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1.2 Sustainable Development and Environmental Sustainability

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towards, and about the route we have to take to arrive there. This image is based on quantitative information metering the reduction of resource consumption that will become necessary for all mature industrial societies in order to measure up to sustainability. In this way, we can estimate the extent of changes that in one way or another have to take place. It is widely known that the impact of human activities on nature depends on three fundamentals: population, demand for a better quality of life and technological eco-efficiency, i. e. how the metabolism of the production system is able to transform natural resources into the requested well-being5. Starting from here, while bearing in mind the growing population, as calculated, and the growing demand of the emerging and developing countries, as justified, the third parameter surfaces – technological eco-efficiency – with a rather impressive result: the sustainable requirements are realistic, but only if eco-efficiency is increased 10-fold. In other words: we can consider as sustainable only those production–consumption systems that employ 90% less material input per unit of service than is actually accounted for in contemporary industrial society6. This estimation is approximate, but nevertheless valid to show the magnitude of changes that have to be ensured. Here, a vision of a society emerges in which one has to know how to live, and also how to live well, using only 10% of resources employed today in industrial societies. It is evident that the whole production–consumption system of this sustainable society will profoundly differ from the one we know today, so different that no partial modification, no incremental innovation of employed technologies, no re-designing of the existing system can really bring us there7. The sustainable outlook thus calls into question the whole model of development. In future decades we must be able to move from a society in which wellbeing and affluence are measured by the production and consumption of goods, to one in which people live better consuming (much) less and where economic development produces fewer material goods. How exactly this passage can be undertaken is still unclear today, but certainly it entails a discontinuity that will touch every structural dimension: physical (material and energy flows) as well as economic and institutional (relations between social participants) together with ethical, aesthetic and cultural dimensions (criteria for 5

This relation can be expressed with the IPAT formula: Impact = Population × Affluence × Technology. Already in use in various ecological studies, it allows the estimation of different participants, especially the availability of goods and services (affluence) and the ecoefficiency of technologies (Ehelich, Erlich 1991). 6 Cf. works of the Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie and the Advisory Council for Research on Nature and Environment (especially The Ecocapacity as a challenge to technological development, a study funded by the Dutch government); of the Working-group on ecoefficiency, which was promoted by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (especially the final report Eco-efficient leadership, WBCSD, 1995, as well as in: Jansen, 1993; Schmidt-Bleek, 1993). 7 Cf. Von Weiszacker et al. (1997); Schmidt-Bleek (1993); Braungart and Englefried (1992); Charter and Tishner (2001), The authors of this book have mentioned it in different works, especially in Manzini and Vezzoli (2002).

Design for Environmental Sustainability  

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Design for Environmental Sustainability  

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