Fritjof Capra

A Science for Sustainable Living, New York: Anchor Books, 2004.

5 Stars

Review

The Hidden Connections is perhaps the most lucid of Capra’s books. This being said, I could well imagine that if you begin reading Capra with the present book, without reading his previous books first, you might get stuck somewhere in the midst of it — simply because you lack out on essential information that is contained in Capra’s earlier books.

At the very onset of The Hidden Connections, Capra reveals an important detail about himself and his unusual development as a scientist:

My extension of the systems approach to the social domain explicitly includes the material world. This is unusual, because traditionally social scientists have not been very interested in the world of matter. Our academic disciplines have been organized in such a way that the natural sciences deal with material structures while the social sciences deal with social structures, which are understood to be, essentially, rules of behavior. In the future, this strict division will no longer be possible, because the key challenge of this new century — for social scientists, natural scientists and everybody else — will be to build ecologically sustainable communities, designed in such a way that their technologies and social institutions — their material and social structures — do not interfere with nature’s inherent ability to sustain life./xix

Capra starts, systemically sound, with the cell, noting that the simplest living system is the cell, and especially, the bacterial cell. Then Capra looks at what membranes are, and what they do, and this is highly revealing, and teaches an important lesson about relationships. I haven’t found this insightful metaphor anywhere else, and it showed me right at the start of this book that it’s going to be highly substantial lecture:

A membrane is very different from a cell wall. Whereas cell walls are rigid structures, membranes are always active, opening and closing continually, keeping certain substances out and letting others in./8

The cell’s metabolic reactions involve a variety of ions, and the membrane, by being semipermeable, controls their proportions and keeps them in balance. Another critical activity of the membrane is to continually pump out excessive calcium waste, so that the calcium remaining within the cell is kept at the precise, very low level required for its metabolic functions. All these activities help to maintain the cell as a distinct entity and protect it from harmful environmental influences. Indeed, the first thing a bacterium does when it is attacked by another organism is to make membranes./Id.

The next important point to understand how nature ‘thinks’ is the cell’s metabolism, the network that serves recycling. Capra succinctly elaborates:

When we take a closer look at the processes of metabolism, we notice that they form a chemical network. This is another fundamental feature of life. As ecosystems are understood in terms of food webs (networks of organisms), so organisms are viewed as networks of cells, organs and organ systems, and cells as networks of molecules. One of the key insights of the systems approach has been the realization that the network is a pattern that is common to all life. Wherever we see life, we see networks. (…) The metabolic network of a cell involves very special dynamics that differ strikingly from the cell’s nonliving environment. Taking in nutrients from the outside world, the cell sustains itself by means of a network of chemical reactions that take place inside the boundary and produce all of the cell’s components, including those of the boundary itself./9

I shall leave out in this review the long passages in which Capra explains the essential contributions of systems researchers such as Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, or Ilya Prigogine, as this would render this review definitely too extensive. I shall thus restrict myself to a few remarks for describing the core of systems research that Capra unfolds in this book:

The starting point for this is the observation that all cellular structures exist far from equilibrium state — in other words, the cell would die — if the cellular metabolism did not use a continual flow of energy to restore structures as fast as they are decaying. This means that we need to describe the cell as an open system. Living systems are organizationally closed — they are autopoietic networks — but materially and energetically open./13

One of the most important insights we gain from systems theory and the close observation of natural processes is the relationship between chaos and order. What is chaos? What is order? We all have some preconceptions here. Sure, but I promise you that when you read this book, you will let go all of them, because they are wrong! Chaos is not chaos, but ordered chaos, and thus not random, and order is not a stable condition. You may remember that we discussed earlier on what self-organization means relating to systems. Here, Capra explains in more detail what self-organization actually does:

Th[e] spontaneous emergence of order at critical points of instability is one of the most important concepts of the new understanding of life. It is technically known as self organization and is often referred to simply as emergence. It has been recognized as the dynamic origin of development, learning and evolution. In other words, creativity — the generation of new forms — is a key property of all living systems. And since emergence is an integral part of the dynamics of open systems, we reach the important conclusion that open systems develop and evolve. Life constantly reaches out into novelty./14

The next great error most of us are caught in is the discrimination between humans and animals when it is about cognition. Fact is that humans are not much more intelligent than Gorillas, only a little more, to be precise: we are precisely 1.6 times more intelligent than gorillas. Besides that, it was believed that in animals cognition was working in basically different ways than in humans. This seems to have been an error. Researchers found you can talk with chimpanzees if you learn their language, and they can learn ours.

Throughout most of Western philosophy, the capacity to reason was seen as a uniquely human characteristic, distinguishing us from all other animals. The communication studies with chimpanzees / have exposed the fallacy of this belief in the most dramatic of ways. They make it clear that the cognitive and emotional lives of animals and humans differ only by degree; that life is a great continuum in which differences between species are gradual and evolutionary./65–66

I shall finalize this review with some very interesting political and social hidden connections that Capra unveils in his book.

There are probably still people around who are fond of biotechnology, but I guess they just ignore the facts, and their knowledge is for the most part taken from the huge amount of propaganda material. Was it only for this enlightening information, the present book is worth its price as it daringly unveils the hidden facts and tells the truth!

The most widespread use of plant biotechnology has been to develop herbicide-tolerant crops in order to boast the sales of particular herbicides. There is a strong likelihood that the transgenic plants will cross-pollinate with wild relatives in their surroundings, thus creating herbicide-resistant superweeds. Evidence indicates that such gene flows between transgenic crops and wild relatives are already occurring. /193

Why do we need biotechnology? I guess certain people, corporations and their consorts need it for making huge amounts of money. But is it tolerable in a democracy that all suffer from the side effects of technologies that enrich a few? I learnt as a law student that such a kind of system is called an oligarchy, the reign of an elite. So I am seriously asking how we ever came to say that we are living in a democracy?

In the animal kingdom, where cellular complexity is much higher, the side effects in genetically modified species are much worse. ‘Super-salmon’ which were engineered to grow as fast as possible, ended up with monstrous heads and died from not being able to breathe or feed properly. Similarly, a superpig with a human gene for a growth hormone turned out ulcerous, blind, and impotent. (…) The most horrifying and by now best-known story is probably that of the genetically altered hormone called recombinant bovine growth hormone, which has been used to stimulate milk production in cows despite the fact that American dairy farmers have produced vastly more milk than people can consume for the past fifty years. The effects of this genetic engineering folly on the cow’s health are serious. They include bloat, diarrhea, diseases of the knees and feet, cystic ovaries, and many more. Besides, their milk may contain a substance that has been implicated in human breast and stomach cancers./198

Why do we need superpigs? It seems to me that they are the result of quantitativethinking, a primacy of quantity over quality, and this for the obvious reason of maximizing profits. This is a good example for the fact that we live in what has been called the corporate society, as the prototype of a society in which major corporations dictate the standards the government is going to follow and to enact as laws. Capra notes the details:

In the United States, the biotech industry has persuaded the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat GM food as substantially equivalent to traditional food, which allows food producers to evade normal testing by the FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and also leaves it to the companies’ own discretion as to whether to label their products as genetically modified. Thus, the public is kept unaware of the rapid spread of transgenic foods and scientists will find it much harder to trace harmful effects. Indeed, buying organic is now the only way to avoid GM foods./199

In Germany, France, and most other European countries, the laws are different regarding genetically modified food. Capra informs:

The governments of France, Italy, Greece, and Denmark announced that they would block the approval of new GM crops in the European Union. The European Commission made the labeling of GM foods mandatory, as did the governments of Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Mexico. In January 2000, 130 nations signed the groundbreaking Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in Montreal, which gives nations the right to refuse entry to any genetically modified forms of life, despite vehement opposition from the United States. /228

As a trained lawyer, I can clearly see that we are facing currently a challenge to legally codify these new technologies — lest, as it were, they are going to codify us, entraining us in a turbulence of faits établis, and then the law will leap behind the actual developments. But the law should better accompany the research step by step so as to be updated with the explosive growth of these very heavily funded research disciplines. Capra writes:

The development of such new biotechnologies will be a tremendous intellectual challenge, because we still do not understand how nature developed technologies during billions of years of evolution that are far superior to our human designs. How do mussels produce glue that sticks to anything in water? How do spiders spin a silk thread that, ounce for ounce, is five times stronger than steel? How do abalone grow a shell that is twice as tough as our high-tech ceramics? How do these creatures manufacture their miracle materials in water, at room temperature, silently, and without any toxic byproducts?/204

Quotes

  • Since we know that all living organisms are either single cells or multicellular, we know that the simplest living system is the cell. More precisely, it is a bacterial cell. /4
  • Since its beginning, life on earth has been associated with water. Bacteria move in water, and the metabolism inside their membranes takes place in a watery environment. In such fluid surroundings, a cell could never persist as a distinct entity without a physical barrier against free diffusion. The existence of membranes is therefore an essential condition for cellular life. /8
  • A membrane is very different from a cell wall. Whereas cell walls are rigid structures, membranes are always active, opening and closing continually, keeping certain substances out and letting others in. The cell’s metabolic reactions involve a variety of ions, and the membrane, by being semipermeable, controls their proportions and keeps them in balance. Another critical activity of the membrane is to continually pump out excessive calcium waste, so that the calcium remaining within the cell is kept at the precise, very low level required for its metabolic functions. All these activities help to maintain the cell as a distinct entity and protect it from harmful environmental influences. Indeed, the first thing a bacterium does when it is attacked by another organism is to make membranes. /8
  • The cell does not contain several distinct membranes, but rather has one single, interconnected membrane system. This so-called ‘endomembrane system’ is always in motion, wrapping itself around all the organelles and going out to the edge of the cell. It is a moving ‘conveyor belt’ that is continually produced, broken down and produced again. /8
  • When we take a closer look at the processes of metabolism, we notice that they form a chemical network. This is another fundamental feature of life. As ecosystems are understood in terms of food webs (networks of organisms), so organisms are viewed as networks of cells, organs and organ systems, and cells as networks of molecules. One of the key insights of the systems approach has been the realization that the network is a pattern that is common to all life. Wherever we see life, we see networks. /9
  • The metabolic network of a cell involves very special dynamics that differ strikingly from the cell’s nonliving environment. Taking in nutrients from the outside world, the cell sustains itself by means of a network of chemical reactions that take place inside the boundary and produce all of the cell’s components, including those of the boundary itself. /9
  • The function of each component in this network is to transform or replace other components, so that the entire network continually generates itself. This is the key to the systemic definition of life: living networks continually create, or re-create, themselves by transforming or replacing their components. In this way they undergo continual structural changes while preserving their weblike patterns of organization. /9–10
  • The dynamic of self-generation was identified as a key characteristic of life by biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, who gave it the name ‘autopoiesis’ (literally, ‘self-making’). The concept of autopoiesis combines the two defining characteristics of cellular life mentioned above, the physical boundary and the metabolic network. Unlike the surfaces of crystals or large molecules, the boundary of an autopoietic system is chemically distinct from the rest of the system, and it participates in metabolic processes by assembling itself and by selectively filtering incoming and outgoing molecules. /10
  • The definition of a living system as an autopoietic network means that the phenomenon of life has to be understood as a property of the system as a whole. In the words of Pier Luigi Luisi, ‘Life cannot be ascribed to any single molecular component (not even DNA or RNA!) but only to the entire bounded metabolic network. /10
  • Autopoiesis provides a clear and powerful criterion for distinguishing between living and nonliving systems. For example, it tells us that viruses are not alive, because they lack their own metabolism. Outside living cells, viruses are inert molecular structures consisting of proteins and nucleic acids. A virus is essentially a chemical message that needs the metabolism of a living host cell to produce new virus particles, according to the instructions encoded in its DNA or RNA. The new particles are not built within the boundary of the virus itself, but outside of the host cell. /10
  • Most people tend to believe that information about cellular processes is passed on to the next generation through the DNA when a cell divides and its DNA replicates. This is not at all what happens. When a cell reproduces, it passes on not only its genes, but also its membranes, enzymes, organelles — in short, the whole cellular network. The new cell is not produced from naked DNA, but from an unbroken continuation of the entire autopoietic network. Naked DNA is never passed on, because genes can only function when they are embedded in the epigenetic network. Thus life has unfolded for over three billion years in an uninterrupted process, without ever breaking the basic pattern of its self-generating networks. /12
  • The starting point for this is the observation that all cellular structures exist far from equilibrium state — in other words, the cell would die — if the cellular metabolism did not use a continual flow of energy to restore structures as fast as they are decaying. This means that we need to describe the cell as an open system. Living systems are organizationally closed — they are autopoietic networks — but materially and energetically open. /13
  • A dissipative structure, as described by Prigogine, is an open system that maintains itself in a state far from equilibrium, yet is nevertheless stable: the same overall structure is maintained in spite of an ongoing flow and change of components. Prigogine chose the term ‘dissipative structures’ to emphasize this close interplay between structure on the one hand and flow and change (or dissipation) on the other. /13
  • The dynamics of these dissipative structures specifically include the spontaneous emergence of new forms of order. When the flow of energy increases, the system may encounter a point of instability, known as a ‘bifurcation point’, at which it can branch off into an / entirely new state where new structures and new forms of order may emerge. /13–14
  • This spontaneous emergence of order at critical points of instability is one of the most important concepts of the new understanding of life. It is technically known as self-organization and is often referred to simply as ‘emergence’. It has been recognized as the dynamic origin of development, learning and evolution. In other words, creativity — the generation of new forms — is a key property of all living systems. And since emergence is an integral part of the dynamics of open systems, we reach the important conclusion that open systems develop and evolve. Life constantly reaches out into novelty. /14
  • The theory of dissipative structures, formulated in terms of non-linear dynamics, explains not only the spontaneous emergence of order, but also helps us to define complexity. Whereas traditionally the study of complexity has been a study of complex structures, the focus is now shifting from the structures to the processes of their emergence. For example, instead of defining the complexity of an organism in terms of the number of its different cell types, as biologists often do, we can define it as the number of bifurcations the embryo goes through in the organism’s development. Accordingly, Brian Goodwin speaks of ‘morphological complexity’. /14
  • We have learned that a cell is a membrane-bounded, self-generating, organizationally closed metabolic network; that it is materially and energetically open, using a constant flow of matter and energy to produce, repair and perpetuate itself; and that it operates far from equilibrium, where new structures and new forms of order may spontaneously emerge, thus leading to development and evolution. /14
  • Dissipative structures, then, are not necessarily living systems, but since emergence is an integral part of their dynamics, all dissipative structures have the potential to evolve. In other words, there is a ‘prebiotic’ evolution — an evolution of inanimate matter that must have begun some time before the emergence of living cells. This view is widely accepted among scientists today. /15
  • The new thinking, as Morowitz emphasizes repeatedly, begins from the hypothesis that very early on, before the increase of molecular complexity, certain molecules assembled into primitive membranes that spontaneously formed closed bubbles, and that the evolution of molecular complexity took place inside these bubbles, rather than in a structureless chemical soup. /20
  • The vesicle membranes are semipermeable, and thus various small molecules can enter the bubbles or be incorporated into the membrane. Among those will be chromophores, molecules that absorb sunlight. Their presence creates electric potentials across the membrane, and thus the vesicle becomes a device that converts light energy into electric potential energy. /20
  • Eventually, a further refinement of this energy scenario takes place when the chemical reactions in the bubbles produce phosphates, which are very effective in the transformation and distribution of chemical energy. /21
  • Cognition, according to Maturana and Varela, is the activity involved in the self-generation and self-perpetuation of living networks. In other words, cognition is the very process of life. The organizing activity of living systems, at all levels of life, is mental activity. The interactions of a living organism — plant, animal or human — with its environment are cognitive interactions. Thus life and cognition are inseparably connected. Mind — or, more accurately, mental activity — is immanent in matter at all levels of life. /34
  • In this new view, cognition involves the entire process of life — including perception, emotion, and behavior — and does not even necessarily require a brain and a nervous system. /34
  • According to the theory of autopoiesis, a living system couples to its environment structurally, i.e. through recurrent interactions, each of which triggers structural changes in the system. For example, a cell membrane continually incorporates substances from its environment into the cell’s metabolic processes. An organism’s nervous system changes its connectivity with every sense perception. These living systems are autonomous, however. The environment only triggers the structural changes; it does not specify or direct them./35
  • As a living organism responds to environmental influences with structural changes, these changes will in turn alter its future behavior. In other words, a structurally coupled system is a learning system. /35
  • Continual structural changes in response to the environment — and consequently continuing adaptation, learning and development — are key characteristics of the behavior of all living beings. Because of its structural coupling, we can call the behavior of an animal intelligent but would not apply that term to the behavior of a rock./35
  • It is interesting that the notion of consciousness as a process appeared in science as early as the late nineteenth century in the writings of William James, whom many consider the greatest American psychologist. James was a fervent critic of the reductionist and materialist theories that dominated psychology in his time, and an enthusiastic advocate of the interdependence of mind and body. He pointed out that consciousness is not a thing, but an ever-changing stream, and he emphasized the personal, continuous and highly integrated nature of this stream of consciousness. /38
  • The first, as mentioned above, is the recognition that consciousness is a cognitive process, emerging from complex neural activity. The second point is the distinction between two types of consciousness — in other words, two types of cognitive experiences — which emerge at different levels of neural complexity. /38
  • The first type, known as ‘primary consciousness’, arises when cognitive processes are accompanied by basic perceptual, sensory and emotional experience. Primary consciousness is probably experienced by most mammals and perhaps by some birds and other vertebrates. /39
  • Reflective consciousness involves a level of cognitive abstraction that includes the ability to hold mental images, which allows us to formulate values, beliefs, goals and strategies. This evolutionary stage is of central relevance to the main theme of this book — the extension of the new understanding of life to the social domain — because with the / evolution of language arose not only the inner world of concepts and ideas, but also the social world of organized relationships and culture. /40
  • When carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen atoms bond in a certain way to form sugar, the resulting compound has a sweet taste. The sweetness resides neither in the C, or in the O, nor in the H; it resides in the pattern that emerges from their interaction. It is an emergent property. Moreover, strictly speaking, the sweetness is not a property of the chemical bonds. It is a sensory experience that arises when the sugar / molecules interact with the chemistry of our taste buds, which in turn causes a set of neurons to fire in a certain way. The experience of sweetness emerges from that neural activity. /41–42
  • Phenomenology is an important branch of modern philosophy, founded by Edmund Husserl at the beginning of the twentieth century and developed further by many European philosophers, including Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The central concern of phenomenology is the disciplined examination of experience, and the hope of Husserl and his followers was, and is, that a true science of experience would eventually be established in partnership with the natural sciences. /45
  • The specific neural mechanism proposed by Varela for the emergence of transitory experiential states is a resonance phenomenon known as ‘phase-locking’, in which different brain regions are interconnected in such a way that their neurons fire in synchrony. Through this synchronization of neural activity, temporary ‘cell assemblies’ are formed, which may consist of widely dispersed neural circuits. /50
  • Humberto Maturana was one of the first scientists to link the biology of human consciousness to language in a systematic way. He did so by approaching language through a careful analysis of communication within the framework of the Santiago Theory of Cognition. Communication, according to Maturana, is not the transmission of information but rather the coordination of behavior between living organisms through mutual structural coupling. In these recurrent interactions, the living organisms change together through their mutual triggering of structural changes. Such mutual coordination is the key characteristic of communication for all living organisms, with or without nervous systems, and it becomes more and more subtle and elaborate with nervous systems of increasing complexity. /53
  • Language arises when a level of abstraction is reached at which there is communication about communication. /53
  • How living organisms categorize depends on their sensory apparatus and their motor systems; in other words, it depends on how they are embodied. This is true not only for animals, plants, and microorganisms, but also for human beings, as cognitive scientists have recently discovered. Although some of our categories are the result of conscious reasoning, most of them are formed automatically, and unconsciously as a result of the specific nature of our bodies and brains. /62
  • All these manifestations of the process of cognition, and at each new level they involve corresponding neural and bodily structures. As the recent discoveries in cognitive linguistics have shown, the human mind, even in its most abstract manifestations, is not separate from the body but arises from it and is shaped by it. /65
  • The unified, post-Cartesian view of mind, matter, and life also implies a radical reassessment of the relationships between humans and animals. Throughout most of Western philosophy, the capacity to reason was seen as a uniquely human characteristic, distinguishing us from all other animals. The communication studies with chimpanzees / have exposed the fallacy of this belief in the most dramatic of ways. They make it clear that the cognitive and emotional lives of animals and humans differ only by degree; that life is a great continuum in which differences between species are gradual and evolutionary. /65–66
  • Spirituality, then, is always embodied. /68
  • When we study the living systems from the perspective of form, we find that their pattern of organization is that of a self-generating network. From the perspective of matter, the material structure of a living system is a dissipative structure, i.e. an open system operating far from equilibrium. From the process perspective, finally, living systems are cognitive systems in which the process of cognition is closely linked to the pattern of autopoiesis. In a nutshell, this is my synthesis of the new scientific understanding of life. /71
  • Of course, no scientist would deny the existence of patterns and processes, but most of them think of a pattern as an emergent property of matter, an idea abstracted from matter, rather than a generative force. /72
  • To focus on material structures and the forces between them, and to view the patterns of organization resulting from these forces as secondary emergent phenomena has been very effective in physics and chemistry, but when we come to living systems this approach is no longer adequate. /72
  • Such a systemic understanding is based on the assumption that there is a fundamental unity to life, that different living systems exhibit similar patterns of organization. This assumption is supported by the observation that evolution has proceeded for billions of years by using the same patterns again and again. As life evolves, these patterns tend to become more and more elaborate, but they are always variations on the same basic themes. /81
  • The network, in particular, is one of the very basic patterns of organization in all living systems. At all levels of life — from the metabolic networks of cells to the food webs of ecosystems — the components and processes of living systems are interlinked in network fashion. Extending the systemic understanding of life to the social domain, therefore, means applying our knowledge of life’s basic patterns and principles of organization, and specifically our understanding of living networks, to social reality. /81
  • Through this shared context of meaning individuals acquire identities as members of the social network, and in this way the network generates its own boundary. It is not a physical boundary but a boundary of expectations, of confidentiality and loyalty, which is continually maintained and renegotiated by the network itself. /83
  • To understand the meaning of anything we need to relate it to other things in its environment, in its past, or in its future. Nothing is meaningful in itself. /84
  • Meaning is essential to human beings. We continually need to make / sense of our outer and inner worlds, find meaning in our environment and in our relationships with other humans, and act according to that meaning. This includes in particular our need to act with a purpose or goal in mind. Because of our ability to project mental images into the future we act with our conviction, valid or invalid, that our actions are voluntary, intentional, and purposeful. /85
  • In his classic text, Culture, historian Raymond Williams traces the meaning of the word back to its early use as a noun denoting a process: the culture (i.e. cultivation) of crops, or the culture (i.e. rearing and breeding) of animals. In the seventeenth century this meaning was extended metaphorically to the active cultivation of the human mind; and in the late eighteenth century, when the word was borrowed from the French by German writers (who first spelled it Cultur and subsequently Kultur), it acquired the meaning of a distinctive way of life of a people. In the nineteenth century the plural ‘cultures’ became especially important in the development of comparative anthropology, where it has continued to designate distinctive ways of life. /86
  • In the meantime, the older use of ‘culture’ as the active cultivation of the mind continued. Indeed, it expanded and diversified, covering a range of meanings from a developed state of mind (‘a cultured person’) to the process of this development (‘cultural activities’) to the means of these processes (administered, for example, by a ‘Ministry of Culture’). /86
  • Over the past ten years, I have been invited to speak at quite a few business conferences, and at first I was very puzzled when I encountered the strongly felt need for organizational change. Corporations seemed to be more powerful than ever; business was clearly dominating politics; and the profits and shareholder values of most companies were rising to unprecedented heights. Things seemed to be going very well indeed for business, so why was there so much talk about fundamental change?/97
  • [I]t is becoming more and more apparent that our complex industrial systems, both organizational and technological, are the main driving force of global environmental / destruction, and the main threat to the long-term survival of humanity. To build a sustainable society for our children and future generations, we need to fundamentally redesign many of our technologies and social institutions so as to bridge the wide gap between human design and the ecologically sustainable systems of nature. /98–99
  • Organizations need to undergo fundamental changes, both in order to adapt to the new business environment and to become ecologically sustainable. This double challenge is urgent and real, and the recent extensive discussions of organizational change are fully justified. However, despite these discussions and some anecdotal evidence of successful attempts to transform organizations, the overall track record is very poor. /99
  • It is common to hear that people in organizations resist change. In / reality, people do not resist change; they resist having changed imposed on them. Being alive, individuals and their communities are both stable and subject to change and development, but their natural change processes are very different from the organizational changes designed by ‘reengineering’ experts and mandated from the top. /99–100
  • To run properly, a machine must be controlled by its operators, so that it will function according to their instructions. Accordingly, the whole thrust of classical management theory is to achieve efficient operations through top-down control. Living beings, on the other hand, act autonomously. They can never be controlled like machines. To try and do so is to deprive them of their aliveness. /104
  • The need to have all changes designed by management and imposed upon the organization tends to generate bureaucratic rigidity. There is no room for flexible adaptations, learning, and evolution in the machine metaphor, and it is clear that organizations managed in strictly mechanistic ways cannot survive in today’s complex, knowledge-oriented and rapidly changing business environment. /105
  • He [de Geus] identifies to sets of characteristics. One is a strong sense of community and collective identity around a set of common values; a community in which all members know that they will be supported in their endeavors to achieve their own goals. The other set of characteristics is openness to the outside world, tolerance for the entry of new individuals and ideas, and consequently a manifest ability to learn and adapt to new circumstances. /105
  • These considerations imply that the most effective way to enhance an organization’s potential for creativity and learning, to keep it vibrant and alive, is to support and strengthen its communities of practice. The first step in this endeavor will be to provide the social space for information communications to flourish. Some companies may create special coffee counters to encourage informal gatherings; others may use bulletin boards, the company newsletter, a special library, offsite retreats or online chat rooms for the same purpose. If widely publicized within the company so that support by management is evident, these measures will liberate people’s energies, stimulate creativity, and set processes of change in motion. /111
  • We are dealing here with a crucial difference between a living system and a machine. A machine can be controlled; a living system, according to the systemic understanding of life, can only be disturbed. In other words, organizations cannot be controlled through direct interventions, but they can be influenced by giving impulses rather than instructions. /112
  • There is no need to push, pull, or bully it to make it change. Force or energy are not the issue; the issue is meaning. Meaningful disturbances will get the organization’s attention and will trigger structural changes. /112
  • In terms of our previous discussion of power, we could say that the shift from domination to partnership corresponds to a shift from coercive power, which uses threats of sanctions to assure adherence to orders, and compensatory power, which tries to make instructions meaningful through persuasion and education. /114
  • Whereas explicit knowledge can be communicated and documented through language, tacit knowledge is acquired through experience and often remains intangible. /115
  • Tacit knowledge is created by the dynamics of culture resulting from a network of (verbal and nonverbal) communications within a community of practice. Organizational learning, therefore, is a social phenomenon, because the tacit knowledge on which all explicit knowledge is based is generated collectively. /115
  • The traditional idea of a leader is that of a person who is able to hold a vision, to articulate it clearly and to communicate it with passion and charisma. /121
  • The ability to hold a clear vision of an ideal form, or state of affairs, is something that traditional leaders have in common with designers. /122
  • Holding a vision is central to the success of any organization, because all human beings need to feel that their actions are meaningful and geared toward specific goals. At all levels of the organization, people need to have a sense of where they are going. A vision is a mental image of what we want to achieve, but visions are much more complex than concrete goals and tend to defy expression in ordinary, rational terms. Goals can be measured, while vision is qualitative and much more intangible. /122
  • Whenever we need to express complex and subtle messages, we make use of metaphors, and thus it is not surprising that metaphors play a crucial role in formulating an organization’s vision. Often, the vision remains unclear as long as we try to explain it, but suddenly comes into focus when we find the right metaphor. The ability to express a vision in metaphors, to articulate it in such a way that it is understood and embraced by all, is an essential quality of leadership. /122
  • The experience of the critical instability that precedes the emergence of novelty may involve uncertainty, fear, confusion, or self-doubt. Experienced leaders recognize these emotions as integral parts of the whole dynamic and create a climate of trust and mutual support. In / today’s turbulent global economy this is especially important, because people are often in fear of losing their jobs as a consequence of corporate mergers or other radical structural changes. This fear generates a strong resistance to change, hence building trust is essential. /123–124
  • The problem is that people at all levels want to be told what concrete results they can expect from the change process, while managers themselves do not know what will emerge. During this chaotic phase, many managers tend to hold things back rather than communicating honestly and openly, which means that rumors fly and nobody knows what information to trust. /124
  • During the change process some of the old structures may fall apart, but if the supportive climate and the feedback loops in the network of communications persist, new and more meaningful structures are likely to emerge. When that happens, people often feel a sense of wonder and elation, and now the leader’s role is to acknowledge these emotions and provide opportunities for celebration. /124
  • Finally, leaders need to be able to recognize emergent novelty, articulate it and incorporate it into the organization’s design. Not all emergent solutions will be viable, however, and hence a culture fostering emergence must include the freedom to make mistakes. In such a culture, experimentation is encouraged and learning is valued as much as success. /124
  • The more we understand the nature of life and become aware of how alive an organization can be, the more painfully we notice the life-draining nature of our current economic system. /126
  • These economic pressures are applied with the help of ever more sophisticated information and communication technologies, which have created a profound conflict between biological time and computer time. New knowledge arises, as we have seen, from chaotic processes of emergence that take time. Being creative means being able to relax into uncertainty and confusion. In most organizations this is becoming increasingly difficult, because things move far too fast. People feel that they have hardly any time for quiet reflection, and since reflective consciousness is one of the defining characteristics of human nature, the results are profoundly dehumanizing. /126
  • This new economy is structured around flows of information, power, and wealth in global financial networks that rely decisively on advanced information and communication technologies. It is shaped in very fundamental ways by machines, and the resulting economic, social, and cultural environment is not life-enhancing but life-degrading. It has triggered a great deal of resistance, which may well coalesce into a worldwide movement to change the current economic system by organizing its financial flows according to a different set of values and beliefs. The systemic understanding of life makes it clear that in the coming years such a change will be imperative not only for the well-being of human organizations, but also for the survival and sustainability of humanity as a whole. /128
  • With the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the mid-1990s, economic globalization, characterized by ‘free trade’ was hailed by corporate leaders and politicians as a new order that would benefit all nations, producing worldwide economic expansion whose wealth would trickle down to all. However, it soon became apparent to increasing numbers of environmentalists and grassroots activists that the new economic rules established by the WTO were manifestly unsustainable and were producing a multitude of interconnected fatal consequences — social disintegration, a breakdown of democracy, more rapid and extensive deterioration of the environment, the spread of new diseases, and increasing poverty and alienation. /129
  • Global currency markets alone involve the daily exchange of over two trillion dollars, and since these markets largely determine the value of any national currency, they contribute significantly to the inability of governments to control economic policy. /139
  • The recent crashes of the financial markets threw approximately 40 percent of the world’s population into deep recession. /140
  • The logic of this automaton is not that of traditional market rules, and the dynamics of the financial flows it sets in motion is currently beyond the control of governments, corporations, and financial institutions, regardless of their wealth and power. However, because of the great versatility and accuracy of the new information and communication technologies, effective regulation of the global economy is technically feasible. The critical issue is not technology, but politics and human values. /141
  • According to the United Nation’s Human Development Report, the difference in per capita income between the North and South tripled from $5,700 in 1960 to $15,000 in 1993. The richest 20 percent of the world’s people now own 85 percent of its wealth, while the poorest 20 percent (who account for 80 percent of the total world population) owns just 1.4 percent. The assets of the three richest people in the world alone exceed the combined GNP of all least developed countries and their 600 million people. /144
  • The increase of poverty and especially of extreme poverty, seems to be a worldwide phenomenon. Even in the United States, 15 percent of the population (including 25 percent of all children) now lives below the poverty line. One of the most striking features of the ‘new poverty’ is homelessness, which skyrocketed in American cities during the 1980’s and remains at high levels today. /144
  • The Fourth World is populated by millions of homeless, impoverished, and often illiterate people who move in and out of paid work, many of them drifting into the criminal economy. They experience multiple crises in their lives, including hunger, disease, drug addiction, and imprisonment — the ultimate form of social exclusion. Once their poverty turns into misery, they may easily find themselves caught in a downward spiral of marginality from which it is almost impossible to escape. /145
  • Global capitalism does not alleviate poverty and social exclusion; on the contrary, it exacerbates them. The Washington consensus has been blind to this effect because corporate economists have traditionally excluded the social costs of economic activity from their models. Similarly, most conventional economists have ignored the new economy’s environmental cost — the increase and acceleration of global environmental destruction, which is as severe, if not more so, than its social impact. /146
  • In Taiwan, agricultural and industrial poisons have severely polluted nearly every major river. In some places, the water is not only devoid of fish and unfit to drink, but is actually combustible. The level of air pollution is twice that considered harmful in the United States; cancer rates have doubled since 1965, and the country has the world’s highest incidence of hepatitis. In principle, Taiwan could use its new wealth to clean up its environment, but competitiveness in the global economy is so extreme that environmental regulations are eliminated rather than strengthened in order to lower the costs of industrial production. /147
  • One of the tenets of neoliberalism is that poor countries should concentrate on producing a few special goods for export in order to obtain foreign exchange, and should import most other commodities. This emphasis has led to the rapid depletion of the natural resources required to produce export crops in country after country — diversion of fresh water from vital rice paddies to prawn farms; a focus on water-intensive crops, such as sugar cane, that result in dried-up riverbeds; conversion of good agricultural land into cash-crop plantations; and forced migration of large numbers of farmers from their lands. All over the world there are countless examples of how economic globalization is worsening environmental destruction. /147
  • Studies in Germany have shown that the contribution of nonlocal food production to global warming is between six and twelve times higher than that of local production, due to increased CO2 emissions. /147
  • The destruction of the natural environment in Third World countries goes hand in hand with the dismantling of rural people’s traditional, largely self-sufficient ways of life, as American television programs and transnational advertising agencies promote glittering images of modernity to billions of people all over the globe without mentioning that the lifestyle of endless material consumption is utterly unsustainable. /148
  • Edward Goldsmith estimates that, if all Third World countries were to reach the consumption level of the United States by the year 2060, the annual environmental damage from the resulting economic activities would be 220 times what it is today, which is not even remotely conceivable. /148
  • Nevertheless, it would be false to think that a few megacorporations control the world. To begin with, real economic power has shifted to the global financial networks. Every corporation depends on what happens in those complex networks, which nobody controls. There are thousands of corporations today, all of whom compete and cooperate at the same time, and no individual corporation can dictate conditions. /152
  • It is instructive to compare this situation with ecological networks. Although it may seem that in an ecosystem some species are more powerful than others, the concept of power is not appropriate, because nonhuman species (with the exception of some primates) do not force individuals to act in accordance with preconceived goals. There is dominance, but it is always acted out within a larger context of cooperation, even in predator-prey relationships. The manifold species in an ecosystem do not form hierarchies, as is often erroneously stated, but exist in networks nested within networks. /152
  • In spite of the constant barrage of advertising and the billions of dollars pent on it every year, studies have shown repeatedly that media advertising has virtually no specific impact on consumer behavior. This startling discovery is further evidence for the observation that human beings, like all living systems, cannot be directed but can only be disturbed. As we have seen, choosing what to notice and how to respond is the very essence of being alive. /154
  • Geneticists soon discovered that there is a huge gap between the ability to identify genes that are involved in the development of disease and the understanding of their precise function, let alone their / manipulation to obtain a desired outcome. As we now know, this gap is a direct consequence of the mismatch between the linear causal chains of genetic determination and the nonlinear epigenetic networks of biological reality. /178
  • The reality of genetic engineering is much more messy. At the current state of the art, geneticists cannot control what happens in the organism. They can insert a gene into the nucleus of a cell with the help of a specific gene transfer vector, but they never know whether the cell will incorporate it into its DNA, nor where the new gene will be located, nor what effects this will have on the organism. Thus, genetic engineering proceeds by trial and error in a way that is extremely wasteful. The average success rate of genetic experiments is only about 1 percent, because the living background of the host organism, which determines the outcome of the experiment, remains largely inaccessible to the engineering mentality that underlies our current biotechnologies. /178
  • The real ethical problems surrounding the current cloning procedure are rooted in the biological developmental problems it generates. They are a consequence of the crucial fact that the manipulated cell from which the embryo grows is a hybrid of cellular components from two different animals. Its nucleus stems from one organism, while the rest of the cell, which contains the entire epigenetic network, stems from another. Because of the enormous complexity of the epigenetic network and its interactions with the genome, the two components will only very rarely be compatible. /183
  • [1] With the new chemicals, farming became mechanized and energy intensive, favoring large corporate farmers with sufficient capital, and forcing most of the traditional single-family farmers to abandon their land. All over the world, large numbers of people have left rural areas and joined the masses of urban unemployed as victims of the Green Revolution. /186
  • [2] The long-term effects of excessive chemical farming have been disastrous for the health of the soil and for human health, for our social relations, and for the entire natural environment on which our well-being and future survival depends. As the same crops were planted and fertilized synthetically year after year, the balance of the ecological processes in the soil was disrupted; the amount of organic matter diminished, and with it the soil’s ability to retain moisture. The resulting changes in soil texture entailed a multitude of interrelated harmful consequences — loss of humus, dry and sterile soil, wind and water erosion, and so on.
  • [3] The ecological imbalance caused by monocultures and excessive use of chemicals also resulted in enormous increases in pests and crop diseases, which farmers countered by spraying ever larger doses of pesticides in vicious cycles of depletion and destruction. The hazards for / human health increased accordingly as more and more toxic chemicals seeped through the soil, contaminated the water table and showed up in our food. /186–187
  • Through a series of massive mergers and because of the tight control afforded by genetic technologies, an unprecedented concentration of ownership and control over food production is now under way. The top ten agrochemical companies control 85 percent of the global market; the top five control virtually the entire market for genetically modified (GM) seeds. Monsanto alone bought into the major seed companies in India and Brazil, in addition to buying numerous biotech companies, while DuPont bought Pioneer Hi-Bred, the world’s largest seed company. The goal of these corporate giants is to create a single world agricultural system in which they would be able to control all stages of food production and manipulate both food supplies and / prices. /187–188
  • Biotechnology proponents have argued repeatedly that GM seeds are crucial to feed the world, using the same flawed reasoning that was advanced for decades by the proponents of the Green Revolution. Conventional food production, they maintain, will not keep pace with the world population. /188
  • Development agencies have known for a long time that there is a direct relationship between the prevalence of hunger and a country’s population density or growth. There is widespread hunger in densely populated countries like Bangladesh and Haiti,but also in sparsely populated ones like Brazil and Indonesia. Even in the United States, in the midst of super-abundance, there are between 20 and 30 million malnourished people. /188
  • The root causes of hunger around the world are unrelated to food production. They are poverty, inequality, and lack of access to food and land. /189
  • Recent experimental trials have shown that GM seeds do not increase crop yields significantly. Moreover, there are strong indications that the widespread use of GM crops will not only fail to solve the problem of hunger but, on the contrary, may perpetuate and even aggravate it. If transgenic seeds continue to be developed and promoted exclusively by private corporations, poor farmers will not be able to afford them, and if the biotech industry continues to protect its / products by means of patents that prevent farmers from storing and trading seeds, the poor will become further dependent and marginalized. According to a recent report by the charitable organization Christian Aid, ‘GM crops are … creating classic preconditions for hunger and famine. Ownership of resources concentrated in too few hands — inherent in farming based on patented proprietary products — and a food supply based on too few varieties of crops widely planted are the worst option for food security. /190
  • Organic farming preserves and sustains the great ecological cycles, integrating their biological processes into the processes of food production. When soil is cultivated organically, its carbon content increases, and thus organic farming contributes to reducing global warming. Physicist Amory Lovins estimates that increasing the carbon content of the world’s depleted soils at plausible rates would absorb about as much carbon as all human activity emits. /191
  • [1] Scientists at a recent international conference on sustainable agriculture in Bellagio, Italy, reported that a series of large-scale experimental projects around the world that tested agroecological techniques — crop rotation, intercropping, use of mulches and compost, terracing, water harvesting, etc. — yielded spectacular results. Many / of these were achieved in resource-poor areas that had been deemed incapable of producing food supplies. For example, agroecological projects involving about 730,000 farm households across Africa resulted in yield increases of between 80 and 100 percent, while decreasing production costs, increasing cash incomes of households dramatically — sometimes by as much as ten times. Again and again it was demonstrated that organic farming not only increased production and offered a wide range of ecological benefits, but also empowered the farmers. As one Zambian farmer put it, ‘Agroforestry has restored my dignity. My family is no longer hungry; I can even help my neighbors now.’/191–192
  • [2] In southern Brazil, the use of cover crops to increase soil activity and water retention enabled 400,000 farmers to increase maize and soybean yields by over 60 percent. In the Andean region, increases in crop varieties resulted in twentyfold increases in yields and more. In Bangladesh, an integrated rice-fish program raised rice yields by 8 percent and farmers’ incomes by 50 percent. In Sri Lanka, integrated pest and crop management increased rice yields by 11 to 44 percent while augmenting net incomes by 38 to 178 percent. /192
  • The risks of current biotechnologies in agriculture are a direct consequence of our poor understanding of genetic function. We have only recently come to realize that all biological processes involving genes are regulated by the cellular networks in which genomes are imbedded, and that the patterns of genetic activity change continually in response to changes in the cellular environment. Biologists are only just beginning to shift their attention from genetic structures to metabolic networks, and they still know very little about the complex dynamics of these networks. /193
  • We also know that all plants are embedded in complex ecosystems above the ground and in the soil, in which inorganic and organic matter moves in continual cycles. Again, we know very little about these ecological cycles and networks — partly because for many decades the dominant genetic determinism resulted in a severe distortion of biological research, with most of the funding going into molecular biology and very little into ecology. /193
  • Since the cells and regulatory networks of plants are relatively simpler than those of animals, it is much easier for geneticists to insert foreign genes into plants. The problem is that once the foreign gene is in the plant’s DNA and the resulting transgenic crop has been planted, it becomes part of an entire ecosystem. The scientists working for biotech companies know very little about the ensuing biological processes, and even less about the ecological consequences of their actions. /193
  • The most widespread use of plant biotechnology has been to develop herbicide-tolerant crops in order to boast the sales of particular herbicides. There is a strong likelihood that the transgenic plants will cross-pollinate with wild relatives in their surroundings, thus creating herbicide-resistant ‘superweeds’. Evidence indicates that such gene flows between transgenic crops and wild relatives are already occurring. /193
  • To defend their practices, biotech supporters often claim that genetic engineering is like conventional breeding — a continuation of the age-old tradition of shuffling genes to obtain superior crops and live-stock. Sometimes they even argue that our modern biotechnologies represent the latest stage in nature’s adventure of evolution. Nothing could be farther from the truth. To begin with, the pace of gene alteration through biotechnology is several orders of magnitude faster than nature’s. No ordinary plant breeder would be able to alter the genomes of half of the world’s soybeans in just three years. Genetic modification of crops is undertaken with incredible haste, and transgenic crops are planted massively without proper testing of the short- and long-term impacts on ecosystems and human health. These untested and potentially hazardous GM crops are now spreading all over the world, creating irreversible risks. /194
  • Most of the ecological hazards associated with herbicide-resistant crops, such as Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybeans, derive from the ever-increasing use of the company’s herbicide. Since resistance to that specific herbicide is the crop’s only — and widely advertised — benefit, farmers are naturally led to use massive amounts of the weed-killer. It is well documented that such massive use of a single chemical greatly boosts herbicide resistance in weed populations, which triggers a vicious cycle of more and more intensive spraying. Such use of toxic chemicals in agriculture is especially harmful to consumers. When plants are sprayed repeatedly with a weed-killer, they retain chemical residues that show up in our food. Moreover, plants grown in the presence of massive amounts of herbicides can suffer from stress and will typically respond by over- or underproducing certain substances. Herbicide-resistant members of the bean family are known to produce higher levels of plant oestrogens, which may cause severe dysfunctions in human reproductive systems, especially in boys. /196
  • [1] Monsanto is now facing an increasing number of lawsuits from farmers who had to cope with (…) unexpected side effects. For example, the balls of their GM cotton were deformed and dropped off in thousands of acres in the Mississippi Delta; their GM canola seeds had to be pulled off the Canadian market because of contaminations with a hazardous gene. Similarly, Calgene’s Flavr-Savr tomato, engineered for improved shell life, was a commercial disaster and soon disappeared. Transgenic potatoes intended for human consumption caused a series of serious health problems when they were fed to rats, including tumor growth, liver atrophy, and shrinkage of the brain. /198
  • In the animal kingdom, where cellular complexity is much higher, the side effects in genetically modified species are much worse. ‘Super-salmon’ which were engineered to grow as fast as possible, ended up with monstrous heads and died from not being able to breathe or feed properly. Similarly, a ‘superpig’ with a human gene for a growth hormone turned out ulcerous, blind, and impotent. /198
  • The most horrifying and by now best-known story is probably that of the genetically altered hormone called ‘recombinant bovine growth hormone’, which has been used to stimulate milk production in cows despite the fact that American dairy farmers have produced vastly more milk than people can consume for the past fifty years. The effects of this genetic engineering folly on the cow’s health are serious. They include bloat, diarrhea, diseases of the knees and feet, cystic ovaries, and many more. Besides, their milk may contain a substance that has been implicated in human breast and stomach cancers. /198
  • In the United States, the biotech industry has persuaded the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat GM food as ‘substantially equivalent’ to traditional food, which allows food producers to evade normal testing by the FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and also leaves it to the companies’ own discretion as to whether to label their products as genetically modified. Thus, the public is kept unaware of the rapid spread of transgenic foods and scientists will find it much harder to trace harmful effects. Indeed, buying organic is now the only way to avoid GM foods. /199
  • Ciba-Geigy merged with Sandoz to become Novartis; Hoechst and Rhone Poulenc became Aventis; and Monsanto now owns and controls several large seed companies.
  • As Vandana Shiva reminds us, the Latin root of the word ‘resource’ is resurgere (‘to rise again’). In the ancient meaning of the term, a natural resource, like all of life, is inherently self-renewing. This profound understanding of life is denied by the new life sciences corporations when they prevent life’s self-renewal in order to turn natural resources into profitable raw materials for industry. They do so through a combination of genetic alterations (including the terminator technologies) and patents, which do violence to time-honored farming practices that respect the cycles of life. /200
  • Since a patent is traditionally understood as the exclusive right to the use and selling of an invention, it seems strange that biotech companies today are able to patent living organisms, from bacteria to human cells. The history of this achievement is an amazing story of scientific and legal sleight of hand. The patenting of life-forms became common practice in the 1960’s when property rights were given to plant breeders for new varieties of flowers obtained through human / intervention and ingenuity. It took the international legal community less than twenty years to move from this seemingly less harmless patenting of flowers to the monopolization of life. /200–201
  • Indeed, in 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the landmark decision that genetically modified microorganisms could be patented. /201
  • The patents now granted to biotech companies (…) cover not only the methods by which DNA sequences are isolated, identified, and transferred, but also the underlying genetic material itself. Moreover, existing national laws and international conventions that specifically prohibit the patenting of essential natural resources, such as food and plant-derived medicine, are now being altered in accordance with the corporate view of life as a profitable commodity. /201
  • These exploitative practices are legalized by the WTO’s narrow definition of intellectual property rights (IPRs), which recognizes knowledge as patentable only when it is expressed within the framework of Western science./201
  • The development of such new biotechnologies will be a tremendous intellectual challenge, because we still do not understand how nature developed ‘technologies’ during billions of years of evolution that are far superior to our human designs. How do mussels produce glue that sticks to anything in water? How do spiders spin a silk thread that, ounce for ounce, is five times stronger than steel? How do abalone grow a shell that is twice as tough as our high-tech ceramics? How do these creatures manufacture their miracle materials in water, at room temperature, silently, and without any toxic byproducts? /204
  • Scientists at the University of Washington have studied the molecular structure and assembly process of the smooth inner coating of abalone shells, which shows delicate swirling color patterns and is hard as nails. They were able to mimic the assembly process at ambient temperatures and create a hard, transparent material that could be an ideal coating for the windshields of ultralight electric cars. German researchers have mimicked the bumpy, self-cleaning micro-surface of the lotus leaf to produce a paint that will do the same for buildings. Marine / biologists and biochemists have spent many years analyzing the unique chemistry used by blue mussels to secrete an adhesive that bonds underwater. They are now exploring potential medical applications that would allow surgeons to create bonds between ligaments and tissues in a fluid environment. Physicists have teamed up with biochemists in several laboratories to examine the complex structures and processes of photosynthesis, eventually hoping to mimic them in new kinds of solar cells. /204–205
  • [1] While these exciting developments are taking place, however, the central assertion of genetic determinism that genes determine behavior is still perpetuated by many geneticists, in biotechnology companies as well as in the academic world. One has to wonder whether these scientists really believe that our behavior is determined by our genes, and if not, why they keep up this façade. /205
  • [2] Discussions of this issue with molecular biologists have shown me that there are several reasons why scientists feel that they have to perpetuate the dogma of genetic determinism in spite of mounting contrary evidence. Industrial scientists are often hired for specific, narrowly defined projects, work under strict supervision, and are forbidden to discuss the broader implications of their research. They are required to sign confidentiality clauses to that effect. In biotechnology companies, in particular, the pressure to conform with the official doctrine of genetic determinism is enormous. /205
  • [3] In the academic world the pressures are different but, unfortunately, almost equally strong. Because of the tremendous cost of genetic research, biology departments increasingly form partnerships with biotechnology corporations to receive substantial grants that shape the nature and direction of their research. /205
  • [4] Biologists are used to formulating their grant proposals in terms of genetic determinism, because they know that this is what gets funded. They promise their funders that certain results will be derived from the / future knowledge of genetic structure even though they know well that scientific advances are always unexpected and unpredictable. They learn to adopt this double standard during the years as graduate students and then keep it up throughout their academic careers. /205–206
  • The new global capitalism has also created a global criminal economy that profoundly affects national and international economies and politics; it has threatened and destroyed local communities around the world; and with the pursuit of an ill-conceived biotechnology it has invaded the sanctity of life by attempting to turn diversity into monoculture, ecology into engineering, and life itself into a commodity. /207
  • In late 2000, the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change (IPCC) published its strongest consensus statement to date that human release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases ‘contributed significantly to the observed warming over the last fifty years.’ /208
  • Countries around the world with vastly different cultural traditions are increasingly homogenized through relentless proliferation of the same restaurant franchises, hotel chains, high-rise architecture, superstores, and shopping malls. The result, in Vandana Shiva’s apt phrase, is an increasing ‘monoculture of the mind’. /213
  • At the 2001 meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the exclusive club of representatives from big business, some of the leading players admitted for the first time that globalization has no future unless it is designed to be inclusive, ecologically sustainable, and respectful of human rights and values. /214
  • As members of the human community, our behavior should reflect a respect of human dignity and basic human rights. Since human life encompasses biological, cognitive, and social dimensions, human rights should be respected in all three of these dimensions. The biological dimension includes the right to a healthy environment and to secure and healthy food; honoring the integrity of life also includes the rejection of the patenting of life-forms. Human rights in the cognitive dimension include the right of access to education and knowledge, as well as the freedom of opinion and expression. In the social dimension, finally, the first human right — in the words of the UN Declaration of Human Rights — is ‘the right to life, liberty, and security of person’. There is a wide range of human rights in the social dimension — from social justice to the right of peaceful assembly, cultural integrity, and self-determination. /215
  • [T]he rise of the network society has gone hand in hand with the decline of the sovereignty, authority, and legitimacy of the nation-state. At the same time, mainstream religions have not developed an ethic appropriate for the age of globalization, while the legitimacy of the traditional patriarchal family is being challenged by profound redefinitions of gender relationships, family, and sexuality — the main institutions of traditional civil society are breaking down. /219
  • The governments of France, Italy, Greece, and Denmark announced that they would block the approval of new GM crops in the European Union. The European Commission made the labeling of GM foods mandatory, as did the governments of Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Mexico. In January 2000, 130 nations signed the groundbreaking Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety in Montreal, which gives nations the right to refuse entry to any genetically modified forms of life, despite vehement opposition from the United States. /228
  • The concept of sustainability was introduced in the early 1980s by Lester Brown, founder of the Worldwatch Institute, who defined a sustainable society as one that is able to satisfy its needs without diminishing the chances of future generations. /229
  • The key to an operational definition of ecological sustainability is the realization that we do not need to invent sustainable human communities from scratch but can model them after nature’s ecosystems, which are sustainable communities of plants, animals, and microorganisms. Since the outstanding characteristic of the Earth household is its inherent ability to sustain life, a sustainable human community is one designed in such a manner that its ways of life, businesses, economy, physical structures, and technologies do not interfere with nature’s inherent ability to sustain life. /230
  • Ecodesign is a process in which our human purposes are carefully meshed with the larger patterns and flows of the natural world. Ecodesign principles reflect the principles of organization that nature has evolved to sustain the web of life. To practice industrial design in such a context requires a fundamental shift in our attitude toward nature./233
  • The principle ‘waste equals food’ means that all products and materials manufactured by industry, as well as the wastes generated in the manufacturing process, must eventually provide nourishment for something new. /234
  • Such ecological clusters of industries have actually been initiated in many parts of the world by an organization called Zero Emissions Research and Incentives (ZERI), founded by business entrepreneur Gunter Pauli in the early 1990s. Pauli introduced the notion of industrial clustering by promoting the principle of zero emissions and making it the very core of the ZERI concept. /234
  • To appreciate how radical an approach this is, we need to realize that our current businesses throw away most of the resources they take from nature. For example, when we extract cellulose from wood to make paper, we cut down forests but use only 20 to 25 percent of the trees, discarding the remaining 75 to 80 percent as waste. Beer breweries extract only 8 percent of the nutrients from barley or rice for fermentation; palm oil is a mere 4 percent of the palm tree’s biomass; and coffee beans are 3.7 percent of the coffee bush. /234
  • The clustering of these productive systems inexpensively generates several revenue streams in addition to the original coffee beans — from poultry, mushrooms, vegetables, beef, and pork — while creating jobs in the local community. The results are beneficial both to the environment and the community; there are no high investments; and there is no need for the coffee farmers to give up their traditional livelihood. /236
  • The places of production are usually close to those of consumption, which eliminates or radically reduces transportation costs. No single production unit tries to maximize its output, because this would only unbalance the system. Instead, the goal is to optimize the production processes of each component, while maximizing the productivity and ecological sustainability of the whole. /237
  • Similar agricultural clusters, with beer breweries as their center instead of coffee farms, are operating in Africa, Europe, Japan, and other parts of the world. Other clusters have aquatic components; for example, a cluster in southern Brazil includes the farming of highly nutritious spirulina algae in the irrigation channels of the rice fields (which otherwise are used only once a year). The spirulina is used as special enrichment in a ‘ginger cookie’ program in rural schools to fight widespread malnutrition. This generates additional revenue for the rice farmers while responding to a pressing social need. /237
  • The combined value created by the whole is always greater than the sum of the values that would be generated by independently operating components. /239
  • In a sustainable industrial society, all products, materials, and wastes will either be biological or technical nutrients. Biological nutrients will be designed to reenter ecological cycles to be consumed by microorganisms and other creatures in the soil. In addition to organic waste from our food, most packaging (which makes up about half the volume of our solid-waste stream) should be composed of biological nutrients. With today’s technologies, it is quite feasible to produce packaging that can be tossed into the compost bin to biodegrade. /240
  • In the United States, which is not a world leader in recycling, more than half of its steel is now produced from scrap. Similarly, there are more than a dozen paper mills running only on waste paper in the state of New Jersey alone. The new steel mini-mills do not need to be located near mines, nor the paper mills near forests. They are located near the cities that produce the waste and consume the raw materials, which saves considerable transportation costs. /241
  • Many other ecodesign technologies for the repeated use of technical nutrients are on the horizon. For example, it is now possible to create special types of ink that can be removed from paper in a hot water bath without damaging the paper fibers. This chemical innovation would allow complete separation of paper and ink so that both can be reused. The paper would last ten to thirteen times longer than conventionally recycled paper fibers. If this technique were universally adopted, it could reduce the use of forest pulp up to 90 percent, in addition to reducing the amounts of toxic ink residues that now end up in landfills. /241
  • If the concept of technical cycles were fully implemented, it would lead to a fundamental restructuring of economic relationships. After all, what we want from a technical product is not a sense of ownership but the service the product provides. We want entertainment from our VCR, mobility from our car, cold drinks from our refrigerator, and so on. As Paul Hawken likes to point out, we do not buy a television set in order to own a box of 4,000 toxic chemicals; we do so in order to watch television. /241
  • From the perspective of ecodesign, it makes no sense to own these / products and to throw them away at the end of their useful lives. It makes much more sense to buy their services, i.e. to lease or rent them. Ownership would be retained by the manufacturer, and when one had finished using a product, or wanted to upgrade to a newer version, the manufacturer would take the old product back, break it down into its basic components — the technical nutrients — and use those in the assembly of new products, or sell them to other businesses. The resulting economy would no longer be based on the ownership of goods but would be an economy of service and flow. Industrial raw materials and technical components would continually cycle between manufacturers and users, as they would between different industries. /242
  • This shift from a product-oriented economy to a service-and-flow economy is no longer pure theory. One of the world’s largest carpet manufacturers, a company called Interface, based in Atlanta, has begun the transition from selling carpets to leasing carpenting services. The basic idea is that people want to walk on and look at a carpet, not own it. They can obtain those services at much lower cost if the company owns the carpet and remains responsible for for keeping it in good shape in exchange for a monthly fee. Interface carpets are laid in the form of tiles, and only tiles that are worn are replaced after a regular monthly inspection. This reduces not only the amount of carpet material needed for replacements, but also minimizes disruptions, because the worn tiles are usually not found under furniture. When a customer wants to replace the entire carpet, the company takes it back, extracts its technical nutrients, and provides the customer with a new carpet in the desired color, style, and texture. /242
  • Canon has revolutionized the photocopying industry by redesigning its copiers so that more than 90 percent of their components can be reused or recycled. /242
  • In Fiat’s Auto Recycling (FARE) system, the steel, plastics, glass, seat padding, and many other components of old FIAT cars are retrieved in over 300 dismantling / centers, to be reused in new cars or passed on as resources to other industries. The company has established a target of 85 percent recycling of materials by 2002 and of 95 percent by 2010. the Fiat program has also been extended from Italy to other European countries and to Latin America. /243
  • Another effect of this new product design will be to align the interests of manufacturers and customers when it comes to product durability. In an economy based on selling goods, the obsolence and frequent disposal and replacement of those goods is in the manufacturer’s financial interests, even though that is harmful to the environment and costly for the customers. In a service-and-flow economy, by contrast, it is in the interest of both manufacturers and customers to create long-living products while using a minimum of energy and materials./243
  • Natural Capitalism, by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and Hunter Lovins, is full of astounding examples of dramatic increases in resource efficiency. The authors estimate that by pursuing these efficiencies we could almost halt the degradation of the biosphere, and emphasize that the present massive inefficiencies almost always cost more than the measures that would reverse them. /244
  • A well-designed commercial structure will display a physical shape and orientation that takes the greatest advantage of the sun and wind, optimizing passive solar heating and cooling. That alone will usually save about one third of the building’s energy use. Proper orientation, combined with other passive solar design features, also provides glare-free natural light throughout the structure, which usually provides sufficient lighting during daytime. /244
  • Photovoltaic electricity can now be generated from wall panels, roofing shingles, and other structural elements that look and work like ordinary building materials but produce electricity whenever there is sunlight, even if it comes through clouds. A building with such photovoltaic materials as roofs and windows can produce more daytime electricity than it uses. Indeed, that is what half a million solar-powered homes around the world do every day. /245
  • In a sustainable society, all human activities and industrial processes must ultimately be fueled by solar energy, like the processes in nature’s ecosystems. Solar energy is the only kind of energy that is renewable and environmentally benign. Hence, the shift to a sustainable society centrally includes a shift from fossil fuels — the principal energy sources of the Industrial Age — to solar power. /247
  • An estimated half a million homes around the world, mostly in remote villages that are not linked to an electric grid, now get their energy from solar cells. The recent invention of solar roofing tiles in Japan promises to lead to a further boost in the use of photovoltaic electricity. [T]hese ‘solar shingles’ are capable of turning rooftops into small power plants, which is likely to revolutionize electricity generation. /249
  • Like many other products of industrial design, the contemporary automobile is stunningly in efficient. Only 20 percent of the energy in the fuel is used to turn the wheels, while 80 percent is lost in the engine’s heat and exhaust. Moreover, a full 95 percent of the energy that is used moves the car, and only 5 percent moves the driver. The overall efficiency in terms of the proportion of fuel energy used to move the driver is 5 percent of 20 percent — a mere 1 percent! /252
  • The differences between the physical properties of steel and fiber composites profoundly affect not only the design and operation of hypercars but also their manufacture, distribution, and maintenance. Although carbon fibers are more expensive than steel, the production process of composite car bodies is much more economical. Steel must be pounded, welded, and finished; composites emerge from a mold as a single, finished piece. This cuts tooling costs by up to 90 percent. The / car assembly, too, is much simpler, since the lightweight parts are easy to handle and can be lifted without hoists. Painting, which is the most expensive and most polluting step in car manufacture, can be eliminated by integrating color into the molding process. /253–254
  • The multiple advantages of fiber composites combine to favor small design teams, low break-even volumes per model, and local factories, all of which are characteristics of ecodesign as a whole. Maintenance of hypercars is also vastly simpler than that of steel cars, since many of the parts that are frequently responsible for mechanical breakdowns are no longer there. The rust-and-fatigue-free composite bodies, which are almost impossible to dent, will last for decades until they are eventually recycled. /254
  • Another fundamental innovation is the hybrid-electric drive. Like other electric cars, hypercars have efficient electric motors to turn their wheels, as well as the ability to transform braking energy back into electricity, which offers additional energy savings. Unlike standard electric cars, however, hypercars have no batteries. Instead of using batteries, which continue to be heavy and short-lived, electricity is generated by a small engine, turbine or fuel cell. Such hybrid drive systems are small, and since they are not directly coupled to the wheels, they run near their optimal conditions all the time, which further reduces fuel consumption. /254
  • The cleanest, most efficient and most elegant way to power a hybrid car is to use hydrogen in a fuel cell. Such an automobile not only operates silently and without any pollution, but also becomes, in effect, a small power plant on wheels. This is perhaps the most surprising and far-reaching aspect of the hypercar concept. When the car is parked at the owner’s home or place of work — in other words, most of the time — the electricity produced by its fuel cell could be sent into the electric grid and the owner could automatically be credited for it. /254
  • Perverse Subsidies include the billions of dollars paid by Germany to subsidize the extremely harmful coal-burning plants of the Ruhr Valley; the huge subsidies the U.S. government gives to its automobile industry, which was on corporate welfare during most of the twentieth century; the subsidies given to agriculture by the OECD, totaling $300 billion per year, which is paid to farmers to not grow food although millions in the world go hungry; as well as the millions of dollars the United States offers to tobacco farmers to grow a crop that causes disease and death. All of these are perverse subsidies indeed. They are powerful forms of corporate welfare that send distorted signals to the markets. Perverse subsidies are not officially tallied by any government in the world. While they support inequity and environmental degradation, the corresponding life-enhancing and sustainable enterprises are portrayed by the same governments as being uneconomical. It is high time to eliminate these immoral forms of government support. /258
  • Another kind of signal the government sends to the marketplace is provided by the taxes it collects. At present, these too are highly distorted. Our existing tax systems place levies on the things we value — jobs, savings, investments — and do not tax the things we recognize as harmful — pollution, environmental degradation, resource depletion, and so on. Like perverse subsidies, this provides investors in the marketplace with inaccurate information about costs. We need to reverse the system: instead of taxing incomes and payrolls, we should tax non-renewable resources, especially energy, and carbon emissions. /258
  • To be successful, tax shifting needs to be a slow, long-term process in order to give new technologies and consumption patterns sufficient time to adapt, and it needs to be implemented predictably in order to encourage industrial innovation. Such a long-term, incremental shift of taxation will gradually drive wasteful, harmful technologies and consumption patterns out of the market. /259
  • The analysis of living systems in terms of four interconnected perspectives — form, matter, process, and meaning — makes it possible to apply a unified understanding of life to phenomena in the realm of matter, as well as to phenomena in the realm of meaning. For example, we saw that metabolic networks in biological systems correspond to networks of communications in social systems; chemical processes producing material structures correspond to thought processes producing semantic structures; and flows of energy and matter correspond to flows of information and ideas. /261
  • The so-called ‘global market’ is really a network of machines programmed according to the fundamental principle that money-making should take precedence over human rights, democracy, environmental protection, or any other value. /262
  • The United States projects its tremendous power around the world to maintain optimal conditions for the perpetuation and expansion of production. The central goal of its vast empire — its overwhelming military might, impressive range of intelligence agencies, and dominant positions in science, technology, media, and entertainment — is not to expand its territory, nor to promote freedom and democracy, but to make sure that it has global access to natural resources and that markets around the world remain open to its products. /263
  • This glorification of material consumption has deep ideological roots that go far beyond economics and politics. Its origins seem to lie in the universal association of manhood with material possessions in patriarchal cultures. /264

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