Co-existence : Technology and Environment

Can nature and industry coexist? Can there be some cohesion between biosphere (cycle of nature) and technosphere (cycle of technology)? Yes, it is very much possible. Community involvement and stakeholders participation while formulating workable solutions create an ecosystem of trust and better corporate governance. Environment friendly solutions and smart use of resources create wealth for the society. A parking system with solar panels which are connected to smart grids solves the problem of parking for sure but create wealth while solving a problem.

Nature in its existence is extravagant in terms of its diverse and novel creations. As humans are also the reflection of nature, thus the signature of this extravagant gesture could be seen in human industry. Instead of just creating a piece of cloth humans created garments for every occasion, not just shelter but an abode which is beautiful, protective and dependable yet catering to local needs. Human ability to create and imagine led to commerce and systems that are heartbeat of cities and towns and have reverberated through centuries.

Those thriving market places and other human creations need not be sacrificed at the altar of environmental conservation. Rather interdependence and system designed can be created to cater to co-exist with natural world.

Thinking environmental protection and sustainability vis-à-vis production and consumption of goods as a zero-sum game is a fallacy. Cosmetic remedies like “reduce, reuse and recycle”, ‘producing more with less”, “minimize wastage” etc are admirable attempt but are not addressing the root of the problem. It is a kind of brute-force approach which is blind to the flaws in the system design. These tactics are more meant to make people feel “less bad”. But we cannot end consumerism and ask people to live in jungles.

While industry reels under the pressure of regulations and compliances the effect on ground zero remains minimal. It gets license to do environmental harm by feeling less bad. But the problem remains same for sometime and an unsolved problem bounces back overcoming previous solutions.

Blaming human consumption for environmental damage is over simplification of the problem. Nature itself is industrious, productive and effective if not efficient. And a design in accordance with nature can address the issues faced by modern industries and may help in their reconciliation.

Can nature and industry coexist? Can there be some cohesion between biosphere (cycle of nature) and technosphere (cycle of technology)? Yes, it is very much possible. In nature there is no wastage. Like a tree with abundant fruits where some fall to the ground and nourishes the soil which in turn reaches back to the tree, we see a closed loop of cradle to cradle. In the same way industry can manufacture products which are not cradle-to-grave where the excess and the residue goes to landfills or for incinerations. We are not talking about dematerialization where the goals is to minimize the resource usage. We are talking about products as services where they are not outdated. There is no recycle or downsizing. Customers after enjoying technological services will sell the product back to the manufacturer and its parts will be used in creating higher technological advance.

Here we see all the parts and peripherals which comprises the product as nutrients nourishing the soil and coming back to the tree.  This is a departure from conventional industrial mindset and tectonic shifts has already taken place. A packaging material which is bio-degradable returns the nutrient to the soil. A textile which is a biological nutrient which is safe enough to be edible. It is continuous innovation and production rather than mere maintenance and renewal.

A eco-friendly building which is sun-lit and harvests rainwater reduces the burden on environment. A company landscape comprising of native grass and vegetation caters to natural species diversity while also increasing the beauty of the office. An ambient office environment with natural highlights unlocks more productivity for the workers. They don’t feel trapped in a corporate prison serving their sentence, rather they feel happy and less stressful thus leading to higher productivity. Setting up plants and manufacturing far away from industrial rust zones has been an innovative step taken by Ford Motors.

In terms of global perspective: globalization, internationalization, global system of uniform rules and increasing importance of relations and trade between nations has opened a new paradigm which in itself is dynamic.

While internationalization promotes and outlines the identities of nations while globalization unifies them into a single identity. In terms of design perspective, a global system of common rules is a threat to cultural diversity. Be it New York, London or New Delhi, a corporate tower with a glass building and a park with sometimes an ugly corporate art and a fountain is a norm found all over the globe. A one size fits all design excludes the distinctiveness of a place, thereby limiting the extravagance of human industry.

But contrary to such position, it is international trade which enables us to experience, consume and celebrate the diversity of cultures and styles on earth. This is virtuous globalization where global corporations caters to local needs in the style and fashion of the locals while bringing international standards. Corporations can bring highest standard R&D and value systems to design solutions for local needs. The product created via insight from various sources and handled by experts when tailored for local needs, can solve many problems. Like if a soap manufacturer manufactures a soap for global audience, then the standard applied will call for an expertise in chemistry where the soap can perform in hard or soft water without affecting the environment and still retaining its chemical effect.  Or the company can create different soaps for different usages be it riverside washing, hard water or soft water washing etc. Or it can produce it locally generating employment opportunities as well as creating brand awareness.

Community involvement and stakeholders participation while formulating workable solutions create an ecosystem of trust and better corporate governance. Environment friendly solutions and smart use of resources create wealth for the society. A parking system with solar panels which are connected to smart grids solves the problem of parking for sure but create wealth while solving a problem.

The changes and innovation are already taking place. Human industry and effort are creative and extravagant in its scope. The time to address to the root of the problem has come a long before, only our reply has awaited and it is coming now.

Rajat Jhingan

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