Thursday, January 18, 2007

Waste not, want not


In keeping with my reading plan, I’ve just read William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s treatise, Cradle to Cradle. The book discusses traditional environmental and industrial philosophy and is a call to adopt a new design ethic with roots in both mass-customization and systems ecology.
The authors summarize recent industrial history, with some emphasis on the USA, noting both early design successes and a few of the causes for environmental negligence and exploitation. They also outline what they see as fundamental shortcomings of modern environmental thought. On the latter, they sometimes degenerate into a practice unfortunately common within the environmental camp, flogging anything that sounds mainstream. (They also use entirely too many parenthetical asides.)
However, accepting this and the fact that the book sometimes reads like recycled marketing collateral, their positions have considerable merit. McDonough and Braungart envision a broad design school that gives appropriately equitable weight to economy, environment, and ethics. They propose an overhaul of design practices to be appropriate to local environments and to eliminate the concept of waste, in favor of cycles of reusable resources.
For my part, I am a little concerned over the notion of a wholesale (or even very broad) shift of an economy of products to an economy of services. The authors suggest an ingenious and potentially highly efficient economy in which the raw materials within most products are essentially leased. In this scenario, for instance, when you were “done” with your car, the manufacturer would reclaim the vehicle which could then be reintroduced into the manufacturing process and become an entirely new car.
This model belies the authors’ backgrounds (McDonough, an architect; Braungart, a chemist) as knowledge-workers. From the knowledge worker’s perspective, wealth is developed by directly creating something valuable, or adding value to a process or product. For many others, building wealth is predicated in some part upon the ownership of resources. This becomes difficult in an economy in which every resource of any transferable value belongs to a corporation.
Despite this and some comparatively minor points of argument, I think Cradle to Cradle is an excellent read. Students of business, economics, and environmental disciplines should make a point of reading it. In the spirit of the book, borrow it from your library or buy it from a local book shop. If you have any recommendations for books, please post.

5 comments:

nobody+knows. said...

oh, i'm so glad you stopped by! if i'd known you would've been reading, i'd have written something more.. intelligent. i can't help comparing our writings side by side and noticing how high school i sound :D

anyway, reading this makes me wish i understood more about economy, the subject in general. never took a class of it in high school (dropped out before the time came), so the most i comprehend of anything in the subject is that, well, it's going to hell. i keep hearing good things about it (the subject, not the economy). guess i'll have to take some sort of introductory class to it, when i do go back to school.

so.. yeah. you mentioned something about book recommendations, and i'm not sure whether you would be interested in these, but it's all i've managed to read (of fiction) lately. i kinda got the impression you're not the fantasy type guy. so, list of relatively recent fiction that i've touched:

"the book of lost things" by john connolly
"the road" by cormac mccarthy
"water for elephants" by sara gruen
"the thirteenth tale" by diane setterfield

and, there's also "suite francaise" by irene nemirovsky that i keep hearing good things about. any mention of foreign european languages turn me off though. maybe it's being forced to learn latin in high school that did it, so, who knows. anyway, it might be your cup of tea, too. there's also "middlesex" by something eugenides (i'm bad with names), which i haven't gotten around to reading yet. ooh, and have you ever read "the time traveler's wife"? i can't love that book enough. you have to read it if you liked stolen child.

that's all i've got for fiction :D i can't be more embarrassed that i don't read anything more educational, lol. but, maybe i'll try to be more like you once i have the chance to enjoy education :)

p.s. - i don't think it's so much that i "read" that the apt number was 31, it's one of those things in dreams where you know odd facts from the get-go. or, well, it suddenly comes to you, type thing. if it were up to me brownies wouldn't drip soy sauce, either :D

jez said...

I need some recommendations from you! My diet of literature has consisted of Chuck Palahnuik and Jack Kerouac for the past couple of years. I think I'm in a rut.

E. R. Dunhill said...

Jez,
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my blog. I keep thinking I should post something for Mr. T and his demo. Perhaps I’ll find inspiration on that.
As for book reviews, I’m glad to make recommendations to anyone who has both A Separate Peace and Dharma Bums on their profile. Both of these are old friends of mine. Back in October, I posted a boring and pretentious recap of what I’d been reading in ’06. I’m not so daft as to think that much of what I read is interesting to most people. If you’re looking for some good recent fiction, start with The Stolen Child (Keith Donohue). I also liked Kevin Brockmeier’s A Brief History of the Dead, and Graham Joyce’s The Limits of Enchantment.

- mtf said...

Thank you for the comment and the welcome! This book definitely looks like an interesting read and I will definitely look for it. We really do have the power to change the economic situation, all we need is the lobbying power that is greater than the one the Oil Industry currently has.

kiki said...

erd... nice to meet you. i actually started cradle to cradle but was interrupted by the omnivore's dilemma (finally came in on hold from the library). so after the big move i'm going to pick it up again- i'll let you know how it goes.

if you're looking for another book recommendation, i just read cloud atlas by david mitchell a few months ago and loved it. definitely blew my mind a little bit; gave me something to think about when i was done.

-- omnivore's dilemma was an excellent read also, btw.