Article

Success and Its Price: The Institutionalization and Political Relevance of Industrial Ecology

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  • Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
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Abstract

As industrial ecology (IE) solidifies conceptually and methodologically, and as it gains visibility and legitimacy in academia, industry, and government, it is important that the IE community periodically evaluate the status of its emerging institutional arrangements. At the same time, industrial ecologists should assess the political relations developing between the field and the larger world. We analyze four institutional criteria: professional legitimacy, viable clientele, entrepreneurial acumen, and occupational opportunities, as well as a more controversial fifth measure-political relevance. Drawing a comparison with the field of ecology, we argue that efforts to foster IE institutionally can, ironically, conflict with the objective of seeing IE become “the science and engineering of sustainability”. The article concludes by reflecting on the importance of this kind of critical appraisal and on why many observers of the field remain hopeful.

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... 7 The remaining 7% of all environmental organizations in the United States comprises groups dedicated to reform environmentalism, environmental justice, and ecofeminism (from here on referred to as anti-pollution). 8 While a portrayal of American environmentalism at this comprehensive scale is broadly informative, it is at the same time quite limiting because it fails to acknowledge that most of these organizations are too weak and underfunded to have any measurable impact on policy outcomes. From this standpoint, it is more useful to focus attention on those groups that command a sizeable cadre of members and a relatively steady stream of revenue. ...
... 19 Responsibility for the current situation is not solely attributable to a lack of initiative on the part of major environmental organizations. For instance, Cohen and Howard [8] describe how industrial ecologists have not been especially forthcoming in reaching out to environmentalists and a similar situation exists with regard to green chemistry [50]. ...
... Author's calculations based on data in Brulle[4].8 Brulle[4] also identifies environmental organizations that reflect an outwardly religious orientation-so-called ecotheological groups-as constituting an independent strand of contemporary American environmentalism. ...
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... According to Cohen and Howard [24] the degree of institutionalization of a concept is determined by the following conditions: professional legitimacy, viable clientele, entrepreneurial acumen, and prospective occupational opportunities. ...
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... It has been claimed that the difficulties of implementing industrial ecology on the grassroots level result largely from a lack of social legitimacy and poor political embedding (Lifset 2005;Cohen and Howard 2006). The numerous studies puzzling over the difficulty of replicating the Kalundborg industrial ecosystem illustrate the challenges of overcoming contextual differences in implementation. ...
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Michael Soulé’s Conservation Biology helped institutionalize a scientific discipline founded upon normative principles. Maintaining that biodiversity possesses intrinsic value, Conservation Biology promoted the task of providing mechanisms and influencing policy which would allow for the preservation of that diversity. As such, the discipline quickly became the darling of many environmentalists who saw this scientific field as possessing the best of both worlds: the technical acumen and political power of science along with the ethical foresight of environmentalism. Negotiating between those two worlds, however, has not been easy. Today, the foremost challenge facing conservation biology remains balancing scientific legitimacy with political efficacy. Conservation biology also must be careful not to use “nature” to seal off debate on what constitutes the proper role of humans. As such, Soulé’s daunting task still remains worth pursuing.
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The purpose of this feature is to introduce activists and organizational and environmental scholars to a relatively unknown segment of the early American conservation movement. The authors focus on the period around 1900, a time in which birds were being slaughtered at an alarming rate, in part to supply milliners who used plumes and other bird parts to decorate women's hats. These practices led to a grounds well of opposition that eventually turned the tide in favor of bird protection and appreciation. They also formed a foundation for today's activism on behalf of beleaguered birds. One of the key figures leading this movement was Mabel Osgood Wright. Wright is only now beginning to receive the recognition she deserves, as is the case for many women of this era who made major contributions to the conservation movement. The authors highlight three major projects to which Wright devoted her energy (the early Audubon Society, children's nature writing and education, and the Birdcraft Sanctuary) and discuss them as institutional manifestations of the early conservationists' birdloving philosophy. The authors also reprint three of her important publications. The authors believe that the reprints provide relevant insights for contemporary environmental protection and organizing.
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In this paper we address some potential difficulties ecological economics (EE) might be confronted with in its further development. EE has evolved with intent to tackle the urgent problems human society faces today, in particular the ones related to environmental and ecological issues. To deal with such problems, a new concept of science different from disciplinary, normal science seems to be necessary. We will present post-normal and mode-2 science as two examples of such a concept. The importance of this new concept does not lie in the fact that it provides a new framework for knowledge production. Rather, it lies in the fact that the set of values behind it can be seen as a ‘regulative principle’, i.e., as a collection of ideas and principles with the potential to guide the actions and attitudes one takes with respect to the urgent problems in a transparent way, helping to become aware of and making explicit one's own normative assumptions. EE can be seen as one manifestation of this regulative principle. On the other hand, it is increasingly developing into a normal science with its special set of institutions, what endangers it's status of being mode-2. Besides EE, there are other frameworks that try to set up sort of a ‘sustainability science’. It is important to integrate all these initiatives in some way, at least on an abstract level. Otherwise the conception of a ‘new mode of science’ dealing with sustainability becomes as inflationary as the term ‘sustainability’ itself and the discussion of this concept may go on without leading to any conclusion. It is not necessary and effective to employ too many resources being engaged in the discussion of the status of a ‘sustainability science’, however defined. What counts is to take actions and to try to solve these pressing problems—whatever label may be given to such processes—and to be engaged in a open-minded and self-reflecting way, aware of one's own system of values, shortly, according to the regulative principle given by the values behind mode-2 science.
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Many industrial waste streams contain valuable resources and are suitable for use as raw materials. Identifying specific potential uses for waste streams will require detailed studies in the emerging field of Industrial Ecology (see Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 1992). Waste streams from a range of industrial sectors must be compared to the raw materials and process streams used in other sectors and the tools of systems engineering should be applied to identify optimal linkages of industrial processes. Significant regulatory and technological barriers must be overcome to advance Industrial Ecology, but if we are to meet the goals of Resource Conservation and Recovery implied by the title of our primary industrial waste statute, a multi-sector system view is essential.
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This paper presents a critical appraisal of developments in research and application in the field of industrial ecology. On its inception around a decade ago, the concept derived great strength from drawing on the metaphor of the natural ecosystem, build- ing on the work of theoretical ecologists, which this paper discusses briefly. Industrial ecologists early on sought to provide advice on problems met in restructuring the socioeconomic system as a whole by using the metaphor of a dynamic natural system comprising producers, consumers and recyclers that can exhibit pioneering and climax phases. Over the next ten years, as industrial ecology attained more widespread interest as a field with potentially policy-relevant research, a gradual shift away from those aims occurred. The industrial system, only a subset of the socioeconomic system, became the object of observation. The aim of achieving sustainable systems as a whole, it is maintained in this paper, was dropped in favour of analysing individual material flows, and an individualistic perspective supplanted the systemic and holis- tic perspective. The reasons for and consequences of this development are briefly explored, and suggestions are made for further industrial ecological research that upholds the whole-systems perspective necessary for a sustainable socioeconomic system. ● Industrial ecology ● Natural ecosystem metaphor
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The fight over whether the U.S. government is warping science for political ends escalated last week with new charges leveled at the Bush Administration.
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A new interdisciplinary field is facing growing pains.
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Can the industrial way of life be maintained without exhausting resources, generating unmanageable amounts of waste and poisoning the environment The paper discusses how wastes from one industry can serve as the raw materials for another, thus providing an industrial ecosystem characterized by dematerialization and closed-system manufacturing. The paper uses three examples to illustrate an industrial ecosystem: the conversion of petroleum derivatives to plastics, the conversion of iron ore to steel, and the refining and use of platinum-group metals as catalysts.
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In the 10 years since industrial ecology first became a topic of academic interest, it has grown as a field of inquiry and has pro-duced a community of practice in several sectors including academia, business, and government. Even as the shape of industrial ecology becomes clearer, questions remain as to its lasting power beyond the metaphor that gave it its distinctiveness. This paper examines the development of industrial ecology and assesses its progress towards becoming a field of academic inquiry. And, in a related analysis, I look at the progress industrial ecology has made in establishing itself as an institutional (cultural) basis for action in the above sectors. Ideas like industrial ecology must become institutionalized if they are to have much effect on the reality of everyday activities.
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In this paper we address some potential difficulties ecological economics (EE) might be confronted with in its further development. EE has evolved with intent to tackle the urgent problems human society faces today, in particular the ones related to environmental and ecological issues. To deal with such problems, a new concept of science different from disciplinary, normal science seems to be necessary. We will present post-normal and mode-2 science as two examples of such a concept. The importance of this new concept does not lie in the fact that it provides a new framework for knowledge production. Rather, it lies in the fact that the set of values behind it can be seen as a 'regulative principle', i.e., as a collection of ideas and principles with the potential to guide the actions and attitudes one takes with respect to the urgent problems in a transparent way, helping to become aware of and making explicit one's own normative assumptions. EE can be seen as one manifestation of this regulative principle. On the other hand, it is increasingly developing into a normal science with its special set of institutions, what endangers it's status of being mode-2. Besides EE, there are other frameworks that try to set up sort of a 'sustainability science'. It is important to integrate all these initiatives in some way, at least on an abstract level. Otherwise the conception of a 'new mode of science' dealing with sustainability becomes as inflationary as the term 'sustainability' itself and the discussion of this concept may go on without leading to any conclusion. It is not necessary and effective to employ too many resources being engaged in the discussion of the status of a 'sustainability science', however defined. What counts is to take actions and to try to solve these pressing problems */whatever label may be given to such processes */and to be engaged in a open-minded and self-reflecting way, aware of one's own system of values, shortly, according to the regulative principle given by the values behind mode-2 science. # 2002 Published by Elsevier Science B.V.
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In recent years, governments throughout the world have expressed growing interest in cooperative approaches to environmental protection, including negotiated rulemaking, flexible approaches t o enforcement, and voluntary codes and agreements. It is often argued that cooperative approaches are more cost effective, more conducive t o innovation, and better able t o promote fundamental attitudinal change than traditional “command and control” regulation. However, the overly broad term “cooperative approaches” fails t o acknowledge fundamental differences among these novel po I icies, including distinct ions between mandatory and voluntary programs and between those that involve bipartite negotiations between government and business and those that invite participation by a broader range of interests. This article analyzes these cooperative approaches first by offering a framework to distinguish among various cooperative policy instruments. Second, the article critically examines theoretical arguments and empirical evidence concerning one class o f cooperative approaches, voluntary challenges and agreements. The most striking finding is how little we know about the effectiveness of voluntary approaches. This is a function not only of the quite recent experience with these approaches, but also of more fundamental inattention t o program evaluation and obstacles to evaluation inherent in voluntary programs. The article concludes with a call for a more rigorous program of research to examine the effectiveness of the new policy instruments and t o compare them with traditional regulation and market-based incentives.
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Although industrial ecology represents a captivating metaphor and rich repertoire of analytical tools, its impact on environmental policy has been marginal at best. This article examines the insights provided by the studies of three common materials in the US. economy-lead, arsenic, and silver-and the abilrty of such studies to illuminate some larger and looming challenges for future environmental policy. Three specific challenges are explored: the flow of materials across national borders, the increasing embodiment of emissions in products, and the dangers of unchallenged assumptions about the drivers of material flows. The article argues that industrial ecology can inform public policy but that it is time for the practitioners of industrial ecology, an applied science, to apply it in the often messy world of environmental policymaking.
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This multiple-case study, which combined diverse data collection methods, evaluated the impacts of waste policy instruments on 14 mainly large Finnish industrial companies in the 1990s. The management response to waste policy in the firms appeared to be small and most of the interviewees felt that the primary pressure to upgrade environmental performance came from their customers. The waste policy instruments were not considered to have contributed to waste prevention in the case companies. In contrast, the recovery and safe final disposal of wastes had developed favourably. In order to promote the source reduction of waste, the scope of policy should be drastically shifted from waste management to society’s overall cycles of materials and products.
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396 p., graph., ref. bib. : 28 p.1/2 In this groundbreaking paradigm for the economy, three leading business visionaries explain how the world is on the verge of a new industrial revolution, one that promises to transform our fundamental notions about commerce and its role in shaping our future. Over the past decade many farsighted companies have begun to discover remarkable opportunities for saving both money and resources through the ingenious application of novel technologies and business practices. Consider the following. The automobile industry is undergoing a transformation that will spell the end of the petroleum industry and a shift away from traditional car models to Hypercars"―fuel cell-powered vehicles that would be both lighter and safer, produce negligible pollution, cost both the producer and consumer less, and have fuel efficiencies as high as 200 miles per gallon. : New houses designed with heat-trapping "super-windows" can remain cool in temperatures as high as 115° F with no air conditioner and warm at - 47° F with no furnace, and cost less to build. Atlanta-based Interface Corporation is shifting from selling carpeting to leasing floor-covering services, using a new material that's more attractive, requires 97 percent less material, is cheaper to produce, and is completely recyclable. Today's best techniques for using wood fiber more productively could supply all the paper and wood the world currently requires from an area about the size of Iowa. In the long-anticipated new book by Paul Hawken and Amory and Hunter Lovins, these durable, practical, and stunningly profitable principles are synthesized for the first time into the foundations for a system called natural capitalism. With hundreds of thousands of copies of their works in print worldwide, the authors are leaders in set-ting the agenda for rational, ecologically sound industrial development, and in Natural Capitalism they have written their most significant and genuinely inspiring work. Traditional capitalism, they argue, has always neglected to assign monetary value to its largest stock of capital―namely, the natural resources and ecosystem services that make possible all economic activity, and all life. Natural capitalism, in contrast, takes a proper accounting of these costs. As the first step toward a solution to environmental loss, it advocates resource productivity-doing more with less, wringing up to a hundred times as much benefit from each unit of energy or material consumed. Natural capitalism also redesigns industry on biological models that result in zero waste, shifts the economy from the episodic acquisition of goods to the continual flow of value and service, and prudently invests in sustaining and expanding existing stores of natural capital. Drawing upon sound economic logic, intelligent technologies, and the best of contemporary design, Natural, Capitalism presents a business strategy that is both profitable and necessary. The companies that practice it will not only take a leading position in addressing some of our most profound economic and social problems, but will gain a decisive competitive advantage through the worthy employment of resources, money, and people.
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How science "gets done" in today's world has profound political repercussions, since scientific knowledge, through its technical applications, has become an important source of both economic and military power. The increasing dependence of scientific research on funding from business and the military has made questions about the access to and control of scientific knowledge a central issue in today's politics of science. In The New Politics of Science, David Dickson points out that "the scientific community has its own internal power structures, its elites, its hierarchies, its ideologies, its sanctioned norms of social behavior, and its dissenting groups. And the more that science, as a social practice, forms an integral part of the economic structures of the society in which it is imbedded, the more the boundaries and differences between the two dissolve. Groups inside the scientific community, for example, will use groups outside the community—and vice versa—to achieve their own political ends." In this edition, Dickson has included a new preface commenting on the continuing and increasing influence of industrial and defense interests on American scientific research in the 1980s.