Article

The rationale for and economic implications of dematerialization

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Abstract

A number of recent reports (e.g. IPCC 2007; MEA 2005) have suggested that the level of human population combined with the scale and nature of human economic activities are putting excessive, unsustainable pressure on natural systems. This is not the place to explore the physical science basis of these assessments in detail, but the basic conceptual model that they imply is, following Daly 1992, as in Figure 15.1. This suggests that the biosphere provides three kinds of function to human populations and economic activities: source functions, through the provision of energy and material resources of different kinds; sink functions, whereby land, water and air receive the waste materials and energy from human activities; and ecosystem services such as ozone shielding, climate stability, and many others, which together make the Earth, unlike like planets of which we are aware, habitable for humans. The biosphere is powered by solar energy, some of the heat from which is re-radiated into space. The human economy is currently mainly powered by fossil fuels.

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... Allwood et al. (123) emphasize that large opportunities for reducing material demand through material efficiency lie particularly in longer-lasting products, modularization and remanufacturing, component reuse, and designing products with less material requirements. Regarding the impacts on economic costs and growth potentials, the decoupling hypothesis claims that in the short term there are many cost-effective opportunities for greater resource efficiency that will offset, wholly or partially, any costs incurred in this decoupling (120,124). ...
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Thesis
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Chapter
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