Archive for January, 2012

New class exercise??!

This course features class exercises to each meeting to let students experience the theoretical material from lectures and literature. Develop one class exercise to replace one that you felt was not entirely suitable.

  • I am going to add a game to the group games that were presented in the course about  Industrial Ecology and Evolution.

There could be two groups, which will represent a state condition (such as we say heaven and hell) and a group being inbetween:

  1. Green group:  To belong to this group you will have to have at least 3 of the following features:
  • Be poor
  • Have a low speed, but less polluting car
  • Buy ecologically friendly stuff and only when needed, e.g. old ones are defective or non functional  (never follow fashion by buying new clothes, don’t buy new gadgets that are available in the market)
  • Live on a 1 room house

        2.  Golden group:  To belong to this group you mustn’t have more than 1 of green group’s            features and have at least 3 of the following features:

  • Be wealthy
  • Have fancy high speed and high emissions car
  • Buy every new gadget on the market
  • Don’t care about water scarcity (e.g. have a huge swimming pool)
  • Have several houses, spending a lot of energy and water to preserve them
  • Own an oil company
  • Own a diamond mine
  • Be the largest seal oil and leather producer

3.  Yellow group:  When students have equal features of the above groups.

These features are going to be in cards and during the whole game everyone must hold 4 cards in their hands.  In every round every person has the right to exchange from 0 up to 2 cards.  The exchange must be approved by 3 or 4 people, who are going to be the government.  In order to approve it, students can try to convince them by using bribery (promise them a percentage of the card they will obtain or get rid off) or try to create lobbies with them. (E.g. if there are 45 people and 5 are the government, then there must be 60 cards with attributes from the green group and 60 cards with attributes from the golden group).

The game might seem a bit vague, because it doesn’t focus on a specific industrial sector (e.g. energy, automobile, etc), but it could be interesting.  The purpose of the game is to see what people will try to achieve in what cost and how different actors interact. Will they try to remain in the green group or get rid of their cards and get into golden group, because life seems more tempting to them?

P.S. Of course the attributes I chose for group 1 and group 2 by no means try to depicture reality, e.g. wealth doesn’t mean being against the environment.

  • Another game that could be changed is the one about culture as a coordinative mechanism.

It would be very interesting if we would indeed bring unaware students from the university, brought up in different continents (ok, not necessarily!  Even being from different countries is sufficient.), not knowing what the lesson is about and interview them in a way that is not revealing the purpose of the interview.  That would require that students have already prepared their questionnaire before class.  So, it either could be that some questionnaires are selected to be asked or one (or a combination) is selected and the same one is asked to all students.


1. One pressing research question for the coming years is:

“How does the financial crisis affect the possibilities for initiating and up scaling industrial ecology initiatives?”

Use the following framework from the final lecture and develop a research plan for answering this question. Make sure you select only two levels of analysis (micro + meso or meso + macro).

Final Lecture Framework (Boons, F.)



First it is useful to illustrate what each level represents.  According to my perception, macro-level analysis is highly related to psychology; it analyzes the society level, complicated economic systems in different countries, etc.  Meso-level involves smaller networks, such as companies, communities, and micro-level involves individuals and their actions and choices.

I am going to analyze the micro and meso-level.


There is a variation of individuals involved, mainly creating two groups of people: (group 1) everyday people who are contributing to the establishment of ecological values only as consumers and (group 2) people who form/participate in governmental/non-governmental associations and companies that are:

  1. solely focusing on sustainability and/or
  2. could embody sustainability in their projects

Of course in all cases, except the first one, the individuals who have the most importance are those who take the decisions.  So the question is, how will it be determined how the crisis is affecting the choices and subsequently actions of individuals?

In order to find out how the recession affects the consumers’ attitude towards sustainability, a feedback plan can be developed, by looking the sales of eco-products.  But this allows us to make a feedback analysis and not discuss a future development.  Another approach could be by looking their attitude during the last decade, since the economic crisis actually began in 2008 and ecological values in Europe have been developing already since the 1970s.  So, according to the facts of the past a forecast can be made.

An empirical plan that will allow us to estimate what will happen is to directly interview individuals, either by telephone or by home visiting.  Of course the sample of people should be representative; multiple areas, ages, genders, levels of income and education.  The approach must be very careful, since when people know what you expect them to answer they might tailor their answers according to your expectation, resulting in inaccurate predictions.  Nevertheless, there should be also a margin of error for such cases.

It is more complicated to assess the behavior of individuals of group 2 towards industrial ecology issues in conjunction to the economic crisis, since the system becomes more complex.  More stakeholders are involved and there are limitations set by coercive forces, e.g. governmental policies.  In this case the plan also consists of interviews with top managers and people who make the decisions, but also investigating their background would help in making a good forecast.  E.g. President Reagan of the US in 1980-1989 was against stiff environmental regulations and was mainly supporting the industrial interests.


As mentioned, meso-level involves smaller networks, such as companies and communities.  So in this case many individuals and conditions are involved, creating a complex system.

A way to determine the effect of the recession towards ecological behavior in the meso-level is to study holistically the system; it is not enough to know the beliefs of the CEO of a company, but rather the existing legislations and policies and stakeholders that are involved. An example could be given in regard to the oil company BP.  Despite the fact that they had a disastrous 2010, they couldn’t abandon their ecological projects due to the commitment they have to various organizations (API, etc) and policies (e.g. in Europe the 20, 20, 20 goal till 2020) to protect the environment.

So, every time, we have to choose our system and set its boundaries, i.e. determine the stakeholders involved. Then an analysis on each stakeholder needs to be done.

E.g. if it is a governmental institution, then an interview with a policy maker or politician or analyst should be made to determine future developments.

In all cases I believe that personal interaction is the most important key to obtain reliable information and at the same time good observation of the global economy and politics that can lead to probable forecasts.