Essay answer for 2400 test.
An ecosystem is a „self‟ regulating system. This quality of „self regulation‟ is due to the
efficient cyclical interactions of all energy and matter within the ecosystem. In an ecosystem
there is no waste. Every form of material residue is used (food-webs) and has an important
regulatory mechanism which is sunlight. On the other hand, industrial systems are structured in a
linear „input-transformation-output‟ process of resources and energy. Due to a lack of natural
imposing constraints and because human desire for goods does not respect biophysical limits,
industrial systems fall into inefficiency.
Preventative environmental management is based on the strategy of redesigning
economic activities so their potentially disruptive impacts on ecosystems are minimized or
eliminated to avoid “killing the goose that lays the golden eggs” (the goose is the symbolic
metaphor of the earth). Industrial ecology has the goal of reducing human dependence on the
biosphere as the ultimate source as well as decreasing matter and energy consumption by
emulating ecosystems and their cyclical matter-energy flows. Waste has to be avoided and
residuals would be the ideal outputs in order to be re-used (reduction of dissipative
The industrial ecology classifies industrial systems in three categories; type one „linear‟
where there is unlimited input flow with no possible usage of outputs (waste). To illustrate this
system, a car is left to rust after its useful life. The second system is quasicyclical and the post
consumer car is stripped of useful subassemblies, although 75% of the car is still wasted. The
third system is the ultimate goal of industrial ecology where the causes of externalities are
responsibility of the system (product stewardship), eventually turning them into internalities
(such as recycling the water steam from the factory and using it to heat up the factory itself).
The life cycle analysis (LCA) is the identification and quantification of energy and
material usage; as well as the environmental releases across all stages of the life cycle of the
product. Through a „scope of evaluation‟, the materials, processes or products are considered to
know how broadly will alternatives be defined. The comparison of the use of gas cars versus
electric cars, serves to illustrate a LCA scope of evaluation, where the gas cars are apparently
and more visibly pollutant, but electric cars might be using electricity produced in a coal plant. In this case, quantifying the CO2 emissions of both types over a period of time would tell us which
type of car is „less environmentally adequate‟.
The ecological footprint analysis is complementary to industrial ecology and LCA as a
set of preventative strategies that redefine industrial/economical activities as „less nature
equilibrium disruptive‟ trying to emulate the self-regulatory characteristics of an eco-system. The
ecological footprint analysis estimates the amount of land required for specific activities and
their overall effects on the environment and its potential for pollution absorbtion. To illustrate
ecological footprint analysis, the use of paper plates might have less footprint impact than
reusing porcelain dishes because all the water and soap that involves the process of washing
In order to increase the sustainability of our economic activities, preventative
environmental strategies such as industrial ecology, life cycle analysis and footprint analysis,
serve to identify the causes that might be disrupting the natural equilibrium. If the media keeps
influencing the behavior of society the way it does, our patterns of consumption will keep
increasing resulting in a very different scenario, totally opposed to a limited self-regulating
In my opinion, the utilization of renewable sources of energy (wind, solar, geothermic),
the decrease of conspicuous consumption and the obsession of economical grow, the arousal of
awareness and education, the development of strict regulatory policies to industries as well as a
constant modification and implementation of industrial systems; are some of the few alternatives
we have in order to start developing our societies in more sustainable ways. It is clear that unless
we start integrating the social, financial, technological and ethical aspects of our society, we will
be far from achieving a world of harmony between the natural and human constructed
1. A STANDARD is the benchmark to which products are measured against.
a. Those concerned with; ensuring health and safety, maintaining environmental
quality, ensuring the quality of products.
2. Environmental managers use standards to do meaningful evaluations, exchange and
compare data. Standards aid to recognize crucial thresholds and improve the „objectivity‟ of a judgment. Standards facilitate the negotiation and establishment of regulations
between sites, countries, years.
3. MONITORING has the function of a „watch dog‟. It provides observations and
evaluations of different levels of pollution, such as air quality and water quality.
4. ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING is necessary to prevent and mitigate future
damage and further destruction of the environment. It provides us with early warnings
related with pollution and with the opportunity to act accordingly.
5. SUPPLY CHAIN AUDIT allows an environmental manager to analyze each step of the
life of a product in order to identify irregularities. With a supply chain audit, an
environmental manager makes sure that the regulations that help protect the environment
and the people are being followed.
6. ISO 14000 Series has benefits such as; reduced cost of waste management, savings in
consumption of energy and materials, lowers distribution costs, improves corporate
image among regulators, customers and the public.
7. MAJESTA TOILET PAPER does questionable environmental practices such as;
depletion of resources/unplanned logging, contributes to the loss of biodiversity by the
utilization of tree monocultures, and the labeling of the products with misleading
8. Genetically modified labeling in Europe increases awareness among people about
GMO‟s and potentially decreases their availability on the market due to the lack of
demand of such products. On the other hand, North America would be the market of
GMO products, but some people might be inclined to buy less health-detrimental
products and insist on the adoption of labeling as an internationally standardized policy.
People in both areas may also not care about GM products and consume them.
9. Global climate change according to the thermodynamic laws.1) Energy cannot be
created or destroyed. The energy we use gets transformed from another form of energy
such as burning coal that will transform into electricity and CO2 emissions. 2) Entropy
law, where the organized prime source of energy (coal) being used to transform it into
electricity, would also transform into CO2 which is a less-organized low-quality form of
energy. These processes influence green gas accumulation in the atmosphere and create a
positive feedback which melts the north and south icecaps and reduces their capacity to
reflect solar energy, with the following accumulation of hit that would contribute to the
process with the earth getting warmer as less and less sunlight is reflected by the ice.
10. Ecological footprint analyses the carbon traces of our activities and their impact on the
environment. The carrying capacity of the earth is being surpassed because of the
increasing demand for goods or a “high standard of living”. We need to reduce this rate
of consumption in order to keep equilibrium between natural and human constructed
11. Appropriated carrying capacity refers to the finite capacity of the ecosystems to
provide resources and absorb pollution. 12. The city is an “entropic black hole” because it requires great quantities of resources
that exceed its own carrying capacity and have to be obtained from other cities/areas. A
city is a massive consumer and producer of waste (low quality energy).
13. Carbon footprint is the total amount of CO2 produced by a good or service. It is then
converted to a number based on grams. Generally, electricity consumption, CO2
emissions by factories are calculated as PLUSES, and sustainable practices such as the
growing of bananas (that mainly requir