Archive for September, 2011

First of all it was a great opportunity to see in which way the environmental approach can “penetrate” to all departments of  a company, from Industrial design to the actual production of the end-product and to the marketing department .  I was amazed by the idea of what can be changed in an environmental friendly way to give us the desirable outcome.   Of course everything is doable in theory and usually reality most of the time proves us wrong.  So it would interesting to try to make changes in a real company/institution and see how feasible it is practically.

Considering that we have almost 10 different nationalities in class it was very interesting to see the different approach each of us had at the problem and of course how creative we can be in a short period of time!  Well done!

I am going to write about the Bhopal disaster, which happened in India in 1984.   The involved company was UCIL – Union Carbide India Limited -, a subsidiary of  Union Carbide Corporation, with the Indian public having the 49.1 % of the UCIL.  It is considered as one of the greatest industrial catastrophes, since thousands of people died and many are still affected by what happened so many years ago.  It all happened when somehow water entered one of the tanks leading to uncontrolled reactions and chain exposure of chemicals mainly to the atmosphere in the form of a dense cloud (“heavy”, being near the ground), causing the immediate death of thousands of people living in the close area.

The factors in this case are too many, since it was a global market company administrated from the main company being far away and with many employees.

  • A rational explanation of why this disaster happened is that the majority of the employees were not well educated and probably ignorant of the situation.  The managers ordering the cuts had no idea about the consequenses and the high risk situation.   It could be that the indian government was badly organized and didn’t realize what was happening at the plant.
  • A bounded rationality explanation is that blue collar workers or simple workers conscious of the risks taken working there under the circumstances, continued to do so because they knew
  1. their oppinion wouldn’t matter to high position employees and/or
  2. because they needed the money

Still, these explanations show that they didn’t care about the long term consequenses and in the end this decision was irrational.  Also, high position employees, such as managers insisted in having cuts since the company was not profitable any longer.  This could be either because they identified with the institution, neglecting about safety rules and focusing on profit or even because this was their company’s principle, which is also irrational, since in long term they lost much more than if they had preserved their safety rules and well work conditions.  After all, this decision was bad for the company.


In the end all puzzles are solved. But may be there are more than one ways to reach a solution!!

The second question is:

“Choose your own Industrial Ecology inspired puzzle and think up three alternative explanations”.

Well, I don’t know if this is a puzzle or not, but it keeps puzzling me at least.   I keep on asking myself how easily people change their mind about issues they don’ t/can’t  really have a deep knowledge about, i.e. how easily would they accept an information as true only because it derives from a trustworthy source? And last, how easily would they adapt it into their lives? Lets give some examples:

Recycling.  Of course it is boring and time consuming to have different bags for paper, cans, plastic, etc, especially when the recycling containers are not close to your house.  So, why do people recycle? Is it because:

  1. The law/environmental agencies demand so and they are afraid of getting a fine?
  2. They have the ideology of helping the environment.  Even though, that makes me think of another question.  How far would they go if for example no recycling containers exist in the area and  they would have to storage the garbage for a while?
  3.  They want to pretend they care for the environment, just to have a good image in the society
  4. They just got used to it, because they were taught to do so since they were born
Are you recycling?? And if yes, why?

Water from sewage.  The water from waste water treatment plants, after being properly treated could be recycled and mixed with “pure”  drilled water and so end up being drinking water.  So people would partly drink what used to be “poo” water.  My questions are:

  • Would people drink it?
  • If the local people are convinced would a tourist, who is not familiar with the idea, drink it?
  • Even if you have this kind of ideology and the knowledge that this water is clean, would you drink it?
  •  How can you convince a person to drink this water?

Why wouldn’t they drink it?  Because:

  1. of psychological reasons. You cannot get out of your head the image of toilet/poo water
  2. they don’t  really believe it is clean
  3. they believe that a mistake in the water treatment plant would eventually happen and have contaminated water
  4. they don’t want others to think that they are drinking poo water
Would you drink this water?

Climate change.  Lets assume that the whole {CO2 emissions and the temperature} increase  of the planet is a LIE or not unnatural for the planet.  How can an average educated person (or even with education) judge if this information is true or not?  Nowadays everything is produced under the name of “green” or “sustainable”.  Why do people accept it?  Because:

  1. they trust the scientists/sourse who said so
  2. they can see the climate change
  3. they are ignorant
  4. they don’t care to discover the truth, because it is not affecting their every day life
  5. they want to feel that they belong to a group (that of  people who care for the environment) and feel commended for their actions
  6. they are too “small” to have a say against government/industries, etc

But why would someone give false data?  Because:

  1. they did a mistake in measurements or they are mislead by the model/mechanism they use for their predictions
  2. the scientists are bribed by companies
  3. it created a lot of profit
PS  I don’t believe recycling is boring!
PS2 Also, I don’t believe that the increase of CO2 emmissions and earth temperature is a lie!! It was only an assumption
PS3 Bribery of scientists? Ok, I have to admit the 3rd example reminds of conspiracy theories… No, I am not a supporter

Hmm, I am called to answer to the following question:

“What are your first impressions with the social science perspective on Industrial Ecology and how do they relate to earlier experiences with the social sciences”?

Social Sciences?? What is that?  Well, according to Wikipedia it is the field of scholarship that studies society.  Moreover, social sciences is commonly used as an umbrella term to refer to a plurality of fields outside of the natural sciences.  These include: anthropology, archaeology, business, administration, communication, criminology, economics, education, government, linguistics, international relations, political science, sociology and in some contexts geography, history, law and psychology.

Wow, that was a huge list. As I perceive it social sciences is a multidisciplinary field, that always takes into account the human dimension?!

Before stating my impressions, I think it is important to mention that Industrial Ecology embodies not only a scientific approach to environmental problems, but also a social sciences, including economics, approach.  Although Industrial Ecology is a relatively new field of study not many would argue that the essence of it has concerned the Social Sciences for many decades now. It is interesting to see that there are proponents and opponents of this field and also is interesting to analyze the arguments for that.  Furthermore, I feel that it is an essential need to analyze why things are done the way they are.  The mechanisms of decision-taking are not always clear.  What is really taking place behind the scenes?  I think that social sciences do exactly that.  Analyze the decisions that are taken and argue about it.

Unfortunately my earlier experiences with social sciences are almost negligible.  What thrills me is when I hear new theories I never imagined myself and so become intrigued to think about it all over again and produce new thoughts, ideas and why not… theories!!

What would you answer to this question???!

It seems I.E. needs collaboration!!