cradle to cradle

My definition of valuable productive activity is broad, as you will come to find. Today afforded some generally in tune noise on the piano (and sore fingers-haven’t played in years!), a clean room, a clean bathroom, and some clean, folded clothes. Nice little breaks from the all-consuming need to read books in a single day or never finish.

Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things is a lovely, heavy book printed on generally recyclable material which calls for everything we as humans produce to keep in mind the economic, social, and ecological benefits of reuse from the get-go. Authors William McDonough and Michael Braungart start out stating (and re-stating, recapitulating, paraphrasing, and reprising) the problem: Western culture is consumption-based. Which means that everything we buy is made with a single use in mind. An aluminum soda can is made for soda and advertising, not for soda and then recycling. Cars are welded together so inextricably that they can’t be cannibalized at ‘death’ for strong steel to be used in other cars. We use deadly chemicals in everything.

After the problem come various solutions by earlier environmentalist movements: stop having kids (to kill consumer culture), regulate machines to death, allow industries to keep using scarce virgin resources but force them to use these at a slower rate and send the pollution ‘somewhere else’, protect whatever is left of the pristine at all costs-all growing from the conclusion that human industrial growth is morally wrong… What a depressing picture.

Finally, they offer the solution: get up and take the best of both worlds. Instead of recycling, ‘upcycle’. Make your processes and products so ecologically sound that they add to the environment instead of detracting from it ‘at all phases of their lifecycle’ (the authors actually did this in a Swiss textile mill). For the rest of the book, McDonough and Braungart share some ideas of how to apply this principle to different situations.

Pleasant writing style, innovative problem-solving, good book. Read it. Or just go read a bit off McDonough’s website, which’ll give you the book condensed and updated.

Caveat: If you are also a Christian and Creationist, you may find the frequent evolutionary theory references a bit heavy-or, as I did, a bit amusing. Particularly when coupled with frequent lessons from biology (go to the ant, anyone?). God’s world works better than anything humans can come up with, and only by imitating ‘natural processes’ can we insure our own continued survival? Well, who’d’a thunk???

On a lighter (or is it darker?) note, this book made me wonder if Cybermen read Malthus…

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