Manufacturing our Human-made World
In the relatively short time that we have existed, the human species has radically transformed the global environment. While other species live within the natural building processes of nature, human beings have imposed sweeping changes in the natural environment, both for ourselves and all other species. Our processes can be broken down into 3:
- Resource Extraction
- Manufactured structures
- Waste Effluent
We have developed processes for extracting raw material needed for our manufacturing processes. These processes then transform these raw materials into processed materials that fill our human-made world. Finally, during the manufacturing process AND after a manufactured product has served it’s purpose and has reached its End of Life (EOL), it is transformed into waste, which ends up back in nature, in a human-transformed form.
These processes are unsustainable and effectively transform nature’s wealth and abundance into waste and pollution.
Figure 1: Unsustainable Manufacturing Processes: Effectively depleting natural resources to turn it into Garbage and Pollution
Although human beings are as integral to nature as any other species, our use of reasoning coupled with our ability to significantly transform our environment leads us to feel we are separate from nature, somehow superior to it. This sense of aloofness is reflected in our current design methodology of our constructed environment as well as our sense of alienation within society itself. We build structures which don’t flow with nature and we live lives which carry with them an unspoken sense of lack.
THE COMMANDMENTS OF UNSUSTAINABLE MANUFACTURING
- We aggressively mine the planet for resources to satisfy our manufacturing needs, leaving an environmentally destructive trail in our wake.
- We take those raw materials and use manufacturing processes which mix these raw materials together in a form which makes it difficult to impossible to reuse these technical nutrients. A perfect example of this are Rare Earth Elements, so important in high technology materials from motors and lasers to solar panels. They are very important technical nutrients, yet they are ingredients that are uniformly integrated into the final material product in such low concentrations that current processes to re-extract them are cost prohibitive. Hence, they are currently unrecoverable, lost in the slag in E-waste recovery processes.
- We often use cheap and polluting finite fossil fuel as feedstock and to power the manufacturing process…from mining the resource, transport the raw materials to the manufacturing plant, powering the plant, using it in the products
- Our manufacturing processes generate waste byproducts which does not support either other living species or even ourselves but are instead quite harmful, injecting toxins into our ecosystems which bring harm to other species and ultimately comes back to us. Our planet is a closed feedback loop…when we pollute it, it always comes back to us.
- The industrial design process is also wasteful in that many products are designed for the dump…..intentionally designed to have a short lifetime and are neither recoverable, recyclable nor biodegradable
- Marketing encourages an intensively consumer society which conditions citizens to continually seek novelty so that manufacturers are continually incentified to create more new products
- Finally, in order to sustain populations, marketers promote continuous consumerism, consumption that places ongoing demands for limited resources and which generates more garbage in the post-consumer waste stream