8), 1998).

So ultimately, it is far more constructive in the long term to tackle pollution problems by optimising the primary use. The UK government subscribes to the concept of the Hierarchy of Waste as detailed in the Waste Framework Directive (91/156/EEC) and consists of the following levels in order of preference:
  1. Eliminate waste
  2. Reduce waste
  3. Recycle/Reuse waste
  4. Recover waste
  5. Dispose waste
Schmidt-Bleek (1994) use a 'Material Intensity Per Service (MIPS)' measurement to help define material efficiency for all goods and services from cradle to grave (Weizsacker et al (9), 1998). Every good and service has an ecological 'rucksack' that includes resources used in production, transport and disposal.

Some examples include properly treated wood that is more durable and renewable than concrete in common applications and uses a quarter of the energy. Swiss forests would be helped by harvesting 7-8 million cubic metres of timber which is more than enough for Switzerland's construction needs (Weizsacker et al (10), 1998). Another example is the compact fluorescent lamps where the number sold in the world in 1994 alone will save $5 billion worth of electricity over their lifetimes (Weizsacker et al (11), 1998).

So for resource use we can see that the criticality points highlighted are:
  • Progress is considered to be increased labour productivity, however the mindset needs to change so that we think in terms of increasing resource productivity.
  • Development of a culture that embraces the 'Hierarchy of Waste'
  • The Ecological rucksack takes into account all resources that are used in production from cradle to grave.

Government


Open government cannot occur without good and proper information. This is especially important in the realm of ecology.

Ways are required to popularise and make accessible the information to the average person so that they can make their own judgements on how to behave, and how much difference a change in behaviour can make. Education is extremely important so that consumers can develop a greater interest in locally produced goods and from which markets can form and grow. The DETR in the UK supports the Building Research Establishment's Design Advice Service which is a good example of objective advice is being given on environmentally conscious designs of new buildings (DETR, 2000).

Current market thinking assumes that more efficient devices have a greater cost, as more brains or materials are required to get the same functionality as a less efficient device. The University of Lund found when examining refrigerators in Sweden, that energy efficient devices need not cost more (Weizsacker et al (12), 1998).

In construction, until materials and component suppliers provide sustainability-related information on their products as a matter of course then a good deal of time has to be spent assessing the environmental performance of materials. The process of constructing the brief should include sharing of information related to sustainable building. In A Green Vitruvius, the Energy Research Group suggest that an energy audit is a worthwhile exercise before constructing the brief (ERG (1), 1999).

The problem with a society that runs on private enterprise, is that the only way that public authorities can obtain money for the infrastructure is via taxation. From this the battle ensues whereby the rich find endless ways to avoid paying tax, loopholes and even illegal tax evasion whilst the government further complicate the tax laws.

The difficulty here is that more taxation is not a vote winner.

Ecological Tax Reform (ETR) originated with the British economist Arthur Cecil Pigou (1920) (Weizsacker et al (13), 1998). The idea is that fair prices must be paid for the consumption of common goods. The Green Fees study showed that no loss of revenue would be experienced if environmental charges were levied by shifting tax from goods to 'bads'. Furthermore, Jacques Delor's white paper on Growth, Competitiveness and Employment depicts ecological taxes as the cornerstone for the fight against unemployment.

The importance of firm but open government can not be over-stressed as Chris Patten said (Patten, 2000) accountable government gains legitimate public authority (Patten, 2000). In this respect the US set a bad example, in some cultural manifestations of environmental concern the US lead the world but its contribution to the global struggle against climate change is hamstrung by the political imperative to keep energy prices low.

The points of criticality that are most prevalent in good government are:
  • Information and Education
  • Good marketing of environmentally friendly technologies
  • Provision of an ecologically sound governmental infrastructure that enhances industry's ability to produce in a resource efficient manner.

Incentives


Merely laying down the law will not be enough to persuade industry and individuals to change their attitudes to the environment issues. Businesses are very good at working towards targets, particularly if there is something to be gained at the end. Although profits may be increased, efficiency often means shrinking turnover. The problem with this is that investment may shy away from companies that are reducing turnover.

Finding a cure for a disease afflicting the poor does not have much of a future in terms of money and major investment, but morally money needs to be spent. Efficiency affects far more people than a disease and yet sometimes the efficiency route may not be seen as being a profitable one. Incentive structures are not conducive to the efficiency revolution since they have traditionally been biased towards a fuller use of natural resources. Because architects are paid according to what they spend rather than what they save, there is no incentive to be more efficient as this would in turn reduce their fees. What is more split incentives also cause problems e.g. the landlord pays for insulating the roof whilst the tenant is the one paying the fuel bills. One party can end up paying for the inefficiencies of another.

So how can we restructure incentives?

When looking at the motor industry car owners see the costs of a car when buying a new car and the costs per mile are considered just as fuel costs. However, if the weight of the costs were put on to the per-mile use and the car was in a leasing scheme then the user would get more realistic feedback. The cost of transport should truly reflect the actual cost, congestion, smog, accidents, road damage and land use etc. Singapore taxes the use of cars heavily, auctions the right to buy them and charges users driving in the city centre. The funds raised are put into a high quality transport system and the city becomes a far more attractive place to be (Weizsacker et al (14), 1998).

In construction, we can change the way of designing by getting the design team to operate as a team rather than a relay where responsibilities stop at task handover. The owners will benefit from lower construction cost, lower operating cost and greater productivity. Unfortunately, the designer has to work harder to provide an optimised design and can end up with negative profits. So we need to go that bit further. Weizsacker suggests giving the designer a fee for a plain vanilla design but then adding incentives as a percentage of the reduction in life-cycle costs (Weizsacker et al (15), 1998). The electric utility could reward the designers a rebate related to the energy savings as this will mean that the utility supplies less electricity for a user to fulfil all their needs, thereby reducing the cost and the risk.

With individual components it is not enough to merely replace an inefficient device with an efficient one. We need to make sure that the old one is taken out of circulation so that it isn't sold on as second-hand and wastes more energy somewhere else. The relief of tax on old cars in the UK is not a good way to encourage efficiency, surely a better way is to get older fuel inefficient cars off the road by perhaps issuing pay backs on receipt of car 'death certificates'.

When prices start to include ecological costs, then the firms that cause damage to the environment will have less competitive advantage.

The criticality points that are related to restructuring incentives are:
  • Remove perverse incentive schemes
  • Shift tax burden from labour to resources

Technology


The gift of material goods makes people dependent but the gift of knowledge makes them free. When people have knowledge they can spend the normally wasted time producing new ideas and finding creative ways of improving their lot. We must be careful not to merely extend rich industry into the poor so that the poor become even more dependent on the rich. Instead we must enable the poor to create their own industries so that they become more independent (Schumacher (3), 1973).

Scientists and Technologists ought to provide methods and equipment that are cheap, accessible, suitable for small-scale use and compatible with the need for the human being to be creative.

The application of technology is key and it is not trivial. There is a growing need to apply what Schumacher calls 'intermediate technologies' (Schumacher (4), 1973) instead of high capital-intensive technology that only a few can attain to. High-technology minimises the workforce and requires external input thereby not allowing the local workers to maximise their potential as they come to master it. Many large historical buildings that have stood for centuries were built without electricity, steel or cement so it is a fallacy to state that one cannot do anything at all without the latest technology. (Patten, 2000) there are new high-tech hospitals in East Africa with no money or skill to repair the equipment, no doctors, no money for food and no drugs. The culture is not there to support the high-technology.

Some examples of Intermediate Technology include the Trombe Wall where glazing and high thermal mass material are combined to produce a heat collecting structure by day that can radiate heat at night. Photovoltaic technology could provide between and of British electricity requirements the biggest barrier being cost, although this is coming down (ERG (2), 1999).

Water is an important resource that is often wasted. As global warming begins to have more of an impact, some areas of the globe will suffer from fresh water shortages. The UK has suffered three droughts in recent years (1988, 1992 and 1995) and water consumption is predicted to rise. In the UK, figures for domestic water consumption see the WC as taking the lion's share as 31% of the demand (POST, 2000). Improved WC design can reduce water consumption to 6-7 litres per flush and aeration valves can be retrofitted to taps to reduce consumption to 8 litres per minute. In addition shut off valves can be used on mixer taps to maintain the temperature of the water when temporarily switching off the supply between uses. Whereas a conventional shower uses 13.5-36 litres per minute a water-efficient shower can use less than 11.25 lpm (ERG (3), 1999).

Other examples of Intermediate Technologies include crops that can be grown specially to provide fuel e.g. Short Rotation Forestry uses willow and Poplar in cycles of between 3-5 years (Worrall, 2000). Also, a Combined Heat and Power plant can achieve efficiencies of 86% compared with a conventional boiler efficiency of 57% (ERG (4), 1999).

In A Green Vitruvius it is stated that rather than be in conflict, technology can be married with better resource use (ERG, (5), 1999) and examples are given such as:
  1. Air solar systems to provide adequate ventilation exchange to indoors.
  2. Use water solar systems for hot water and low heat
  3. Use photovoltaic technology for electricity
  4. Use low emission wood chip and biomass furnaces.
The message is that technology per se is not the enemy of the environment, rather it can be used constructively to enable cultures to maintain their independence.

The criticality points here are:
  • Use Intermediate Technology
  • Minimisation of obsolescence using technology

Good Strategy and Design


Cars have piled one gadget upon another in order to resolve problems that would have been resolved with better design. It has been found that Hybrid and ultralite car strategies combine to raise efficiency fivefold and that RMI found that manufacturing an ultralite could cost the same as today's cars. In California the State Government have declared that 10% of new cars must be zero-emission in 2003 (Weizsacker et al (16), 1998).

As well as trying to make the car more efficient strategies exist to minimise the need for cars. CyberTran is a computer-controlled car that can run up to 150mph on an elevated guideway. Parked CyberTrans can exist every half mile for when they are required so alleviating the requirement to have trains running even if they are mainly empty. The cost to build a CyberTran is 87% less than a rail system and a fifth of the cost to run and as an added benefit CyberTran is just as quick as aeroplanes for 100-300 miles and 3-5 times as quick as cars (Weizsacker et al (17), 1998).

Urban design can also be a key factor in minimising resources used in transport. Multipurpose buildings and City or Neighbourhood centres are designed such that homes are built within easy reach of schools, shops and work, thereby minimising transport load. Using brownfield sites avoids the costs and disruption caused by providing the infrastructure such as the gas, electricity, telecommunications and transport services required when using Greenfield sites (ERG (6), 1999).

Building design itself has a very important influence on how resources are used not just in construction but also throughout the life and death of the structure. Intelligent use of natural features and surroundings can ease the pressure on having to use higher level technologies.

Narrower tree-shaded streets in Central valley, California could lower ambient temperatures by 6-8 degrees Centigrade, thereby lowering the required air-conditioning energy used in the local buildings (Weizsacker et al (18), 1998). The green spaces in a neighbourhood can modify humidity, temperature, wind and noise providing a more workable microclimate. Other ways of using natural resources include tempering air by allowing it to flow through pipes buried to 4m underground brings the temperature to 8 degrees C and using green belts such as climbing plants to reduce wall temperatures when it is hot. More importantly for the economist naturally cooled buildings tend to have lower capital and operating costs (ERG (7), 1999).

When using more sophisticated technologies we need to be careful as to which ones to pick. For instance, a cooling fan can produce the same cooling effect as a temperature reduction of 2-3 degrees Centigrade produced by air-conditioning (ERG (8), 1999). Gasification wood boilers can produce efficiencies of up to 90% with emissions comparable with those of natural gas (ERG (9), 1999). Let us look at electrical power for a moment. We are so used to using AC power that we forget that DC is more efficient and is safer to use. A 20 watt AC pump can be replaced by an 8 watt DC pump whereas for video recorders and computers DC could be 6-10 times more efficient. If using solar power, 30 sq. m of solar cells are required to support an average family of 4 using 220 volt AC devices, whereas only 8 sq. m of solar cells are required if the devices are DC. In many computer rooms it is common to see 50v DC-powered networking equipment instead of the more normal 110/220v AC equivalents mainly to reduce the heat load on the air-conditioning units. The primary reason is to minimise the risk of equipment failure in business critical computer centres however there is the added benefit of lower energy use (Weizsacker et al (19), 1998).

Within the design itself more care in the parameters used can produce significant savings. In Singapore's humid climate, Lee Eng Lock's air conditioning systems use 65-70% less energy than traditional air-conditioning through the use of each resource in just the right amount and place and manner (Weizsacker et al (20), 1998). In commercial buildings better controls and software can save 10-30% of energy used. Careful training can provide an operator with the skill to save up to 50% of energy for instance a one degree centigrade reduction in design air temperature can reduce energy consumption by 10% (ERG (8), 1999).

When components or devices are designed, how much attention is paid to their obsolescence, particularly when considering those items vulnerable to market fashions. Taking a simplistic view on device obsolescence, if everyone is to have a particular device then all we need to make is the number to make up for those that break and for a growing population. The longer the device lasts the less need to be made. Longevity however, stands in the way of fashion and technical efficiency, what can we do? Well, structural parts of a product can be made to last and optimised for maintenance and the visible elements made to be easily dismantled and recyclable so that the visible parts can move with the fashions. Manufacturers could lease furniture whilst the local workshops can deal with peripherals such as cushions and covers. The current practice of leasing lifts now means that it is in the commercial interest of the company to make sure that the lift has longevity and is reliable (Weizsacker et al (21), 1998). Obsolescence can be minimised as only those components that need to be replaced are replaced. The need to provide entirely new products to sell is gone once the product is being leased since it is the reliable service of the product that is being sold rather than the product itself.

The criticality points in good design are:
  • Ecologically sound location for construction
  • Use of natural environment in construction for providing the microclimate, for heating and for cooling before utilising higher technologies.
  • Priority use of Intermediate Technology rather than complex high technology
  • Minimisation of obsolescence using good design
  • Development of local resources thereby minimising transport and maximising local labour

Employment


It is considered that a fundamental source of wealth is labour, however the economist seeks to reduce labour to a minimum by way of automation. The economical ideal tends towards having output without labour and income without employment.

The Buddhist point of view is that work gives the human the chance to enhance faculties; overcome ego-centredness by working with others; and to make goods and services to enhance lifestyle (Schumacher (5), 1973).

Machines that concentrate power in only a few hands causes the masses to become redundant or have boring 'machine-minding' jobs. The ever-increasing use of automation, means that those who can only sell their labour are in an ever-weakening bargaining position. Current economics bypasses the poor, whom it should be helping. We should look to moving back to 'production by the masses rather than mass production' (Schumacher (6), 1973).

A new state of mind needs to be developed where labour is seen as a precious commodity and needs to be put to the best possible use. The output of an idle man is nothing whereas the output of a poorly equipped person is at least positive. Successful aid to developing cultures must be that which mobilises the labour force, raising productivity without saving labour (Schumacher (7), 1973). For instance, modernising an old building could save up to a factor of 4 in resources with the added benefit of labour being more intensive than if a new building is being built. A good example was the demolition of Westgate Annex (Oakalla prison) (Weizsacker et al (22), 1998). An extra 6 weeks of labour was required to recycle materials, however instead of 92% of the materials going to landfill, 95% was recycled. Why not shift the tax burden from labour to resources?

So the points of criticality that relate to employment are:
  • Make the poor independent by increasing opportunities for labour
  • Shift the emphasis from minimising labour to minimising resources via incentives and taxes appropriately applied.

Conclusions


Schumacher states that 'driven by greed and envy we lose sight of the wholeness of things and successes become failures' (Schumacher (8), 1973). Economics cannot fully reflect human nature since human nature is more than just greed and envy. Disarming greed and envy may need to start with our own selves, not allowing luxuries to become needs and even scrutinising our needs (Schumacher (9), 1973). When working within the environment, a qualitative approach must take priority, for if the policy is wrong, then no amount of money can fix the problem. Dried-up rivers, flattened rain forests and extinct species are irreplaceable!

The World Energy Council (1993) assumes that the energy demand in developing countries will double in the next 50 years, mainly using fossil fuels, the industrial countries will need to reduce their CO2 emissions by 80%. We may have 50-80 years to achieve this goal (Weizsacker et al (23), 1998). If consumption of resources continues to rise, the resource conservation revolution will have minimal effect in a few years time, all it will serve to do is keep us stable. There will be an increase in conflicts over land and resources affecting everyone, therefore it is in the interests of both poor and rich to halt population growth. If we fail to change, nature will survive; humanity will not.

In Europe opinion surveys show that almost half the population have lost their faith in progress. Although living standards are rising people no longer believe that the world of tomorrow will be a better place to live (Browne, 2000). There needs to be a constructive way forwards that addresses the issues at all points along the journey of humanity's symbiosis with nature.

Within this discourse I have raised a number of key areas that I have called criticality points. Each point has a significant impact on humanity's effect on the ecology of the Earth and they are summarised below within the respective areas discussed:

Criticality points


Moral Responsibility:


  • Put our own house in order and take individual responsibility.
  • Take corporate responsibility, be it a political or corporate body.

Economics:


  • A reassessment of economics to prioritise on resources.
  • A healthy local rural economy is crucial as a bedrock for the broader economy of the secondary urban-based producers.
  • A de-coupling of subsidies to introduce a level playing field consisting of true costs of production.

Resources:


  • Progress is considered to be increased labour productivity, however the mindset needs to change so that we think in terms of increasing resource productivity.
  • Development of a culture that embraces the 'Hierarchy of Waste'
  • The Ecological rucksack takes into account all resources that are used in production from cradle to grave.

Government:


  • Information and Education
  • Good marketing of environmentally friendly technologies
  • Provision of an ecologically sound governmental infrastructure that enhances industry's ability to produce in a resource efficient manner.

Incentives:


  • Remove perverse incentive schemes
  • Shift tax burden from labour to resources

Technology:


  • Use Intermediate Technology
  • Minimisation of obsolescence using technology

Design:


  • Ecologically sound location for construction
  • Use of natural environment in construction for providing the microclimate, for heating and for cooling before utilising higher technologies.
  • Priority use of Intermediate Technology rather than complex high technology
  • Minimisation of obsolescence using good design
  • Development of local resources thereby minimising transport and maximising local labour

Employment:


  • Make the poor independent by increasing opportunities for labour
  • Shift the emphasis from minimising labour to minimising resources via incentives and taxes appropriately applied.
Particular criticality points will have varying impacts at each stage of infra-structural development. A good example is the removal of incentives that militate against resource conservation, which should happen early on in development projects.

It is clear that world economics has to take on board a much broader working base that encompasses resource use. The environment's resources have to become part of the equation when we assess 'wealth' so that we no longer continue to squander the true wealth of the Earth, which is not ours anyway, but leave it intact for generations to come.

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