New Haven, Conn. -- Technology, traditionally seen as the enemy of the environment, is likely to be a positive environmental force in the 21st century. Not only will technology help feed 10-12 billion people inhabiting the planet, but it also is likely to be central to improving the overall quality of life, according to Thomas E. Graedel, professor at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Graedel, who teaches industrial ecology, is an expert in helping corporations find ways to bring new products to market with the least environmental stress. "The emerging field of industrial ecology, which sometimes is termed the science and technology of sustainability, focuses on development that is sustainable over the long term," Graedel said Feb. 13 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Philadelphia.
"Industrial ecology is not merely some feel-good movement, but a vital necessity in this time of concern about pollution hazards and finite natural resources," he said. "Indeed, it serves as the paradigm around which much industrial design and development activity centers. The word ecology implies that one should conserve and reuse resources of all kinds."
The industrial process has four central players: the materials extractor or grower, the materials processor or manufacturer, the user and the scavenger. To the extent that each encourages recycling of materials, the industrial process evolves into a more efficient operation that has less environmental impact and more closely resembles a balanced biological ecosystem, Graedel said.
He gave several examples of ways to design materials and products that do more with less and how to recover materials through recycling.
He also advocated techniques that make it possible to upgrade rather than
discard products. Specifically, he r
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