Redesigning Industry for a Regenerative Society

Our industries currently threaten most forms of life on Earth. ‘At present, global manufacturing and production processes consume more than 220 billion tons of resources annually, all taken from the Earth’s “natural capital” – oceans, forests, plants, plains, soils, mines, and all other aspects of biodiversity’, note the editors of Alternatives to Economic Globalization, put together by Jerry Mander. Our current form of accounting considers depletion of natural resources ‘beneficial to gross national product (GNP) and gross domestic product (GDP) because they are indicators of increased economic activity. In fact, they ought to be considered negative factors, because they decrease the long- term ability of societies to sustain themselves.’ The ecological damage, depletion of resources and toxic pollution generated by companies require massive clean-ups or remediation projects. Taxpayers rather than corporations generally end up paying the bills, as the health of the planet deteriorates.

The alternative is to make planned obsolescence obsolete. All goods should be made as durable, as long lasting, as possible. They should be designed so they can be easily repaired, not thrown out. Electronic devices should be made from components that can be replaced when necessary, when an upgrade comes along. All products should also be made in such a way that they don’t contaminate the Earth. After reducing toxic emissions to a minimum, we will seek to eliminate them entirely. Companies can be made responsible for their products over their entire life cycle and be legally bound to recycle and reuse all of their elements.  


Kingsley L. DennisDaniel, it seems we are still playing out the old industrial mindset which is a heavy, solid 'hardware' based model. My sense is that we are shifting toward more a 'software' based model where the product itself is not the main factor but the access, or the components. Maybe its not just a question of making goods more durable, but making them re-designable so they can be modulated...who wants a computer or TV thats durable and lasts for years (at a higher price) when you need to upgrade every 2 years just to have sufficient capacity for handle the increasing software upgrades? Rather, take the focus away from the 'item' itself - make it recycable so it can be traded in or re´-used: as more and more of our services go cloud-based, all we need are simpler items for accessing this, rather than more focus on more sophisticated devices. Bucky Fuller called this the trend of 'Etherealization' - moving from heavier forms of industry (hardware) to softer, more ethereal forms (software/access)....I discussed this in my book 'New Revolutions for a Small Planet' (Watkins Books, 2012)

Annie CharnleyCan the government make laws to make companies responsible for the longevity, re-usability and re-cycle-ability of their products? There's a shop in New York that has beer on tap so you can bring in re-usable bottles to get filled, which I think is a great idea. Recycling glass bottles uses a lot of energy, it would be better to re-use them. Maybe the government could tax a company if they on't create products that can be re-used or recycled or are modular? So they have an incentive to focus on helpful practices.

Michal StefanowWe have a choice:

For now - it's cheaper to throw away and buy new - £5 for a new shirt, £10 for ironing service...

Sometimes it's hard to dispute with economy. To change the economy... Voting with wallets is a very powerful choice!

Annie CharnleyThis is very positive. If only all companies could get on board with this, and the public voted with their wallets like you say. But the majority of consumers probably like things to be easy; greatest reward for the least effort.