GOOD DESIGN IS ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY
I know the title of this post refers to the environment and how it relates to the design industry, but I'm not going to talk about how it relates to the design industry. You can see more about that in the post 'Design Is Long-Lasting", from August. Instead, I'm going to take this time to put in words my thoughts and feelings about our environment and how the mass majority of people have no understanding of what we're really doing to it. So, if you have an interest, follow along.
Everyone's ideas about environmental friendliness is different and this poses some dismal outcomes for our environment. When the people who cause negative impacts on the Earth aren't unified in their views about what causes those negative impacts, there will never be a way to turn those impacts into positive ones. First off, we have to face the facts that everything we put into mass-production, therefore mass-consumption, is absolutely terrible for the Earth. We are pulling way too many resources from the Earth to produce the item, then we have no way to break the item back down without using the same amount of consumption it took to create that item in the first place. And, yes, recycling is the exact same scenario. It requires far too much energy to break the item back down for it to be worth recycling. So, despite all of the efforts we've made to recycle, it is still terrible for the environment. Recycling is preventing the item from sitting in a landfill, waiting millennia to break down, but is instead pulling lots of energy from the Earth to turn that item into a reusable material. By recycling an item, it is essentially doubling the amount of energy it took to create it. So, you have two options, either recycle and pull 50% more energy from the Earth, or allow the item to lay in the landfill for forever; both terrible options. What we need is an option that breaks materials down for reuse, but pulls no energy from the Earth to do it. And, when I say 'pulls no energy', I don't mean placing the item in a bath of alcohol waiting for it to break down. That alcohol also takes tons of energy to create, not to mention the resources that are lost producing it.
There is always talk of retooling manufacturing facilities to produce more environmentally friendly products and materials. The part that no one ever talks about is what it takes to produce the new manchinery for those thousands of factories. The machinery needed to change all of our manufacturing would pull an unmeasurable amount of resources from the Earth to create, that we could never produce enough products from it to justify taking those resources in the first place. I don't want to talk about the financial hurdles or global hurdles or anything of that sort. Those topics are covered all the time over and over again. I want to focus on the unspoken. The things that product developers, factory owners, and global leaders are fully well aware of. Frankly, the things that prevent us from having the products that we don't think we can live without, all while keeping environmental impact to an extreme low. It's as simple as this: there is no way to pull resources from the Earth, use them in any way, and then return them to the Earth in the same form they were taken.
So, we're basically asking for magic here. And, as we all know, magic isn't real and if it is, we have a very long way to to go to discover it's real existence. So, what are our alternatives? Unfortunately, there is only one. That alternative is to stop the rise in population, accepting the hysteria that might be part of that and to stop producing products for mass-consumption. Yes, that means not producing cars, computers, toasters, boxed or canned foods..... basically everything. And this means, eventually, living as the Native Americans had for centuries. They had the environmental impact that we're all in search of.
I do realize this is virtually impossible for people to accept. But, it doesn't need to be accepted, it needs to be understood by all. Everyone needs to have an understanding of what we're all doing to the Earth, so that they can make their own personal choices to correct it, if they wish. If they're not educated, they have no capabilities to make decisions for themselves. It needs to be each, individual persons' choice to not take action. Then, in the end, you'll know that you only have yourself to blame for the mess you've gotten this Earth into.