Closing Loops Is Almost as Old as Life Itself

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The concepts behind the cradle-to-cradle brand (C2C) come straight from nature. McDonough and Braungart have brilliantly taken credit for what nature has always done. I admire their success in finding powerful language for these natural processes, but am affronted when I hear them say or imply that they invented them. The environmental media are frequent accessories in propagating this misconception. This paragraph showed up a few days ago in a story in GreenBiz news:

McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart developed the C2C philosophy, which espouses material health, reutilization, renewable energy, water stewardship and social responsibility. Companies can have their goods certified as C2C products based on what goes into them, what can be done with them, and company operations.

This ideas of closing loops, using renewable energy or being smart about water use have been around for a long time. Closing loops was a central idea in the development of ecology, a field that was named in the 1860's, but was understood as a part of natural systems even before that. The field of industrial ecology, with which I was closely involved from its start in the 1990's, has many participants who recognized these important processes and their relationship to healthy ecosystems long before McDonough and Braungart found language that popularized the concepts.

I have been re-reading Fritjof Capra's book, Hidden Connections. One of the chapters covers the great advances being made in biotechnology. Capra is critical, as others have been, of the practice of patenting life forms, especially those based on natural life. The appropriation of features of living systems, by trademarking them, is just as repellent. The Natural Step came earlier than C2C, but without the hubris.

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1 Comments

TIago Crua said:

I had recently read a paper in which it was mentioned C2C (http://www.springerlink.com/content/m422h8rv65mm6711/)

More than the surprise of how business or commentators react (that play surprised with everything), it's the way that the scientific community does not acknowledge itself and invests sometimes too much money discussing metrics instead of question the economic ones we now use. Are we in a world of speaking instead of acting or changing?!

In reality, closed cycles, the analogy done by industrial ecology or emergy are what human kind has been trying to translate into language and culture, in what we could call as "common sense" and "wisdom".

Best wishes