chapter  10
13 Pages

Manufactured Capital

Ever since the publication of Limits to Growth (Meadows et al, 1972), sustainable development pragmatists have convincingly argued that the best hope of averting ecological meltdown is pervasive technological innovation: keep on driving down the environmental and social impacts of each unit of production, in whatever sector, through incremental improvements in resource efficiency. This, after all, is going to be a lot easier than trying to get on top of the population challenge (in the shape of around 80 million new citizens arriving on planet Earth every year), or trying to persuade consumers to reduce their levels of personal consumption. Eco-efficiency and eco-innovation have been the response. However, not only are governments not driving the resource productivity challenge with sufficient clarity or purposefulness, but even if they did, efficiency gains would barely keep up with burgeoning increases in consumption all around the world. A much more radical approach can be found in concepts such as ‘biomimicry’ or ‘cradle-to-cradle wealth creation’ – all of which depend upon a profound transformation in the way in which we see ourselves as embedded absolutely at the heart of the natural world, rather than somewhat detached observers of it from afar. Technology alone can’t get us out of a hole: we have to re-engineer our mindsets at the same time.