I’ve had an epiphany this week…We are so wasteful! Like most people, I have always known we were living in a wasteful society, but it’s more of a sense than actual knowledge. I’ve have learned a lot about industrial ecology (IE) and bio mimicry that I didn’t know before, the resulting realizations are things I already knew, but now are supported by evidence. I’m not sure I have ever heard the term ‘industrial ecology’ before, but I have heard the notion of using natural systems to reinvent the way we do things. It never really struck me as something feasible before and, since it was some time ago, there wasn’t very much information available. I am blown away by the examples given by Benyus, from the Denmark ecopark to various corporations implicating their own strategies.
This week’s article is one that everyone should read, and everyone should have access too. I think IE focuses on waste because it’s a catalyst to making the other changes in the production system needed and it’s still a dirty little secret no one likes to talk about. There is lots of talk about what can be done to make better products, but very little addresses the entire life cycle cost of a product. For example, earlier this week I saw a news brief on The Weather Channel about a company that was able to make plastic from pulling carbon out of the air like trees do. It was very impressive. It bragged about the plastic being just as good as plastic made under current processes, but it not once addressed if any of it could be recycled or broken down. The anchors were overly excited about this idea, calling it a “win-win.” I think too often people want one answer, one solution. If it sounds ‘green’ then it must be good, right?
This week really made me think, “What is wrong with us?” Is it ignorance, indifference, or just greed? Are we just ignoring that solutions are staring us right in the face and are being implemented in around the world in small ways? Are we so dumb that we can’t see it? Are we just sitting around waiting for an answer to come from nowhere? Do we assume someone else will take care of it? We seem to focus on how nice it would be to live in the solution, but aren’t willing to put in the work to make the changes. We are blinded by our addiction to consumption. Will our culture be able to shift itself away from the greed of completion and become a Type 3, cooperative society described by Benyus?
I think we see the dangers in what we’ve been doing; ‘green’ is talked about all the time. I think a lot of people are concerned, but that concern is shallow and full of empty words. I am just as guilty. Last week I caught myself looking at clothes on Pinterest, wanting all these ‘things’ I didn’t need, while writing my blog. I stopped to think, “Have I improved my footprint in anyway?” Every week I fluctuate between hope and hopelessness for the future. I have a hard time picturing the whole of society changing the way we consume. It’s very ingrained in our culture. From what I’ve been exposed to this week, I am starting to think that industrial ecology is what we need to make the changes so many of only talk about. Yet, I remain hesitant to call anything a solution, as everything comes with pros and cons.
Throughout the semester I have been looking forward to learning about the application of strategies aiming toward progress in different corners of the world. I applaud the examples Benyus brings to light of corporations steeping up to do their part without waiting for government regulation to get on board. Just as these examples make me hopeful, NBC Nightly News comes on discussing another name in the mortgage loan corruption that aided in the economic downfall. I wonder if these types of economic giants will ever be a part of a solution or encourage change.
So what’s next? Where do we go from here? I am not sure what I want to learn next, but I do hope we explore more of what’s being done.