An Evolutionary Approach to Business Strategies and the Natural Environment
Chapter 3: Technological Change and Strategic Perspectives
In order to understand the ecological impact of production and consumption activities we need to address the role of technology. Technology comprises the tools and instruments used by human beings to effect changes in their social and natural environment. Firms use technology to transform raw materials into finished products and consumers use these products as tools to satisfy their needs. Each of these activities impacts upon nature and changes in the technologies employed affect this ecological impact. This fundamental relationship has been interpreted in different ways. Barry Commoner is a major exponent of the view that technological change has led to increasingly severe damage to local and global natural ecologies.1 Crucial cycles in nature have been broken by the application of new technologies in industrial processes. New substances have been introduced that are foreign to nature and these tend to interfere in dangerous ways, such as toxic substances which accumulate in food chains and affect the health of living organisms. Technology has also enabled us to extract materials from inert positions under the earth’s surface and our utilization causes them to disperse into the atmosphere. Furthermore, new materials have been invented that cannot be broken down when they are deposited in natural systems. It could be argued that continuous technological change enables us to limit such ecological impacts. But in many cases attempts to do so have only shifted the problem elsewhere or made it worse as in the case of detergents. In the 1950s the chemical industry developed detergents...
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