Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cradle to Cradle part 01

Subtitled "Remaking the Way We Make Things".

I have just started reading Cradle to Cradle based on the recommendation of an architect friend of mine. Researching it, I recalled that the first named author, Wm. McDonough, was positively mentioned in a class I had previously taken.

I'm only just a little ways in, so I dare not make too many assumptions about where the authors (McDonough and Micheal Braungart) are going, but suspicions and cautions do crop up during the early reading.

Will this be simply a Utopian wish fantasy about living with nature? Is the agenda implausibly radical? Will it account for the fact that economics will invariably be a powerful driver for any achievable aims? I don't know the answers to these questions yet, but I'll be reading on to find out.

The premise of Cradle to Cradle, is that the "Reduce, reuse, recycle" mantra of environmentalists is insufficient to stem the degradation of the world we live in, and eventually the quality of our lives. Down-cycling waste only slows the "cradle to grave" creation and consumption approach that is built into our economy and lifestyles.

Citing the back cover because I haven't reached this point in the book yet; the authors propose a "waste equals food" concept that designs products from the outset to become the "nutrients" of new products. Hmmm... it sounds like a system without entropy. Can there be absolutely no waste? At this point I doubt it, and suspect that what the authors will propose is more like a further slowing of decay... not that that's a bad thing.

But in the big picture, the earth is not a closed system. It is driven by energy from the sun, so the metaphor of infinite ssutainablity falls aprt here. And of course in the even larger picture, we don't yet know whether to expect the eventual heat death of the Universe, or its rebound into a new Big Bang.

Of course all of that is far outside of the scope of sustainable living as we mean it today. For our purposes, there may be much of value in what McDonough and Braungart propose. Stay tuned as I read on.

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