The Industrial Ecology of Renewable Resources

Reid Lifset (1999). The Industrial Ecology of Renewable Resources. Zero Emissions Forum. United Nations University.

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  • Sub-type Discussion paper
    Author Reid Lifset
    Title The Industrial Ecology of Renewable Resources
    Series Title Zero Emissions Forum
    Publication Date 1999
    Place of Publication Tokyo and Berlin
    Publisher United Nations University
    Pages 11
    Language eng
    Abstract Discussions of renewable resources have historically focused on the threat of exhaustion, exploring whether rates of harvest exceed the rates which the resources replenish themselves. Such analyses are part of larger discussions of resource scarcity in which the prodigious consumption of humankind is compared to available stocks of all kinds of resources with an eye to the opportunities to avoid depletion. Economists and economic historians have raised doubts about this concern, arguing that a focus on depletion of resources is misguided because the price system provides a variety of powerful incentives to address scarcity. As the price of an increasingly scarce resource increases, the incentives for conservation, for improvements in extraction efficiency and for substitution increase. This in turn raises questions about the privileged place that renewable resources occupy in environmental policy discussions: if scarcity is not a major threat, why focus on renewability? The analysis of the concern with renewable resources, however, is not exhausted by discussions of material scarcity. As Robert Ayres points out, the most important scarcities are soil fertility, clean fresh water, clean fresh air, unspoiled landscapes, climatic stability, biological diversity, biological nutrient cycling and environmental waste assimilative capacity. In this sense, it is not the renewability of the often biologically-based resources that is at issue, but the specific value of the particular resources and the vulnerability of those resources to disruption by human activity. Put another way, the decision to make use of renewable resources needs to be subject to the same searching analysis as any other environmental choice. It is with respect to these concerns that industrial ecology, by employing a systems perspective, and especially a life-cycle perspective, provides a powerful window on the management of renewable resources. By applying industrial ecological perspectives to questions of energy, forestry, agriculture, biotechnology and the global nitrogen cycle, I hope to illustrate some of the insights that this emerging field can generate.
    UNBIS Thesaurus CONSUMPTION
    SUSTAINABLE CONSUMPTION
    RENEWABLE RESOURCES
    INDUSTRIAL PLANNING
    INDUSTRIAL MANAGEMENT
    SUSTAINABLE ENERGY
    SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE
    SUSTAINABLE FORESTRY
    NATURAL RESOURCES AND THE ENVIRONMENT
    Copyright Holder United Nations University
    Copyright Year 1999
    Copyright type All rights reserved
    ISSN 16094921
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