How to produce in a world of limited resources?

AT Osbornes’ Jurgen van der Heijden is setting up a course that deals with current shifts that will affect the entire world as we know it. In this course Jurgen will be addressing the issue of how the world will have to produce given the fact that resources are limited and that we are rapidly approaching depletion in the case of a series of particularly vital ones.

The course will be delivered at the recently proclaimed ‘Amersfoort University’, a grassroots initiative that involves, amongst others, Artist Studio’s, Workshops, Rapid prototyping facilities and research labs.

Wednesday April 18th I participated as a pseudo-student in a try out and this blog serves as my evaluation.

Let me start off by stating that this may become a valuable course contributing to a haunting problem that we have been facing for too long without coming to grips with it.

Having said that, I feel that the starting question may be valid, but two of the three points that are supposed to generated by the basic question are dubious:

1.Recycle, Reuse, Reduce, Retrofit, Renovate

2.Consumers become Producers

3.Multifunctional Use

 The first item concerns a typical answer you should expect from an engineer. It is a ‘solution’, it’s the C2C mantra and its benefits are a lie based on our past economy of dumping everything from waste to rejects and side products in the landfill or the ocean: the myth of the closed loop will result in even more consumption and it’s precisely consuming that should be limited not propelled. Just look at the companies that proudly carry C2C labels and you know that you are somehow being fooled.

 The second one concerns a very important phenomenon that already takes place but will explode soon and is one the causes that makes Jurgen talk about 'shifts that will affect everything'. The thing is that only naïve people will maintain that this phenomenon by itself will leave our planet in a better state. The waste paper bin next to my color printer tells me that we all should be very concerned with 3d printers in every household. Just as the invention of the printing press delivered its benefits after first plunging Europe into 100 years of devastating turmoil, the advent of the prosumer may as well destabilize the entire world before we learn how to deal with it.

The third point makes sense. It deals with contemplating all intended and unintended effects of an intervention. This should have become common practice a long time ago. It’s one of the reasons why biodegradable plastics are wrong: The intention may be valid but as it appears people dispose themselves from these items carelessly assuming that the degradation process will take place overnight. Also they are adding nutrients in the ecosystem that don’t necessarily belong there.

 So we suggest to throw point 1 out of the window, keep, but:

Reframe point 2. Point 3 should be rephrased into a new Quest:

Given the fact that a serious portion of the global population is totally unconcerned with the environmental aspects of our way of life (or is even in a denial state), how can we think of interventions that will render the transition of consumers to producers, a development that deals best with the notion of finite resources and may serve as a template for future production models.

 I will probably sign up for that course…

Jurgen wrote a book about this issue that is worth downloading here

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