Chapter 39: Industrial estates as model ecosystems
Fritz Balkau Natural ecosystems have evolved over many years to have an apparent stability and organized functioning that we would like to see in other areas of our lives. There has been a frequent desire by mankind to learn from, and even mimic, natural systems, especially as our current economic growth models are starting to show some limitations. The study of industrial ecology can be seen as an attempt to view our modern production methods in such a ‘systems’ context, where the individual actions of various producers and consumers are played out in a larger framework of mutual interdependence. Natural systems have no objective other than the survival of the individuals within them, and it can take many generations to achieve a stable state. In an industrial system the ecological concepts of symbiosis, interdependence and competition have to be seen against the relatively short time scale of the human management objectives of the same system. Regular changes arising from external policy shifts, technology development, regulatory change and a rapidly evolving external economic ‘climate’ can change dramatically within the lifetime of an individual enterprise. The optimization of such a system in a reasonable time scale can hardly be achieved by a natural evolutionary process; rather it must rely on guidance from management decisions by an authoritative body. But the central planning and management of all environmental initiatives and dependencies is beyond the capacity of any institution. The challenge for a managed industrial ecology is one of arranging for an improved framework...
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