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close this bookEco-restructuring: Implications for sustainable development (UNU, 1998, 417 pages)
View the document(introductory text...)
close this folder1. Eco-restructuring: The transition to an ecologically sustainable economy
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View the documentIntroduction: On sustainability
View the documentThe need for holistic systems analysis
View the documentEnvironmental threats and (un)sustainability indicators
View the documentSharpening the debate
View the documentNon-controversial issues: Population, resources, and technology
close this folderControversial issues: Pollution, productivity, and biospheric stability
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentOn toxicity
View the documentThe stability of the biosphere: The impossibility of computing the odds
View the documentTechnical preconditions for sustainability
View the documentFinding the least-cost (least-pain) path
View the documentConcluding comments
View the documentNotes
View the documentReferences
close this folderPart I: Restructuring resource use
close this folder2. The biophysical basis of eco-restructuring: An overview of current relations between human economic activities and the global system
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View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe earth system
View the documentThe climate system and climatic change
View the documentClimatic change and vulnerability
View the documentBiological diversity
View the documentFresh water
View the documentSoils
View the documentThe solid earth (lithosphere)
View the documentLand-cover and land-use changes
View the documentHuman impacts and industrial metabolism
View the documentThe case of West Africa
View the documentOutlook
close this folder3. Ecological process engineering: The potential of bio-processing
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View the documentEditor's note
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe current situation: The status of biotechnologies
View the documentPotential and promises
View the documentMarket penetration by biotechnology
View the documentBarriers to penetration
View the documentFinal remarks
View the documentNotes
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close this folder4. Materials futures: Pollution prevention, recycling, and improved functionality
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View the documentEditor's introduction
View the documentBackground
View the documentStrategies to increase materials productivity
View the documentMaterials technology
View the documentMaterial attributes
View the documentMaterial performance trends
View the documentConclusions
View the documentNotes
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close this folder5. Global energy futures: The long-term perspective for eco-restructuring
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View the documentIntroduction
View the documentWhat is the energy system?
View the documentEnergy system inefficiencies
View the documentThe deep future energy system
View the documentTransition and the rate of change of the energy system
View the documentNorth-South disparity and sustainable energy systems
View the documentConcluding remarks
View the documentNotes
View the documentReferences
close this folder6. Fuel decarbonization for fuel cell applications and sequestration of the separated CO2
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentThe challenge of stabilizing the atmosphere
View the documentFlue gas decarbonization vs. fuel gas decarbonization
View the documentLifecycle CO2 emissions - without and with CO2 sequestration
View the documentOptions for sequestering CO2
View the documentFraming the cost analysis for CO2 sequestration
View the documentMajor findings of the sequestration cost analysis
View the documentAppendix A: The importance of the water-gas shift reaction in fuel decarbonization
View the documentAppendix B: Biomass CO2 emission offset potential in a world where some coal-rich regions cannot or will not reduce emissions
View the documentAppendix C: Pipeline transport of hydrogen
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentNotes
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close this folder7. Photovoltaics
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe technological potential of PV
View the documentPV costs
View the documentA PV market diffusion strategy
View the documentPossible PV adoption and diffusion scenarios
View the documentConcluding remarks: PV and eco-restructuring
View the documentNotes
View the documentBibliography
close this folderPart II: Restructuring sectors and the sectoral balance of the economy
close this folder8. Global eco-restructuring and technological change in the twenty-first century
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View the documentGlobalization
View the documentPopulation growth and economic growth
View the documentEnvironmental pressures for global change
View the documentScenario analysis and the use of materials
View the documentThe challenge for eco-restructuring
View the documentConcluding remarks
View the documentNotes
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close this folder9. Agro-eco-restructuring: Potential for sustainability
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentEditor's note
View the documentThe broad situation
View the documentIdentifying the limiting factors
View the documentThe technological feasibility of sustainable agriculture
View the documentThe possible course towards sustainable change
View the documentFinal remarks
View the documentNotes
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close this folder10. The restructuring of tropical land-use systems
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View the documentIntroduction
View the documentModels of rural development
View the documentThe need for integrated solutions in tropical land use
View the documentStrategic issues
View the documentConcluding remarks
View the documentNotes
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close this folder11. The restructuring of transport, logistics, trade, and industrial space use
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentThe significance of freight transport
View the documentPast growth and patterns of freight transport development
View the documentSpatial and transport outcomes
View the documentFuture developments affecting freight volumes and patterns
View the documentThe scope for reducing freight volumes
View the documentTaking up the potential
View the documentConclusion
View the documentNotes
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close this folder12 National and international policy instruments and institutions for eco-restructuring
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentBuilding on small agreements
View the documentEconomic policy instruments and mechanisms
View the documentInternational distributional implications
View the documentA precondition for social breakthroughs in the context of developing societies
View the documentIssues of science and technology for development
View the documentA future united nations system
View the documentReferences
View the documentContributors
View the documentOther titles of interest

The need for holistic systems analysis

Since the early 1970s, the environmental movement has become increasingly professionalized and bureaucratized. As a consequence, largely, of the latter development, the "environment" is seen no longer in a holistic sense but in terms of a number of specific, essentially independent issues. Nowadays, the "causes" of pollution are attributed, for the most part, to narrowly defined actions (or failures to act) of equally narrowly defined "polluters." The responsibilities for abatement or clean-up are correspondingly narrow. Solid wastes, hazardous or toxic wastes, liquid wastes, and airborne wastes are likely to be allocated to different government departments, ranging from public health agencies to water/sewerage authorities, whose regulatory powers are controlled by different kinds of legislation framed in different circumstances, sometimes based on quite different regulatory philosophies. "The right hand does not know what the left hand is doing," and vice versa.

Activities of different arms of the same agency can interfere with each other. For instance, incineration can reduce the solid waste disposal problem, and even produce useful energy as a by-product, but it creates an air pollution problem. On the other hand, to reduce the emissions of particulates and sulphur oxides from power plants creates solid wastes that must be disposed of somewhere on land. There is nobody with a global view of the problem to mediate among the parochial interests. There is nobody with the responsibility or the authority to induce competing offices, departments, and bureaux to cooperate.

Yet the environment is, by its very nature, unsuited to incremental control strategies. It is equally unsuited for reductionist "bottom-up" modes of analysis. The problem is that scientific insights are now, and will continue to be, insufficient for predicting the detailed environmental consequences of any change or perturbation. To take a concrete instance, nobody can predict the exact physiological effects of ingesting any chemical from knowledge of its structure. Still less can the genetic or ecological consequences of its dispersion be predicted. This uncertainty is multiplied by the enormous number of different chemicals, materials, and mixtures simultaneously manufactured and used by man (natural and synthetic alike), not to mention the variety (type and intensity) of possible reaction modes and interaction effects.

Setting aside carcinogens and highly toxic or radioactive substances, one important environmental problem has as yet been predicted in advance from the creation or displacement of any particular material stream. This single exception was Rowland's chance recognition of the reactive potential of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the stratosphere, and the resulting possibility of stratospheric ozone depletion. This potential hazard, derided by chemical industry spokesmen in the 1970s as "speculative," has turned out to be real.

In speaking of the environment it is literally true that "everything depends upon everything else." A holistic "top-down" perspective is essential to identifying the most important underlying factors and relationships. It is equally important to adopt a very broad perspective for seeking and - it is hoped - finding effective global strategies to save the planet.