Rather then end this on a down note, I shall give a re-cap of the final points McDonough and Braungart make on the road to a cradle to cradle society. They do seem to recognize the complexity of the journey, and acknowledge that it can be taken in steps.
Five steps to Eco-Effectiveness (in brief):
1_ Get "free of" known culprits. That is, stop using stuff we know is poison, and much of what we suspect as well. This is no solution in itself, but a necessary first step.
2_ Follow informed personal preferences. There is a lot out there, and as designers we can't know about it all. But educate yourself as best you can and take your best shot at getting it right.
3_Create a passive positive list. Find the things that are healthful and prefer to use them. Its not enough to get rid of the known bad because other bad things can still be in the mix. Prefer to use only the good things as much as possible.
4_Activate the positive list. Didn't I just go over that?
5_Reinvent. Its not enough to simply go about things the old way, but using new ingredients. Think of new ways of doing things and new technologies.
The authors are very positive about the prospects of new technologies solving old problems and in this they are not alone. But it is not enough to imagine that it will simply happen on its own, as some have proposed. It has to happen within the confines of a better way of imagimng the outcome, and a recognition that the Law of Unintended Consequences still holds.
It seems unlikely to me that there will ever be perfect solutions to any given circumstances, but there can be better ones and this book offers a vision for finding one.