söndag 31 oktober 2010

Cradle to cradle

I'm taking an evening course this term, "States and trends: An innovative course about environmental, technical and developmental issues". It is given by the Department of Industrial Ecology at KTH. I took a similar evening course at the Stockholm Resilience Center two years ago and met some great people there, some of whom are taking this new course together with me. Both of these courses are not so much "courses" as they are seminar series with a very thin red thread tying together a string of great (and sometimes not-so-great) guest lectures.

Examination consists of a couple of different tasks, one of them being a requirement to summarize a seminar in 2-3 pages of text. I listened to a lecture this past week about "cradle to cradle" design and decided that this was the seminar I wanted to summarize and write about.

I found the cradle-to-cradle terms and perspective very intriguing, but haven't yet decided if these ideas actually make sense, or if they are a form of advanced scientific mumbo-jumbo. The ideas are certainly intriguing. The basic premise is too look to nature and biological processes for ideas about how to configure industrial processes. In nature nothing is wasted. In nature the result of one process is the input to the next. In nature, complexity thrives and synergies evolve over time.

The idea is that this is, or should be an ideal also for industrial processes. Waste = food. Nothing should be regarded as waste, but should rather taken care of and become input to the next industrial process. In fact, an alternative to the term "waste" is "food", or, the (hyper-positively charged) term "industrial nutrients".

The term "cradle to cradle" is a play on the more well known "cradle to grave". Cradle-to-grave implies a linear process and linear material flows with a beginning (pristine resources), a middle (manufacture, consumption) and an end (waste). Cradle-to-cradle instead implies a circular process where you end up in the same place that you started.

We got four relatively short articles to read so as to prepare for the lecture. Unfortunately, this is a very hectic time of the year with new courses starting (probably the topic of next week's post) and so I haven't had time to read these texts yet. I am however very intrigued and interested in trying to discern if there is something to these cradle to cradle ideas or if they represent a pipe dream.

When I hear the cradle to cradle lingo, I sort of get the same vibrations as when I hear some of the counter-culture slogans of the 1960's; "under the streets, the beach", "make love, not war", "All power to the people", "Question authority", "Frodo lives". Very positive, life-affirming, imaginative and even utopian ideas/utterances, but looking backwards, also very idealistic, perhaps naive and unrealistic compared to what actually did happen during the following 40 years of unfettered globalization and capitalism triumphantly conquering the world.

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