The twentieth century has been marked by unprecedented economic growth, which remains a powerful developmental goal in most parts of the world. The underlying concept has been that of a linear increase in human economic activity in which products are made, used for a certain period and then discarded. This type of development, while having drastically reduced poverty levels and improved health levels and life expectancy of millions of people, has been based on the production of large quantities of ultimately useless, often harmful material.
In the closed system of planet Earth, matter is transformed but does not disappear. As the combined effects of a growing world population and increased per-capita consumption have led to unprecedented levels of waste. Through landfills, ocean dumps and incinerator emissions, waste has become the fastest growing pollutant whose long-term consequences are difficult to assess. Waste is economically inefficient as well as environmentally questionable. The decision to discard matter transforms it conceptually from useful products or raw material to waste, so that, ironically, throwing things away entails a process of creating waste rather than getting rid of it.
This seminar is organised by the Environmental Challenges and Climate Change Governance Interdisciplinary Research Cluster.
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