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Towards industrial ecology : sustainable development as a concept of ecological modernization

[journal article]

Huber, Joseph

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Abstract "This paper deals with core aspects of ecological modernization, and how these have been received in the debate on sustainable development during the Rio process particularly by two social milieus, one being industry and business, the other milieu representing the red-green current of the ecology movement, which at the Rio conference in 1992 was part of the group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The NGOs' understanding of sustainable development has been formulated by themselves as an anti-industrial and anti-modernist strategy of "sufficiency", meaning selflimitation of material needs combined with "industrial disarmament", withdrawal from free world market economy and an egalitarian distribution of the remaining scarce resources. Contrary to that, the industry’s understanding of sustainable development is the 'efficiency-revolution". Industry and business are looking for a strategy that would allow for further economic growth and ecological adaptation of industrial production at the same time. The means for achieving this goal is seen in the introduction of environmental management systems aimed at improving the environmental performance, i.e. improving the efficient use of material and energy, thus increasing resource productivity in addition to labour and capital productivity. There are good reasons for both sufficiency and efficiency. Nevertheless I will argue that both strategies do have important shortcomings, so that even if combined they will not yet represent a sustainable answer to the ecological challenge. In order to open up a truely sustainable development path an additional third kind of transformational strategy needs to be pursued. In the present name-giving context one can call it the strategy of "consistency". A term with a similar meaning in the current discussion is "industrial ecology" (Socolow et al. 1994, Ayres&Ayres 1996). Industrial ecology aims at an industrial metabolism that is consistent with nature's metabolism. The transformation of traditional industrial structures, which are environmentally often unadapted, to an ecologically modernized consistent industrial metabolism implies major or basic technological innovations, not just incremental efficiency-increasing change and minor modifications of existing product-chains.The content of this contribution can be seen as a piece of policy design. It is of conceptual nature, i.e. it is not mere theoretical analysis, nor is it a report on empirical research work. It should be stressed, however, that things discussed here were not worked out by voluntaristic "scenario-writing", but closely correspond to empirical, practical and historical knowledge." (Textauszug)
Keywords modernization; ecology; environment; social milieu; sustainability; economic growth; compromise
Classification Special areas of Departmental Policy; Ecology, Environment
Method evaluation
Document language English
Publication Year 2000
Page/Pages 28 p.
Journal Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning, 2 (2000) 4
Licence Deposit Licence - No Redistribution, No Modifications
data provider This metadata entry was indexed by the Special Subject Collection Social Sciences, USB Cologne