chapter  2
Industrial Ecology, A Global Approach for a Global Problem
Pages 38

The concept of industrial ecology emerged in the United States at the beginning of the 1990s[FROSC89]. This “oxymoron” requires further investigation since these two words seem completely incompatible. “Ecology” refers to scientifi c ecology, the study of ecosystems. “Industrial” designates contemporary industrial society, in the Anglo-Saxon meaning of the term[ERKMA98]: production machine, distribution system, public or private services, agriculture, community, transport, habitat… . Industrial ecology can therefore be considered as “ecology of industrial societies, i.e. human activities producing and/or consuming goods and services”[ARPEI07]. This concept suggests considering industrial society as a system3, a “special ecosystem of the biosphere” composed of elements and their interactions. This new point of view goes against the traditional image of two distinct entities, where interactions (environmental impacts…) appear only partially at the interface, when their economic cost can be calculated. This original approach in fact permits quite the opposite: to consider rationally and coherently the interactions of the industrial society with other systems in its environment, those being the different ecosystems of the biosphere. From these observations, new leverage action is naturally produced.