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Cradle to Cradle

timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the integration dept.

Science 406

Logic Bomb writes: "Human progress since the Industrial Revolution has been one big design error. Really. In 'Cradle to Cradle,' architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart have crafted a compelling explanation for why humans need a completely new framework for how we interact with the world around us. Our model of technology and development is completely counter to the natural cycles and principles that worked for millions of years to create the environment we so cleverly manipulate. Sound like typical 'environmentalist' rhetoric? Not by half. This book actually contains reasonable explanations and practical solutions." Read on for the rest of Logic Bomb's review.

According to the authors, current human technology is a product of "cradle to grave" design. We pull resources from the Earth, shape them into a product, use it, and throw it away. The problem, we've noticed as we've spread all over the planet, is that there really isn't any "away." This is certainly not the first time our endless cycle of resource destruction and waste creation has been brought to light. But the whole point of this book is to show why the usual responses we've developed are useless, and what to do instead.

Consider the typical "recycling" program. What is presented to the public as a way to endlessly reuse raw materials is in fact a downward spiral of degradation in material quality until, just as before, it becomes unusable. Sometimes the recycling process itself produces additional toxic waste. Most Americans have probably heard of "the 3 Rs": Reuse, Reduce, and Recycle (to which the authors add a fourth, Regulate). These are measures that only aim to slow the destructive cycle. In the end, the result is the same. As the authors put it, Less Bad is No Good.

McDonough and Braungart's proposed strategy is called "eco-effectiveness". It revolves around the idea that in nature, waste equals food. Other than incoming energy from the sun, our environment is basically a closed system. Whenever (non-human) life on our planet uses a resource, it is left in a form readily useable to other life. Humans must do the same. The authors envision a world where, when a material item gets worn out, you simply throw it on the ground to decompose. Buildings should produce more energy than they use. Eliminate the concept of "waste" entirely.

The authors put their money where their mouths are. In 1994 they started a design firm that puts these principles into practice. Examples of their work are downright astonishing. The firm was once hired to design a compostable upholstery fabric. According to their principles, not only did the finished product have to be environmentally neutral, so did the production process. In the end, an entire line of fabrics was put into production using a total of 38 chemicals (selected from a list of almost 8,000 commonly used in the industry). Water leaving the factory, originally drawn from the local water supply, tested cleaner than when it went in. And the fabric, of course, could be readily disposed of by tossing it onto the ground where it would decompose back into the soil without leaving toxic chemicals behind. They include plenty of other cases that illustrate how eco-effectiveness can both improve the quality of life and make for a more profitable business.

We live in a complex world, and it is absurd to think that every product and production process could be converted to produce similar results overnight. What about items that consist of metals and other elements that organic life doesn't usually process? There is a whole section of the book to address such issues. The authors also go beyond pure chemistry and physical health to discuss how environment affects the intangible quality of human life, and how applying these same philosophies to architecture and urban planning can produce amazing results. Unlike many environmental advocates, McDonough and Braungart both acknowledge the difficulties and provide a clear path for reform. They include a framework for eco-effective planning and decision-making so their ideas can be implemented as much as is practically possible at any given time, always with an eye for continued improvement down the road.

The writing in this book is extremely clear and articulate. The authors provide explanations of their ideas from historical, scientific, and business perspectives. They even manage to rip apart typical corporate and environmentalist thinking without pushing blame on anyone. And of course, the book is far more detailed and comprehensive than I could cover in a short review. It's hard to read it and not come away convinced, and I think that's a good thing.

One final note for anyone thinking it hypocritical to waste trees so these ideas could be distributed: the book is not made out of paper or printed using a conventional process. It's plastic -- waterproof, resilient, eligible for recycling in most locales, and an early step towards what the authors hope will be infinitely recyclable synthetic book-making materials.

Links: McDonough's architectural firm; the design firm mentioned in the review; a webcast of NPR's National Press Club at which McDonough talked about their ideas far more eloquently than I have."



To go through your own hard times, you can from Crade to Cradle from bn.com Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to submit yours, read the book review guidelines, then hit the submission page.

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Don't you mean (-1)

L0rdkariya (562469) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645287)

Gumbel 2 Gumbel ?

Shit! I got beat! (-1)

CLIT (581942) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645314)

But only to L0rdKariya.

Almost like getting it myself.

Mad pr0pz!

Re:Shit! I got beat! (-1)

News For Turds (580751) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645353)

u r teh sux

Re:Shit! I got beat! (-1)

L0rdkariya (562469) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645356)

Props to the CLIT.
As R. Kelly says,

I'm that star up in the sky
Looking for that little girl
Hey I found her
She's the world's youngest

Re:Shit! I got beat! (-1)

L0rdkariya (562469) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645383)

Hey, I just realized that R. Kelly and Katz have something in common. I'll leave it up to you, the reader, to figure out what it is.

phuckphacethemadmadmotherphucker (-1)

News For Turds (580751) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645377)

"The Shithole", by News For Turds
Sung to the tune of "The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World.
Enjoy!

Hey, don't write that comment yet. [goatse.cx]
It's only on Slashdot you feel left out,
And looked down on.
Just troll your best.
Troll everything you can.
It doesn't matter if it's good enough,
For some A C.

Just join the CLIT
(little troll you're in the shithole)
Fill the page with shit
(everything everything)
Goatse will do the trick
(everything everything)
Crapflood will do the trick

Hey, you know they're all the same.
You know you're doing better while logged in,
So don't A C.
Troll right now.
And just be an ass.
And don't you worry what the moderators
Are gonna say.

Just join the CLIT
(little troll you're in the shithole)
Fill the page with shit
(everything everything)
Goatse will do the trick
(everything everything)
Crapflood will do the trick

(guitar solo)

(repeat first verse)

(repeat chorus)

Re:phuckphacethemadmadmotherphucker (-1)

L0rdkariya (562469) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645444)

I like it.

Re:phuckphacethemadmadmotherphucker (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3645504)

What? No tablutare?!

You biznatch.

Re:phuckphacethemadmadmotherphucker (-1)

k0osh.CEOofCLIT (582286) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645642)

stfu AC

Re:Don't you mean (-1)

cyborg_monkey (150790) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645582)

Human progress since the introduction of hot grits has been one big design error. Really. In 'Natalie: Naked and Petrified,' architect spork_testicle and chemist pr0n_k1ng have crafted a compelling explanation for why humans need a bowl of hot grits poured down our collective pants.

Our model of warm cereal is completely counter to the natural cycles and principles that worked for millions of years. Sound like typical 'troll' rhetoric? Not by half. This book actually contains reasonable homosexual references and pictures of sporky "gettin' it on" with a goat.

none given (-1)

Budgreen (561093) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645288)

yay a first post! I can finally go to bed

Re:none given (-1)

L0rdkariya (562469) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645315)

My bad, looks like you'll be awake a little longer.

FIRST SUBJECT LINE ONLY POST! W00T! (-1)

Subject Line Troll (581198) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645289)

A HREF="f/?a=1 x f

Score one for the CLIT!! (-1)

CLIT (581942) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645290)

And I invite all AC's to lick my scrotum.

Yes, but... (3, Interesting)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645312)

In 1994 they started a design firm that puts these principles into practice. Examples of their work are downright astonishing. The firm was once hired to design a compostable upholstery fabric. According to their principles, not only did the finished product have to be environmentally neutral, so did the production process. In the end, an entire line of fabrics was put into production using a total of 38 chemicals (selected from a list of almost 8,000 commonly used in the industry). Water leaving the factory, originally drawn from the local water supply, tested cleaner than when it went in. And the fabric, of course, could be readily disposed of by tossing it onto the ground where it would decompose back into the soil without leaving toxic chemicals behind.

Wonderful... but people aren't going to jump for it unless it costs the same or less. Look at how hard factories fight things like filters on smokestacks, because it'll raise prices a few cents per item.

Didn't here the E or T words.. (2)

xtal (49134) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645338)

Energy.. or thermodynamics.

I'd like to see an energy comparison on which process is more efficient and what the total energy consumption from each was - including, for example, all the energy used to make those chemicals in use.

The point these people miss is that it isn't raw materials and gargage that does us in. It's going to be the supply of energy.

Re:Didn't here the E or T words.. (4, Insightful)

OwnedByTwoCats (124103) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645399)

Why is energy an issue? We get lots of energy every day... from the sun.

It's the chemistry that's important; the material cycle must be closed.

I quibble with a couple of the reviewer's (or maybe the author's) points: life has not evolved so that waste products are inputs to other reactions; it's the other way around. Life has evolved to make use of whatever resources are available; frequently, another creature's waste is exploitable somehow. And recycled paper, even if it degrades, is still part of a closed cycle: eventually, someone or something burns (or metabolizes) the cellulose back to CO2 + H2O, and trees photosynthesize that back into "high grade" cellulose.

Anonymous Experiment (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3645441)

Buy the book from bestbookbuys.com and don't click on the link at the bottom of the story. bestbookbuys.com is a meta-comparison-deal finder site and slashdot won't see any cash from them for advertising this story.

replenishable energy (3, Interesting)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645513)

Why is energy an issue? We get lots of energy every day... from the sun.

actually, there is some evidence that oil reserves may be self replenishing [radiofreenation.net] if you wait a reasonable period of time.

The source would be microbes buried deep in the hot rocks of the earth.

Re:replenishable energy (0)

BabyDave (575083) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645653)

The source would be microbes buried deep in the hot rocks of the earth.


Unless it's just the fact that the oil and gas are under fairly high pressure underground (the gushing effect isn't just to make the whole thing Freudian, you know)

Re:Didn't here the E or T words.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3645515)

How do you know if they missed it? Stupid blanket statement -- read the book, why don't you?

These people haven't apparently already tried harder than you have -- recognize that before you go mouthing off.

Re:Didn't here the E or T words.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3645550)

Oops, Correction:

The people have apparently already tried harder...

Re:Yes, but... (2)

William Tanksley (1752) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645380)

Cost is a means of allocating scarce resources, as I'm sure you've heard. Some of this plan requires specific, scarce resources, and thus will raise costs; others, though, will effectively reduce scarcity in other resources, and will thus be useful to the people needing them.

The ethical part of the argument needs to be heard, of course; but pragmatically and immediately, this plan makes sense.

-Billy

Re:Yes, but... (5, Insightful)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645458)

The key solution to your proposed problem is to properly account for externalities like pollution and waste. It is cheap to use toxic chemicals in manufacturing because the manufacturer doesn't have to pay to dispose of the wastewater. They usually just dump it. The cost is payed by society as a whole. Obviously, if we had a way to account for the cost of this waste, the cost of the manufactured good would also increase.

People must understand the complete cost of their actions, as this book tries to point out. If you harvest a tree, you have gained some wood and removed from the world some habitat and a carbon sink. You should have to pay to harvest that tree, because a cost is incurred by society. The same principle applies to clearcutting 100 acres, except the cost is much greater. The same principle applies to polluting bodies of water, paving land, taking game, etc.

If you carefully consider my point, you will see that it actually fits best with libertarian free market philosophy. The market is the best system, but our current market is imperfect because it cannot account for externalities.

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3645624)

Not so much that our economic system cannot account for externalities, but does not or chooses not to account for them. It's inconvenient to industry.

Re:Yes, but... (1)

kiatoa (66945) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645486)

Costs are really the fundamental problem. That much I think a lot of folks would agree with. If only the costs reflected the real (and future) impact of using a resource. I think intelligently applying taxes could really help here. Raise all tax revenues by taxing only natural resources and land. Then when these guys make a compostable couch it will likely cost less than the one made from plastics that will last 100's of years in the local landfill. The other side effect of taxing only natural resources is that a lot of trash itself will be more valuable. Just my daily 2c.

waste == cost (1, Informative)

oogoody (302342) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645346)

Any waste produced means the you are being
inneficient with resources which means you
are losing money. This type of design can be
cheaper beacause it is far more efficient
in the use of resources.

WAY TO HIT "ENTER" AT THE END OF EACH LINE, IDIOT. (-1)

Subject Line Troll (581198) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645372)

A HREF="f/?a=1 x f

Re:WAY TO HIT "ENTER" AT THE END OF EACH LINE, IDI (1)

suffocate (90016) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645491)

I like your gimmick.

Re:waste == cost (1)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645386)

The process that's used to reclaim the resources may use more energy (and thus resources consumed elsewhere) than you reclaim. Can't get something from nothing...

Re:waste == cost (3, Insightful)

DennyK (308810) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645417)

Not really, in the way the authors are referring to waste. If a business producing non-biodegradable, disposable products, and sells 90% of the material the business produces, they wouldn't consider that waste, they would consider it profit. But that 90% will still end up in a landfill, accomplishing nothing, in a few weeks/months/years/whatever, and that is what the authors are referring to as "waste". If it cost twice as much to make those products environmentally friendly, what incentive is there for a business (whose primary goal is probably to make as much money as possible in the short term, remember) to take those steps, when all it does *for them* is reduce their profits and increase their costs?

DennyK

Re:waste == cost (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3645472)

Any waste produced means the you are being
inneficient with resources...


So does that mean a cork up your ass will make you more efficient?

Re:waste == cost -- Yet, but... (1)

Tune (17738) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645480)

I agree with your line of thinking wrt. an ideal global open market democracy.

Unfortunately, your argument only holds when the things you use cost what they cost. That is, if you don't pay an unreasonably low price for (raw or fabricated) products comming from third world countries and if don't burn fossile fuels at the rate we currently are simply because they are "cheap".

Inefficiency is really a relative thing when "cost" is as unbalanced as it is currently defined by the global currency markets.

That's what nature is all about (2)

Kris Warkentin (15136) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645499)

In McDonough's speech, he talks about this. Trees produce millions of flowers whose petals fall on the ground. It's not efficient, it's EFFECTIVE. To fit in with a prolific natural world, he argues that we should produce MORE but ensure that all of what we produce fits into the cycle - our waste becomes someone elses food.

Stunning News!Petrified Natalie Portman Sex Grits (-1)

IAgreeWithThisPost (550896) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645363)

(from Salon.com)

June 3, 2002 | Young "Star Wars" fans at a loss for what to do with their Padmé Amidala action figure might take a few tips from the woman behind Amidala, Natalie Portman herself.

Portman tells Rolling Stone magazine that, growing up, she had quite a collection of dolls and "I remember them being very sexual. I don't remember ever not having my dolls have sex with each other."

The actress says that, though all she knew how to do was rub her little dolls against one another, she did it constantly.

"All my dolls would get it on together," she says. "Even the Barbies would get it on with other Barbies, and the guys would get it on with each other."

In fact, she says, "My tub toys also had sex."

Glug, glug, glug ...

Props CLITS

dreaming... (1)

dikappa (581761) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645365)

...of fighting against thermodinamics laws... and winning.

I don't such things are possible. A building cannot produce more power than it uses. If you produce thermal power from chemical power (that is: you burn charcoal) you are pushing a degradation in energy.

one energy is degraded, there is no way back.

I'm not discussing the skills of the writer of the book, nor I'm saying there isn't a better way to handle the estract-mangle-use-throw cycle.

but we must use energy to do things, and once you used energy... you can reuse it a finited number of times.

obviously this does not apply to solar power :)

Re:dreaming... (4, Insightful)

LBrothers (583483) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645406)

But a building with a green top, that being trees, grasses, etc would help reduce ambient temperature caused by normal metallic/asphalt roofing materials. Furthermore rainwater falling on such a building could be used to at least flush toilets and water plants. Additionally there are new solar cells being constructed that could easily be incorporated onto new construction to help it reduce / eliminate its need for an electrical power grid. It doesn't seem that the authors are against progress or power grids, but they want to see more logic and thought go into creation processes. Rooftop gardens actually save the owners money over time (temperature regulation), but how often are they considered?

Re:dreaming... (2)

jms (11418) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645613)

But a building with a green top, that being trees, grasses, etc would help reduce ambient temperature caused by normal metallic/asphalt roofing materials.

You should take a look at the City of Chicago is doing with the roof of their City Hall [mcdonoughpartners.com] . Sadly, the greentop is being treated as a research project and is not open to the public.

Litter is advocated? (1, Troll)

ObviousGuy (578567) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645369)

These are not the environmentalist ideas we're looking for.

And no mention was made at all about how comfortable those eco-chairs were. How long could you use it before the upholstery wore out?

Greens need a better argument than this review intimates. How much regulation is necessary? What is the maximum negative economic impact allowable before environmental regulations must be curbed. Name industries where ecological improvements resulted in better revenues, or other tangible benefits.

Re:Litter is advocated? (2)

jmu1 (183541) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645428)

The way we have to view the whole situation is this: don't touch anything. If you regulate the life out of the various industries, then you will kill the economy, and we'll end up in a world somewhat like that which existed before the Industrial Revolution. If you don't touch anything, either the world will be destroyed, thinking will evolve toward a more gentile nature, or life on Earth will evolve. I can't speak for everyone, but I would much rather face the possibilities that would come of a non-regulatory state, than having the tyranny of an over-regulatory government be pushed down my throat. I believe the saying goes: "Give me Liberty, or give me Death!".

a non-regulatory state? (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645617)

..but I would much rather face the possibilities that would come of a non-regulatory state, than having the tyranny of an over-regulatory government be pushed down my throat.

You want a non-regulatory state?

Fine.

Let's start by getting rid of the laws that create land rights, mineral rights, water rights, and other state-granted exploitation of the planet.

And those laws that create limited-liability corporations should go out the window.

Finally, repeal the laws that prevent us from acting in reasonable self-defence when some greedhead poisons the water and air we all share.

Now, personally, I'm fine with that. I think we could come up with more co-operative means of resource allocation and economic organization, and a more gentle type of industrial development.

But you strike me as a capitalist sort of person, a big fan of a powerful state choosing and backing private concerns to control resources. In which case, we could keep all those laws and make sure that they're structured so that the artifical rights granted by the state to mess with the land don't let industry poison us.

Re:Litter is advocated? (2)

elmegil (12001) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645454)

Litter wouldn't be a problem if it decomposed anytime soon, now would it? Tree leaves in autumn, for example, are nature's litter. No mention is made in the review of the answers to your questions; however, I'd be really surprised if those issues aren't at least considered in the book, since they are, after all, so bloody obvious.

Re:Litter is advocated? (2)

Jeffrey Baker (6191) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645484)

What is the maximum negative economic impact allowable before environmental regulations must be curbed. Name industries where ecological improvements resulted in better revenues, or other tangible benefits.

Wow, those are really important issues. Let's phrase them another way:

What is the maximum negative environmental impact allowable before the economy must be curbed?

I think my version reads better.

Re:Litter is advocated? (1)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645536)

What is the maximum negative economic impact allowable before environmental regulations must be curbed

The entire framing of the issue that we normally use is off IMO. People tend to think that it is an intrinisic right to throw pollutants in the air. It is not. One would need to own the air to have that right, but all people share the air.

I'll give an example. Let's say I take a dump on the sidewalk in front of your house. Now I could go on and on saying that you don't have scientific proof that my dump has harmed you, but your response would probably be "To heck with you! Prove that you haven't hurt me. You took a dump on the sidewalk." So just have I have no right to take a dump on the sidewalk companies have no right to pollute the air.

However, we do live in a society in which people have been allowed to take dumps on the sidewalk for a long time and it will be hard to change.

I think the only realistic option is lots of R&D spending to come up with envoirnmental ways of doing things. We must make the search for new energy sources the new space program or we'll all die

Re:Litter is advocated? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3645606)

mike@hallock.net

This isnt quite true. In legal terms, which rules our society, the air is owned by the state. At least thats the argument used in many drug felonies involving canine units, which seems to go over just fine with our justice system.

Hmmmm... (3, Insightful)

Black Aardvark House (541204) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645370)

One final note for anyone thinking it hypocritical to waste trees so these ideas could be distributed:

Actually, I thought trees were a renewable resource, and when disposed of properly, paper can be biodegradable.

The only problem I see is the bleaching in some papers.

Re:Hmmmm... (3, Insightful)

DennyK (308810) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645440)

Trees are renewable, but it takes a *long* time to renew the amount of tree that goes in to a reasonably successful book printing run... ;)

DennyK

Re:Hmmmm... (1)

TweeKinDaBahx (583007) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645496)

Trees, if used properly ARE a renewable resource. However, the bulk of wasted trees has nothing to do with paper/lumber, but with the deforestation of the rainforest...

Since that's niether here nor there, let me move on...

The bleaching of paper does add chemicals to it, making it less likely to biodegrade in a useful way. So don't bleach the paper using harmful chemicals. There are many ways in which this can be accomplished, as Bandalier papers here in Santa Fe has demonstrated. Like with most things, binary or bilogical, there is always a better way...

Wow, a plastic book. (2, Insightful)

tg_schlacht (570380) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645373)

Finally someone makes a book it is safe to read in the bathtub.

I wonder how a plastic book would stack up against a paper book for longevity?

And just to keep on topic here, I think that looking at the way we manufacture things with an eye to increasing the potential for recycleability is a good thing. Landfill space is finite and we definitely don't want to wind up living in a sea of disposable diapers, plastic 6-pack holders, discarded hot-dogs and stale twinkies.

Re:Wow, a plastic book. (2, Insightful)

TweeKinDaBahx (583007) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645435)

Sure a plasitc book would be nice, but look at it this way:

Plastic (at least most plastics) do not biodegrade. There are exceptions to this, such as plastics made from corn/soy/(and if many people would pull thier heads out of their collective arses)hemp which can biodegrade.

Also, most plastics are petroleum based, so when the oil runs out, so does our gross overuse of plastic (back to the basic conservation of resources debacle...).

To make a general point, maybe we should be more concerned with auditing our resource usage and pollution than with creating a book one can read while wasting water by taking a bath.

(I'm just bitter because I live in a desert and people waste water which they shouldn't. These people in the hills with their lawns and swimming pools are going to be sorry when they have a pretty lawn but nothing to drink...)

Hmm... (3, Insightful)

TweeKinDaBahx (583007) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645382)

Maybe a book like this could get people who live in places like New Mexico to look at how we use our EXTREMELY limited resources.

Not to mention how wasteful the rest of the world is...

Now I don't want to come off as some Tree-Hugging Hippy, but there is a lot of substance to this whole conservation thing. Just look at LA. If they don't find another way of getting water, there are going to be a lot of thirsty people in the near future. (This is the case with much of the west/southwest US).

There is more to be said for clean technologies too. They may be more expensive to implement initially, but in the long run not only do they save money, you're saving the planet so future generations don't have to clean up you mess (fuel-cells and fusion anyone?)...

*Glares at the baby boomers...*

Re:Hmm... (2)

daviddennis (10926) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645528)

I live in LA, and the water tastes so bad I consume nothing but the bottled type. When I go to the market, there are about twenty different brands of the stuff, so I don't think I'm going to be thirsty anytime soon.

Smelly, maybe, but not thirsty. I believe that bathing and irrigation take up the bulk of water use.

D

You think the couch you have now is rotten... (2, Funny)

mrgrey (319015) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645387)

The firm was once hired to design a compostable upholstery fabric.

Just think of what your unwashed geek body would do to this one.

We only learn from disaster (4, Insightful)

Ars-Fartsica (166957) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645396)

People rarely change their behavior unless a clear signal tells them to do so in one discrete visible event.

The affects of environmental damage are incremental, so it will take an enlightened authority to force these changes on society.

Re:We only learn from disaster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3645413)

They are also largely made up by pressure groups whose funding depends on maintaining the fiction that any of this matters.

First Linux is Dying Post (-1)

Jon Katz on Tuesday (578508) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645407)

The following information requested it be free:

A conservative U.S. think tank suggests in an upcoming report that open-source s
oftware is inherently less secure than proprietary software, and warns governmen
ts against relying on it for national security.

The white paper, Opening the Open Source Debate, from the Alexis de Tocqueville
Institution (ADTI) will suggest that open source opens the gates to hackers and
terrorists.

"Terrorists trying to hack or disrupt U.S. computer networks might find it easi
er if the federal government attempts to switch to 'open source' as some groups
propose," ADTI said in a statement released ahead of the report.

Open-source software is freely available for distribution and modification, as l
ong as the modified software is itself available under open-source terms. The Li
nux operating system is the best-known example of open source, having become pop
ular in the Web server market because of its stability and low cost.

Many researchers have also suggested that since a large community contributes to
and scrutinizes open-source code, security holes are less likely to occur than
in proprietary software, and can be caught and fixed more quickly.

The ADTI white paper, to be released next week, will take the opposite line, out
lining "how open source might facilitate efforts to disrupt or sabotage electro
nic commerce, air traffic control or even sensitive surveillance systems," the
institute said.

"Computer systems are the backbone to U.S. national security," said ADTI Chair
man Gregory Fossedal. "Before the Pentagon and other federal agencies make unin
formed decisions to alter the very foundation of computer security, they should
study the potential consequences carefully."

Maybe I'm missing something, but... (3, Insightful)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645415)

And the fabric, of course, could be readily disposed of by tossing it onto the ground where it would decompose back into the soil without leaving toxic chemicals behind.

What's to stop the fabric from decomposing in my living room? It doesn't matter whether I leave a steak outside or in my living room, the steak is going to decompose.

What seems to be a missing point is durability. I would think that something that easily decomposes would be less durable than something that "lasts forever", almost by definition.

Re:Maybe I'm missing something, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3645485)

Aren't you going to throw it out in 5 years anyway? When it starts to look old and dull, and its not really the colour you want. Ever moved into a place with 15 year old carpets and decide that the first that should go is them?

Carpets, IMHO, should never last forever.

Re:Maybe I'm missing something, but... (2)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645502)

Aren't you going to throw it out in 5 years anyway? When it starts to look old and dull, and its not really the colour you want.

Well, you typically throw it out because of durability issues. I dont tend to recarpet my house just to change the color myself, although some may. The point is that if I had carpet that would last for 50 years without fading or wearing out, I'd buy it in a second.

Re:Maybe I'm missing something, but... (2)

Dirk Pitt (90561) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645621)

Well, buy wool carpet then. Preferably berber. Even thick pile wool carpet will last 30+ years. Berber would last 50 years standing on its head (so to speak), and it's biodegradable. Consider most natural fabrics will composte, it's just that we keep them clean enough inside that they don't. Of course, your avg code monkey like me can only afford the synthetic stuff ;-).

Re:Maybe I'm missing something, but... (2, Informative)

commonchaos (309500) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645572)

What seems to be a missing point is durability. I would think that something that easily decomposes would be less durable than something that "lasts forever", almost by definition.

Not really a departure from the status quo, fabric furniture nowadays still need to be reupholstered every decade or so.

Re:Maybe I'm missing something, but... (1)

fawcett (58045) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645604)

It would be nice if you could have the best of both worlds.

Perhaps your carpet would last indefinitely in your living room, but when it was time to toss it out, you could spray it with some enzyme that would eat the thing up and decompose it into non-toxic waste...

Re:Maybe I'm missing something, but... (1)

rfischer (95276) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645654)

If the environment in your living room is like "tossing it on the ground" you might be right, but in most normal living rooms, lack of sun, moisture, dirt, bacteria, etc. would probably slow the process.

Like animals? (2)

joib (70841) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645420)

So I should just drop down my pants and take a dump when and where I feel like it?

Re:Like animals? (1)

TweeKinDaBahx (583007) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645476)

Hey, everyone has a neighbor that walks thier dog by your house and from time to time the dog lays down a nice order of Aunt Fiodocia's Fiber loaf. So do it on your neighbor's lawn, it'll save them money and they won't have to use chemical fetilizers. Plus, it smell a lot worse when they step in it on they way to grab the paper. >:)

No. Yes. (1)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645493)

Yes, like animals. No, animals don't wear pants.

Re:No. Yes. (1)

TweeKinDaBahx (583007) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645526)

I bet they would if they could, PANTS RUEL!!! :D

Re:Like animals? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3645581)

What the hell do you mean, pants?

POUR HOT GRITS DOWN YOUR PANTS FUCKTARD!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3645623)

all you stupid faggots on slashdot are a bunch of freaking stupid moronic pieces of shit and should go jump off a fuckin cliff this paragraph doesn't mean anything its just tog et passt the filterz

BLACK POWER MOTHAFUCKA (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3645430)

Jesus was a Negro [naacp.org]

Praise be to the negro Jesus.

Amen, bros.

'environmentalist' rhetoric? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3645433)

"Sound like typical 'environmentalist' rhetoric? Not by half. This book actually contains reasonable explanations and practical solutions."

As does every 'environmentalist' book I've ever read. You are more of an environmentalist than you would like to admit.

Designer bugs (3, Funny)

bravehamster (44836) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645438)

. It revolves around the idea that in nature, waste equals food. Other than incoming energy from the sun, our environment is basically a closed system. Whenever (non-human) life on our planet uses a resource, it is left in a form readily useable to other life. Humans must do the same.


Personally, I think it would be easier (and much cooler!) to gengineer bugs that do eat our waste. Of course there is that whole risk of mutation and the bugs eating all the plastic around us, sending our civilization into chaos and disorder, eventually collapsing, but that always seems pretty cool in the books too. Then I can become a warlord and get my harem. Warlords get a harem, right?

Re:Designer bugs (3, Funny)

Apostata (390629) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645554)

*sigh* Yes, warlords get a harem.

The result of the cycle. (2)

Violet Null (452694) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645446)

These are measures that only aim to slow the destructive cycle. In the end, the result is the same.

Entropy wins again.

Engineering vs Engineering (2)

Telastyn (206146) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645453)

Everyone likes environmentally safe/clean engineering designs, but they are usually last on the list, and nearly never on the "need" portion of the list; very similar to how everyone likes secure software, but that feature is neearly never above usable, cheap, and quick.

Re:Engineering vs Engineering (1)

rfischer (95276) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645533)

Well, there's more to these ideas than can be brought out in a quick book review. An important point is that the economics of these eco-friendly strategies are usually better (for producer AND consumer) than the strategies they replace.

I believe one of the case studies was Nike. They designed an eco-friendly sneaker with a special sole material. As the sole wears, the wear particles can degrade naturally in the environment. The non-degradable upper part of the sneaker can be brought back to a Nike store for a trade-in on a new pair. Everyone wins.

Re:Engineering vs Engineering (1)

Telastyn (206146) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645663)

Though you'd also assume that writing secure software would be much more economically sound, as the company doesn't need to spend as much on patches. They wouldn't lose as much through bad pr. And god forbid, wouldn't need to spend as much on lawsuits if the software is that bad.

Re: usable, cheap, quick... (1)

Denny (2963) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645612)

...pick two.

(not mine, but I can't remember where I read it)

Regards,
Denny

grave to cradle? (-1, Troll)

tps12 (105590) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645457)

There are a few other possible approaches that can be taken with this. One depressing one is a "grave to grave" methodology: you start with a filthy, used-up world and let it stagnate. A better one could be called "grave to cradle."

Basically, you have to accept that you are starting with something bad. Face it, our forefathers were not omniscient, nor were they smart. We have no ozone layer, few trees, no more horned owls, global warmth, the list goes on. Now, just do the opposite of what people would do in the "cradle to grave" approach. Instead of building factories, tear them down. Instead of cutting down trees, plant some new ones. Replace your car with a horse and buggy, your GAP clothes with furs and skins, your television with books and sex. Instead of a Cold War, have a Cold Peace! Live backwards.

After a few generations, we will have restored Earth to its glory days.

While I will not address the eco-notions. . . (2, Insightful)

WhiteWolf666 (145211) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645459)

This is not how nature works. Nature is not a harmonious system where all waste is designed as "food". There is no intelligent design in nature. Rather, evolution uses fundamentally random changes, with negative modifications being discarded, and positive modifications being kept, through survival of the succesful. Efficency is important. Not minimal environmetal impact.


Environmetal impact only matters if it threatens the survival of the species. Thus, locusts can not do their thing unchecked. This is the same with most other species. There are checks and balances against everything. Except us, but if we can determine most environmental externalties and associate them with economic production costs, our economic system will 'weed' out net (environmental/economical) producers.


The Problem, of course, is correctly analyzing externalities. This is what needs more work, and even with more work, will probably prove impossible in some cases.

Not really original (3, Insightful)

pubjames (468013) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645464)


This review reads like a Wired article - "visionary thinkers with groundbreaking ideas set to revolutionize the world!", whereas in actual fact these type of ideas are fairly mainstream in some parts of Europe.

I don't want to start off a USA vs Europe thread, but it's true that in some countries in Europe (not all) the level of environmental awareness and recycling is extremely high in industry as well as the government and public spheres.

Re:Not really original (1)

fruey (563914) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645545)

I don't want to start off a USA vs Europe thread

Looks like you are trying to, really.

The USA was founded by a spirit of adventure and PROFIT at the expense of others. So were most other colonies. People didn't go there to be environmental, they went there to get rich and were ready to kill the natives if necessary.

The current administration scares the hell out of me. Look at all those conspiracy theories, even one about 9/11 now, that the Pentagon was not even hit by a plane but by a missile fired from short range (i.e. from the USA). Marilyn Monroe was assassinated. The truth is indeed much stranger than you think.

Re:Not really original (2)

pubjames (468013) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645592)

I don't want to start off a USA vs Europe thread

Looks like you are trying to, really.


No, I'm not f**king trying. Jeeze. You can't even make a simple comment pointing out something positive about Europe in comparison to the USA without it being modded as Flamebait and getting responses like yours.

Re: Re:Not really original (1)

tg_schlacht (570380) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645627)

The truth is indeed much stranger than you think.

While the truth may be much stranger than you think, in most cases your thinking is much stranger than the truth.

yeah well... (1)

D0wnsp0ut (321316) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645498)

Eliminate the concept of "waste" entirely.

This post stored using recycled bits and rendered using recycled pixels.

It's all Human Nature (5, Insightful)

fruey (563914) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645508)

Buy now, pay tomorrow. Do now, pay tomorrow... procrastination and put off until tomorrow.

Anyone earning large amounts of money exploiting other people, materials, chemicals that are bad for the environment... they're all doing it

Anyone consuming the cheapest product, without any care for production... they're doing it

Nobody calculates the REAL cost of anything any more. Look at the dot com crash. Before that there were investors buying in to exploration trips on ships that would never get a crew and sail. It comes back again and again.

This book sounds like a great read. Will you read it? Probably not. Will you buy more expensive, eco friendly stuff? Probably not.

And who is most to blame? World leaders. Corruption. You name it. But the only person you can really blame is yourself. For that, indeed, is the only thing you can really change.

Global attitudes have to change. These things are possible. Stop chasing the money dragon, and get into a more zen life.

Or you could just say bollocks to it, and get run over by a bus tomorrow... you can't be a finite being in a (to all intents and purposes) infinite world and still contribute to the greater good, really, can you?

He is a lot of hype (0)

Mastedon (156598) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645520)

I took several classes under Mcdonough when I was an undergrad engineering student at UVA.

He is a good spokesperson for the green design movement...but most of the ideas are not his own. He gets a lot of credit repeating other people's ideas, because he is a very charismatic evangelizer for the movement.

If you delve deeper, there is not mnuch original thinking there, even though he gets a lot of press.

Closed system??? NOT!! (2)

RobertAG (176761) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645530)

From the write up...

"Other than incoming energy from the sun, our environment is basically a closed system."

You can't just discount the sun's influence when describing the earth. The sun drives photosysthesis, the production of ozone, climate, evolution of species, etc. These are hardly minor events and only happen because of the virtually inexhaustable, free energy we get. If earth WAS a closed system (ie no parent star), then the only energy to work with would be that produced by lunar tidal effects. In that case, you'd only get enough energy for simple organisms such as bacteria (if that).

Also...

"Eliminate the concept of "waste" entirely.
The authors put their money where their mouths are. In 1994 they started a design firm that puts these principles into practice. Examples of their work are downright astonishing. The firm was once hired to design a compostable upholstery fabric. According to their principles, not only did the finished product have to be environmentally neutral, so did the production process."

Excuse me, but how much MORE energy was spent to make the production process neutral? Sure, you get "clean" by-products, which is an admirable accomplishment. But you had to use more energy to drive the pollution prevention measures (ie at the water treatment plant). Somewhere, a power plant produced a little more electricity to do this and as a result, a little more toxic waste (from the power plant) was released. Sure the production process is enviromentally friendly, but it's NOT a free lunch. There is ALWAYS waste somewhere.

Human Instrumentality (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645538)

This seems like a good place to promote Human Instrumentality [google.com] again.

World Summit for Sustainable Development (4, Informative)

Denny (2963) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645544)

There is a world summit coming up (a 10 years later follow-up to the Rio Summit) in which many issues related to this topic will be discussed.

I've been working as a contractor on a website project recently for a UK university. The site uses the Slash code, and is aiming to focus discussions between special interest groups in the time before the summit (groups like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, etc).

The site is called Earth Summit for All [open.ac.uk] , and there is quite a lot of background information there relating to sustainable development in general and the summit in particular, as well as the discussions powered by the Slash software which are only just starting to take shape...

Regards,
Denny

Homer Simpsons puts it best: (3, Funny)

Anomolous Cow Herd (457746) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645546)

Buildings should produce more energy than they use.

In this house, we OBEY THE LAWS OF THERMODYNAMICS!

Did anyone mentioned to these guys... (1)

TheFalken (90520) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645552)

... thermodynamics ? Esp. the bit about entropy, and it always increasing ?

My Couch (2)

JMZero (449047) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645583)

Is made out of leather, wood, and cotton (and some little metal bits, but not a significant amount).

Am I an enviro-God?

Are couches really the pinnacle of achievement in terms of bio-safety? Wouldn't a naturally produced, biodegradable television be a little more impressive?

This book is aimed at /. readers (2, Interesting)

ciaohound (118419) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645591)

Damn, I wanted to review this book. Oh well, I'll just say that while anyone can enjoy reading it, it is clearly aimed at the designers of products, not merely at consumers. The whole premise is that we can't solve the problem by just consuming less -- we need products that behave as nature does.

Take textiles. Many textiles contain unwanted materials such as heavy metals or pesticides, what the authors refer to as "products-plus". Why are they included with the product? Did you the consumer ask for them? Such products can't be safely decomposed or recycled. The only safe place for them is a landfill (hence the term cradle-to-grave). Take the long, long-term view and it is clear that, if this cradle-to-grave model continues, we'll fill the planet with landfills.

However, if you model the product on nature, then the waste from the textile production process and end-of-life product itself can be used safely as mulch: cradle-to-cradle. The challenge for the designers is to distinguish the biological nutrients from the technical nutrients, and provide a way for these nutrients to be reused, the way nature reuses them. This is not hypothetical: the authors provide many examples of companies that are doing this type of work.

If you are a scientist, engineer, or designer, you will need to be familiar with the techniques these guys espouse. The MBA's willl need to recognize the value of this approach, but it's up to the designers to select the materials and techniques that achieve the results.

Also, I was very impressed with the example the authors provide of Bill Ford at Ford Motor Company. He is transforming the ancient River Rouge plant into a model of these principles, and saving as much as $35 million in the process.

In short, this is a really thought-provoking book.

Should we still recycle? (1)

linderdm (127168) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645594)

I haven't read the book, so I don't know if they mention this or not. Since they say that recycling is not the answer and is bad, should we stop doing it, or continue to recycle what we can, in the meantime, until the "real" solutions present themselves and become commonplace and economically feasible?

other complementary books (1)

mlas (165698) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645597)

I haven't read this book, but I'll certainly keep an eye out for it. However, for anyone who read the words "how environment affects the intangible quality of human life" and nodded in agreement, I'd like to point out the excellent "A Pattern Language" (Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, et al., Oxford Press 1977), which identifies the bits of a building and its surroundings that connect us to the world, from the placement of windows to the optimal width of sidewalks. After reading this book, it's hard to drive past a newly-sprouted field of designed-in-a-vacuum McMansions without seeing how ridiculously unnatural they are.

And for a lighter look at how we got here, "From the Bauhaus to Our House" by Tom Wolfe is a great (admittedly skewed) history of 20th century architecture, and how Socialist model housing of the 1920s became the signature style of international corporations by the 1960s.

Both of these books are ostensibly about architecture, but I keep coming back to them as general design touchstones when I need to remember that the stuff I'm making (programming, teaching, designing) has to be about people and interactions, not just stuff.

similar to operating systems? (1)

tps12 (105590) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645610)

The "cradle to grave" way of living reminds me of Windows, while "cradle to cradle" sounds more like open source. Any thoughts?

What foolishness... (1)

mprinkey (1434) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645629)

Non-biodegradeable this and that. We need to recognize something. We as a species will almost always do what is easiest, cheapest, and most directly to the purpose. One hundred years ago, most things were made out of wood, because it was readily available and it was fairly cheap to process. Fifty years ago, everything was made out of steel because it was readily available and cheap to process. Now, everything is made out of plastic because...you get the idea.

In the future, oil reserves will diminish. We will need to adjust our modes of production and our supply lines. This goes for consumer goods, for food, and for energy. It is all part of the economic optimization process. *That* is the fundamental principle that has been at work in the rise of nature and human civilization. As a working engineer, I know that it takes effort and know-how to build a reasonably efficient design process that minimize costs and maximizes operational efficiency and still conforms to the current emissions requirements. Adding further constraints to that engineering process will come at some cost in quality or availability. In an economic reality, this stuff will just cost more.

The most telling point is the institution of the "fourth R." Regulation. Yep, more regulation is the key. That will guarantee that the "environmentalist" teet doesn't dry up for they can retire. We need better engineered systems that do their utmost to optimize system efficiency and minimize costs.

</rant>

Usual Ishmael Plug (0)

hoover (3292) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645655)

If you would like to attack that problem at an even deeper level, please go and read the award-winning novel "Ishmael" [ishmael.org] by Dan Quinn.



It's the best explanation of "how things came to be this way" within our global culture I have read so far, and his logic and reasoning is very interesting.



If you've ever wondered how "humanity" as we like to call ourselves (but only the members of our culture) came from a relatively stable population to the brink of a global collapse within just 500 generations, then this book is for you. From glacial growth to exponential growth.

humans are nature (1)

avandesande (143899) | more than 12 years ago | (#3645660)

Humans do nothing that breaks the laws of nature. A skyscraper is no less 'natural' than a termite mound.
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