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S tate of the World 2006

---------- 2004. Th e European Union, Japan , and rhe N~~_9tecl1I~o)ogy i ~ consider~d a "plartorm
United S tates are the leading nano-investors, rcchnology,'~ meaning that ir hasi:I!~QQt_en
wirh funding levels running ncck-and -neck. :hl ro alter or complercly transform thc cur-
(See.Jable-5-L) Approximarcly 60 councries ren&:.sjte.-gf'tff lj.r' in every major industrial
Shrin1<ing Science: An have cstab lished nacional nanorech research
programs. The U.S. governmenr's Nacional
sector, nor jusr one. Nanorech offers the
potential ro devclop stronger, lighrer mate -
1'-:anorechnology Iniriarive ( NNI) has spenr
lntroduction to Nanotechnology over $5 billion on nanorech R&D since
2001, making ir the biggest publicly funded
rials, low-cosr solar cdls and sensors, faster
compurers wirh more memory capac.iry, filters
for cleaning conta minated water, cancer-
science cndcavor since rhc Apello moon killin g molecu les, and more.
shot. Thc NNI disrribures nanorcch R&D Thcse small wondcrs will have co lossal
Hope Shan~ and J(athy Jo Wetter
Sh~ ' Lthl'tev ' aoc; funds to 11 federa l agencies-governmcnt
funding for nanocech more rhan doublcd
impacrs, but nor all ofthem will be welcome.
Nanotcch proselytizers are pumping us up tor

~t;{J~'t'ct 't~ .~ut

betwccn 200 l and 2006. The U .S. Depare- the potencial bcnefirs but luve failcd ro pre -
mene of Defensc has received a grearer share pare forli:s-possi~&Q.o_wnsides, .Mosr imme -
of nanotech R&D fi.mds than any orhcr fed- diarer,.,nanotechnology-has brought wirh ir
e- eral agency3 novel 1:oxicolg_isal t'ij"ki} For example, .thc

f' . p. 1s ~crs-
There are an estima red l ,200-nanotech
sta rt -up compani cs, half of which are U .S. -
etfecrs of manufucturcd nanoscale pa.rticles on
liuii1an healrh and t h e cnvironmenr are
Evcry decade or so we are bombarded by a ;;;;pk~in rhe developing world . 1 based. In 2000, !BM was the only major cor- unknown and unpredicrabl e, rhough hun -
new industrial rechnology promising rhe real cr.s. Undersecretary of Co mm crce for poration funding a nanorcclu1ology initiarive. dreds of produces containing nanoparricles are
cure for society's ills: Better li ving through Technology Phillip Bond is rhinking cven Toda y, virrua lly alll:'orrune 500 companics airead)' on the markcr. In rhe longer rerm , bur
che miso-y. Energy roo cheap ro meter. Genct- bigger. He secs tiny tech's potencial as " trul y invest in nanorech R&D. The Nacional Sci - st ill in the near furure, nan orech's n ew R i;,_..(,,.-
ically engineercd crops ro alleviate hunger. miraculous: enabling rhe blind ro sec, th e encc Foundatio n in rhe United States esti- desig,1er materials could ropple commodity , _ ./- , .
Nanotechnology-rhe manipu lation of mar- L1me ro walk, and d1e deaf ro hear; curin g mares eh a e rhc nanorcch markcr will su rpass markers, disrupr nade, and eliminare jobs.';;,..l ~ ' ., '
ter o n the scak of atoms and m olecules- is AIDS, cancer, diabetes and orher afflicrions; $1 t1illion by 2015. !ndusrry sources prcd ict Worker displacement broughr on by com -
rhe newest tech no- solurion, and irs propo - cnding hungcr; and even supplcmenring rhc rhe value of commcrcia l produces incorpo - moairy obsolescence will hure thc poo resr
. m:nts promise thc greatest and greenest indus- powcr of our mlnds ... nanorechnology " ill raring nanotechnology will .reach $2.6 t!il.:~ and mosr vulnerable, particu lar! y workers in
tt"ial revolurion cver. deliver higher srandards ofliving and allow us lion ( 15 paccnt of globa l manufacturing the developing world " ho do not have the
The impacrs of nanotech, we are rold, 1\~ ll ro li ve longer, hea lrhier, mote producri1e c;;_;rpml by 2014 - 10 rimes biorcch andas economic Hexibiliry ro respond ro sudde n
ri1al rhose brought about by thc steam li1-cs. Nano also holds extraordinary potcntial L1rgc as rhe combined intonnarics and rele - demands tor new ski lls or ditlerenr raw mate -
cnginc, clectricity, th e transistor, and rhe for rhe globa l cnvironmenr rhrough 1\aste - com industries' rials. Thc disruptions will not be nanosized or
l m erncr. Big na m es in development-such as tice , cnergv-cfticienr producrion processes
Mohamed Hassan , prcsidenr of che Third thar cause no harm ro rhc e nvironm cnt or Table 5-I. Estimated Government R&D lnvestment in Nanotechnology, 1997- 2005
\Norld Academy of Scienccs, and Gordon human healrh." 1 Region 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
Conway, tormer prcsidenr ofthe Rockt:fellcr Though nanorec hn o logy is somctimcs -
(million dollars)
l:'oundarion and now rhe U .K. governmenr's hyped to rhe hilt, iris no jokc and irs soci
European Union . 126 151 179 200 -225 - 400 -650 - 950 - 1,050
C hicf Scienrifi c Advi so r on Internacional eral impacrs will ind eed be rir.mic. vVorld - Japan 120 13 5 15 7 245 -465 -720 -800 -900 -950
Dcvelopmenr- sce cnormou s potemial tor " ide, indu stry and go,crnmenrs in vcsn:d United States 116 190 255 270 465 697 862 989 1,081
tunotec h to impro1c rhe conditions o(.p~gr more rha n S lO billion in nanotcc h R&D in Others 70 83 96 110 -380 -sso -800 -900 -1,000
Total 432 559 687 825 -1,535 -2,367 - 3, 112 -3,739 -4,081
Hopc Shand is thc Rcsc.u-ch Director Jnd K.ttlw Jo \ .Yntc r is ,,"r J.t tht.: C.HTboro, ~orth Percent of 1997 129 159 191 355 547 720 866 945
olina, otlicc of thc Ottaw,\ based ETC Group . ETC Group staff mcmbns Pat ~looncv, Silvi, Ribciro ,
Jlld Jirn Thom.1~ .1bo contributcd ro th c chaptcr. SOURCE: See endnote 3.

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Sta te of the World ?006
l l '' ' . '' . ,,
1 State ofthe World 2006
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in<:n:mcntal , no r will rhey be easily addressed conaol of manufac turing, toad, agriculrure,
by retraining for workers o r socia l safery ners, and hca lth in thc imm ediate ycars ahead. BOX 5-I. TECHNOLOGIES CONVERGING ATTHE NANOSCALE
whi<:h 111.1)' nor cxisr in many poor coumries. (Sce Box 5- L )'
Narional economies <md rhe workers who Nanotcch 's " raw materials" are the chem - .Nanoscale science the;x>ssibility of having viruses can be engineered to act as machines
dcpe nd on primary expon commodities will ical - ~le mellts of the-Perio.dic Table-the diverse technologies- including biotechnology, oi even as weapons; computer networks can
be out of luck and livdihoods, resulting in building blocks of everything , both Ji,;fl'g cognitive sciences, informatics. and robotics- merge with biological networks to develop arti-
increascd povcrrv a nd polirical instability-at converge with nanotechnology as the key ficial intelligence or su per surveillance systems.
a'ildlon -living. At the nanoscale, where quan-
least in the shon term. e nabler.That is nano's greatest attraction. The Accordi ng to the U .S. government, within th e ~ . ./ 1 o:. .._;
r. - - tum physics rules, a material's properties can logic of technological co nvergence lies in an next 20 years technological converg~
~ocier)' is nor prepared for a tcchnology ' ! '~ _ , ( ' /
change dramatically. With only a reduction in understanding that all matter, fundamental to all "1m preve" hum;~- P~rf~rr;,""a-~~~~;-;;tP~ ~wo~k
wavc ot such heig ht and breadth . Learning size (bdow abour lOO nanometers ), and no sciences, originares at the nanoscale where we pllli,odie' paying fi id;Tn ~~ <\nd _
: r l' ~"'

tfom rhe cxperiences of past waves- chemi - changc in substance, matcrials can exhibir find "material unity." In _other words.ftracffi-'~ on thebattlefleld. Som~ beli~ve that BANG \-v_, ,>,,.(,
cals , nucl ear powcr, and biorechnology- new properties related ro clectrica l conduc- -, world distinctions-between materia ls and even m;y-;;;n-eli ~in-~ te death, bringing abou t a fun-
noll' is thc time ro answer some key qucstions: tivity, cbsticiry, strength, color, and chemical (__... between scientific disciplines-cease to exist at damental change to the human condicion-a ....
Wh o 11ill control nanotech' Who \\~11 benc- reactivit)1-characreristics that the very same the leve/ of atorns and molecu les.At the nano- dream-come-true according to sorne, a poten-

!t tiom ir' Who ll'ilf lose' Will ir introduce scal't:, tl)ere is nO diff~rence..between liv_i,ng _<~.nd tia! nightmare to others.
substanccs do not exhibir at the micro- or
r\e11 risks ft)r hum an health, safety, and the macroscales. For example:
non-living matter. for examp le: DNA becomes _.. !!.re~li~~- the go~_!~anc~l,l&_-~!!,1).
just ami rore molecule that can be combin ed pe rf~rmance ~will exacerbare an ever-widening
emironmcnt? H. c urre nr trends conrinue, Carbon in the torm of graphite (like pen- or interchanged w ith other moiecules. gul(])etween those "improved" through tech-
, nanorcch threatens to 1viden the gap between ci l lead) is soft and mallcablc; at the Sciemists and governmems in the United nology and those who rem ain "unimproved,"
rich .111d poor and ro tUrther consolidare eco - nanoscale , carbon can be srronger rhan States and Europe are advancing technological ei ther intentionally or through lack of choice. 1
nomi c powcr in rhe hands of mulrinational stccl and is six times lighter. convergente through various strategies, and As l~!:;~,o!<;>gi ~s s hif~ ,s,o~!~.D''sc<;>~s.,e.p,t_ of wht
corporations. many are convinced that it will trigger a huge is""ilo rmal,'~ we will all find ourselves playing
Zinc oxide is usually whirc and opaque; at
industrial revolution and societa1 "renais- ~afch-u(ar we will be left behind. Whatexer..
rhc nanoscale it becomes tra nsparent. sance"-a guarantee of unprecedented wealth, benefits BANG could bring, they will not be
What is Nanotechnology? Aluminu m - the material of soft drink health. and, in the case of the United States, mil- cheap or equitably distributed. What .;;11 h~p
cans-can spontaneously combust at rhe itary domination. Th e N acional Science Founda- pen ro the unimpr;,~edi Will physical enhance-
Nanorcchnology is not a discreer indusrry nanoscale and could be used in rocket ti.1el. tion in the United Sta tes refers to technological ment become a social imperative as well as an
sector bur , ra;:.gc ot 'rcchniques u sed to Nanoscale coppcr bccomes a highly elastic co nvergence as N SIC, an acronym derived from enforceable, legal one 1 In 2004, for example,
manipulare matter .H the nanoscale, wherc meul ar room temperature-stretching to nanotech, biotech, informatics, and cognitive a U.S. court ruled that prison officials could
sizc is mcasured in billionrhs of mcters. A neuroscience; European policymakers refer to forcibly medicare a death row inmate to make
50 times its originallcngth 11'ithour brcak-
nanQmcrc r r nm ), tio m the Greck nano; tor CTEKS (converging technologies for the Euro- him sane enough to execute, bringing to the
pean knowledge society). Technological conver- fore the probl ematic ethkal dimen sions to the
dii 'Mt~ cquals o nc billionrh of a meter. Ir Exploiting quantum property ~changes ar gence also adds up to BANG-the quest to definitions of cure. health, and improvemen t. In
takcs 1O Jtoms of hydrogen side-by-side to the 11:iosc.~e is rhe kC)' to nanorech 's novelry, control all matter, lite, and knowledge through a world where "enhancement" becom es an
equal one nanometer. A DNA molccu lc is 'poll'er, ,md potentia l. Through nanoscale the manipulation of bits (information technol- imperati ve. the rights of the disabled will be
abour 2.5 nm ll'idc. A red blood ce!! is ,,sr manipul at ion s, scientists are dramarically ogy), atoms (nanotechnology). neurons (cogni- furthe r eroded if disability is perceived as e ne
in compari so n: ahout 5,000 nm in diamcrcr. aanstonning existing materials and designing tive neuroscience), and genes (biotechnology). more technological challenge rather than an
And .1 human luir is abour 80,000 nm thick. nell' ones. According to this "little BANG theory," issue of social justice .

Everyrhing on rhe ILlnoscalc is in1isible nanotechnology will pave the way for re-engi-
C:o mpani es are now manufacturin g neering neurons so that our brains ca n "talk" SOURCE: See endno te S.
cxcepr ll'ith rhc aid of po11crfu l "aro mic nanoparticles (chemical elements or com - directly to computers or to artificial limbs;
tOrce, microscopcs. pounds lcss than lOO nm) to r use in hundreds
The real po11er of nanosca lc scicncc is rhc of commercial products- fiom crack-resistant
porcnti,ll ro coniTrge disparate technologies paints and stain -resisunt clothing ro odor-eat-
rlur cc1n operare ar this sede. vVith appli ca - ing socks, self-clc.llling windows, and anri - opcd wound dressings (bandages ) coatcd transparent and block ult:raviolet ( UV) light.
rions spanning al! industry sccrors, tcchno - grclfliti coatings for walls. For instancc: with sikcr n,mocrysta ls desi gned ro pre - Nanosca.le Ti0 2 is now being used in sun -
logi(.11 co n\'trgt.:ncc .n rhe n. tnoscalc is poised Exploiting thc anti -bJGcrial propcres ot \ 'Cnt intCction. screens and in clcat' plastic food wraps for
to bcco mc thc srrarc g ic plartorm tor global lu nosc,Je silvcr, Smith & Ncphcw devel- 1\:,mourticks ofutanium dimide Ti0 2 ) are UV protection .

80 81
State of the World 2006 T State ofthe World 2006

Nanoscale partid es of hydroxyapatite !uve into desired config urations on their o wn - taminants and chemical attack agents (nerve our fields (pesticidcs ), and in our refTi gerators ). _., ,_. ':'
the sam e c hcmi ca l s tru c ture as too th become thc Lego -likc blocks for constructing gas and toxin s). lts ta bric mav featur e (nanoscale food addiuve_s), but ':.'?. _ _g;ovt: rn :-"" . . ../
enamcl . Rcsearchers at BASF are ho ping nanoscale devices. Building de1ices tiom mo l- nanopores that " close" upon detcctio n of a ment has developed a rcgulatory re g~m c thal '?- -:~c.,.-
to incorpo ra te the nanoparticles in tooth- ecular scratch is still in the early stages. N ano - bio logical age.nt. Researchcrs are also devel - addresses tl1e_nanoscale .or tl1e societal impaw !
paste to build cnamel -like coating on teeth fabricated produ cts are being devcl oped for opin g infrared mo nitoring based on na no - of the invisibly small. 11
and to prevem bacteria tio m penetrating. use as clcctronic circuitry, tor cxa mplc . C hip c r ys tal s (quantum dots) to dete c t th e 1t was neither governmcm regulators nor
Nano -Tex sells "Stain D e fe nder" for khaki makers envision the use of se lt~ a sse mbling presence of che mica! agents. inds y rh at .first blew rhe whi stle o n th
pants and o ther ta brics - a mo lecular coa t- mo lecular stru ctures to storc data o r turn Scicntists at Hebrew Univcrsity ofJerusalem potencial healtl1 and cnvironmental hazards of
ing that adh eres to cotton fiber, to rming an the flow o f electro ns on and off in a circuir . and at the U .S. D epartment of Energy' s nano particles. In 2002 , civil sociery o rgani
impene trable barrier that causes liqu ids to l f mo lecular transistors work, ca rbon nan- Brookh aven Nati o nal Labo rator y h ave zatio ns called to r a mo ratorium o n the relcase
bcad and rol! otf owbcs could replace silicon, yielding ul tra-Elst im planted a go ld n anoparticl e into th c of manu facrured 1unopartides untillab pro
Pilkin gto n se lls a "scl f-cl eanin g" window co mputcrs that perto rm "orders of magni en zy m e gluco se ox idase-a st ep that rocols are established to protect wo rke rs and
g lass co ve red with a s urfa ce b ye r of tudc" bcyond silico n " rescarchers say will pave th e wa y for a until regulations are in place to protec t con
nanoscalc t itanium dio xid e particles. When Both l me! and H e wl ett -Packard ha ve nanoscale dcvice thar can more accurarel y sumcrs and tl1c environm ent . A 2004 repon
the particl es interact with UV rays fio m announced strategics to replace silico n with measure blood glucose in diabetic patients. on the po tential ri s ks of manufa c rur ed
sunlight, th e dirt on the surface ofthe glass nano -eng ineered materials to keep computer Scientists at Kraft Foods, as w ell as nano partides published by Swiss Re , th e
is loose ned , washing o tfwhen it rains. processin g -powe r g ro wing at ex po n c nti al researchers at Rutge rs Universiry and the world 's second largesr re- insurancc company,
BASI:' sell s nanoscale symhctic caroteno id s rates. Sc ienti sts are also developin g nano University of Connecticut, are workin g on conclud e d that " no rca so nable e xpe nse
as a food additivc in lemonade , fruit juices, devices to r molecular drug de!il-ery. Fo r exam nan oparticle films with embedded sensors w sho uld be spared i cla ri~;in g the c urre n!
and margarine (carotenoids are antioxidants pie, bio logical engincers ar d1e lv!Jssac husetts detect tood pathogens. Dubbed "electro ni e ertainties associatcd with nanotec hno
and ca n be converted to Vitamin A in the lnstitlltc o fTechno logy (MlT) are testin g a tongue" techno logy, the sensors can detcct Igcal risks." 11
body). According to BASF, carotenoids to r- nano -structurcd dru g dclivcry device in m ice hannful substances in parts per uillio n and While nanosca le particlcs have existt:d in
mulated at the nanoscale are more casily th at can chemicall )' ta rget and pene trare a would trigger a colo r change in food pack- our enviro nment lo r millennia (salt nanocrys
absorbed b y th e bo d y a nd also in crease tum or cell when injccted in rhe bloodstream . aging to alert the consumer if a to od is con - tals in ocean air or nano particles o f carbo n in
produ ct shelflife. Dubbcd the anti -ca nce r "smart ce ll ," th e taminated or has bcgun to spoil 10 soot), attcntion is now ti:x:uscd on new, imen
Syngcnta, the world's largest agrochemi - nanoscale device ddi ve rs a onc-two thc ra tionally m'umfactured nanoparticles tl1at rcsuli
cal corpo rati o n, sells two pesticidc prod - pe u tic punch: first, it rcleases a chemi ca l rhat Potential Risks fro m miniaturi zin g c hemi cal elem c nts 01
ucts contai ning nanosca.le active ingredicnts. cuts o ff d1e tumor 's blood supply; second , compounds, such as gold , carbon , o r sili cate.
The compa n y cl aim s that th e cxtrc mely of Nanoparticles: New, manutacturcd nanomateri als suc h as
afi:er thc o utside shell o f the nano-devicc di s-
small partid e size prevents spray tank fil ters solves, the inncr con: rclcases a chcmotherapy No Small Matter n<m ot ubes, buckyball s. and quanrum do ts
tiom cl ogging and the che mi ca l is readil y dru g to kili thc can ce r cclls from the in side 9 are also being scrutini zed to r their pote ntial
absorbed into the plam's system s and ca n Invisible <llld highly invasivc nanoscale sen - In recent years, a g ro \\~n g num be r of sc ic n - hazard s. (See Box 5- 2.) 13
no t be washed off by rain o r irrig,nion . sors an: bein g de,elo ped for a wide .nge o f titi c studies and governmem reports have 1uy a handti..1l oftoxicological srudies exis1
A.ltair N a no tec hno logies is d evelopin g a appli catio ns: warncd that e~1gin ee red nanoEat:ili:les could on cngineered nanoparticles, but i~ "PP!;:m 1
water-cleaning product fo r swimming pools MIT's [n stitu te to r Soldi er Nanotcc hno lo - pose .unique ris ks w h!Jl}lQ.healtWand the that nanoparticles as a d ,1ss are mo re to xic 1
dueto tlcir smalkr size. \\~1en reduccd to the \
and ti shpo nds. lt in corpo rares nanosca le g ics, se t up in 2002 with a $50 -milli o n e,,iro~1rri--ctu Bu t na norech products have
partidcs of a lanthanum -based compo und grant lro m thc U.S. Depanment ofDerense, . co me ro lnarket in- thc absence o f publi c IL\oscalc , particles.ha\'C alarger surcc ''re" .
that absorbs phosphates tiom the water ;md aim s ro creare a n,c nry-first century bat- awareness and reg ulatory oversight. l\lo re that can make them mo re chemicall y reac-
prcvenrs al g ae growth .7 tlcsuir'' ro enhan ce " soldicr surviva bility." than 720 producrs co maining unrcgul ared tive. As par riele sizc d ecreases and re.Kti viry
Coatings, s pr<l)'S, and po ,vders conrai nin g On c resea rch tea m is using nanotech ro and unl abeled nan oscale partid es are co m increases, a substancc that may be inen .lt th
nanoscak particl es are just the bcginnin g. dcvelop a b.mlesui t tlut incorpo ~ rcs hi ghly mcrcialh availabl e- and rho usands mo re are micro - or macroscalc can J SSLIIn e ha z,1rJo u1
Nano tec hno logy also makes possiblc 'bo t- sensiti\T chemi cal and bi ologica l sc nsing in thc pipeline. Engineered nanoparti cles are characteristics at the u noscalc. O nc conce rn
tom -up" 111 <111utactu rin g whcre sel fassc m - tcc hnologies .md pro tccrivc fi bcr <l nd tab1ic alrc.1d)' showing up in products applied w o ur is that the increascd rcacti,iry of nanop.1rtick s
bl ing mo lecul es - clusrers o f atoms that sn.1p coatings that will ncutrali zc bacteria! con skin (cosmeti cs and sunscrecns), sprayed o n could hann li\'ing tissue, pcrlups by gi,ing !ise

82 83

Statc of the World 2006 State of the 1\forld 2 006


systems- namcly, th eir mo biliry in thc blood - acterizing nanoparticles, no_rg;ularor y regime
BOX S-2. NANOTECH'S "M IRACLE MOLECULES": CARBON NANOTUBES, srream and ab iliry ro penetrare cell mem - to .e'lsure th ar parti cles have b een made
BUCKYBALLS, ANO QUANTUM DOTS brancs-could also be qualirics rhat m ake "sare;" no r is ir possible ro kno w how lo ng
t he rn dangcrous. protectivc coatings might last . 15
Carbon nanotubes and bukyballs are pure tennis racquets, bicycle frames, and auto body Reccnr rox.icological studics o n the healrh Given th e knowled ge gaps, ex pe rts are
crystalline carb on molecules- as are diamond parts. Researchers are hoping that one day nan and environm cntal impacrs of m anu fac turcd urgin g ca uti o n and reco mmendin g t hat
and graphite, the o nly other known forms of otubes wiH replace copper in wiring and silicon release of nanoparricles be resrricred or pro
nanoparticl es indi care tlur rhc re is reaso n
crystalline carbo n. A buckyball is a ho;tow in computer chips. hibited . A Ju! y 2 004 jo int reporr by thc Roy;ll
sphere made of 60 carbon atoms. A carbon Quantum dots are semiconductor nanopar- fo r co ncern :
o A study publishcd in Jul y 2 004 fo und rhar Sociery and Royal Acadcmy of En g inecring in
nanotube is a variant of a bu ckyball , one that is ticles whose unique properties promise a wide
elongated in the middle,like a buckyball seen in range of appli cations across severa! industrial buckyb.11ls c,u1 cause r~pi d o nsct of brain Lo ndo n reco mm cnded rhar th e en vira n-
a fun-house mirror. Nanotubes can be hollow sectors. Different-sized quantum dots emit dis- damage in fis h . mental clease of manufactured nano parti -
like straws (known as single-walled) or rolled tincdy different colors.A particular quantum o In 2005 , rescarchers ar thc U.S . Natio nal d es and nano tubes be avoid ed as much <lS
up like posters in a mailing rube (multi-walled). dot or severa! dots of different sizes can be Aeronau rics and Space Admini srratio n possible unril m o re is kn o wn abo ur rheir
Both buckyballs and nanotubes are self-assem- attached to or incorpora red in materials.
( NASA ) reported rlut when co mm ercially impacr. Specifically, rhcy recomme nded " as a 1
bled molecule s. m eaning that when conditions including biological materials, to acta s a preca urio na r y me<ls ure th at fa c rories and '
are just right (such as temperature and the barcode or tracking device. One project aims
available ca rbo n nano tubcs were injecred
inro rhe lungs o f rats, rhey ca used significant rcse arch la b o raro ri es trear manufacwred
presence of a caralyst) . they form their distinc- to add quantum dots to inks or polymers used
tive configurations all on their own. lung dc1magc. (The resea rche rs indica red nanoparricles and nanotubes as if they were
in the manufacture of paper money as a way to
Buckyballs and nanotubes are getting lots of combar counterfeiting. Quantum dots are being rlur thc nano rube " d osagc" was rou g hl y hazardo us and reduce rhem in w aste srreams
attention because th ey are recent discoveries used to label biological material in animals for equivalenr to wo rker cxposurc levels o vc r a and rhar rhe use of fiee nano particl es in en vi-
(since 1985) and because they have extraordi- research purposes- they can be injected into
17-day pcrio d .) ronmenral applicario ns such as rem ediario n o f
na r y properties. Since buckyballs are hollow, cells or attached to proteins in arder to track,
o In a se para re stud y, rcsea rc hers at r h e gro und warcr b e pro hibircd ." ' 6
they make ideal nano-vessels. Research ers envi- label. or identify specific biomolecules. C urrenrl y, nanoscale chcmica ls are cscap
National In sritute of O cc upario nal Sa fe ty
sion thm filled with medicines that could be In 2004, researchers announced that quan- ing rcgul aror y o versight ifrhe same chcmical
del ivered throughout the body or filled with tum dots injected in animals circulated in the and H ea lrh rep o rred in 2005 substancial
DNA dam age in th e h ea rr a nd aorri c compound has becn approvcd at the micro-
fu el and u sed as rocket propellant.Their ability blood for hours and continued emitting their
to withstand pressure is enormous: in one distinctive colors for eight months. (Once they arrery of m ice th ar were ex poscd ro carbo n or macroscalc. Jvianufacrurcrs o fca rbo n nan-
experiment. a researcher crashed buckyballs stopped circulating, the dots collecte d in the nano rubes . orubcs, to r cxample , sometim es simply iden -
speeding at 15,000 miles an hour into a steel liver, spleen, lymph nades, and bone marrow, o In 2005 , U n.ivcrsiry of Rochcsrer rcsearchers tity their produ ct as "graphite " - ano ther
plate- the buckyballs bounced off and suggesting they were scooped up by immune type of pure carbo n moleculc-even though
in t>:ew \'ork fo und th ar rab birs inhaling
remained intact, no worse for wear. cells. whose job it is to clear circulating debris.) nanoscale carbo n has vasrly diffi:rent proper -
buckyball s de m o nsrrate an in crcased sus-
Nanotubes are 100 times stronger than The hope is that one day quantum do ts co uld rics and app li c.Hio ns. Similarly, if a substancc
steel and six tim es lighter; they can now be be used in humans to treat and monitor ceptibility ro blood clortin g.
o A 2005 snrdy shows rhar buckyballs dum p has airead y bcc n approved as a tood addiLive
produced with 1-nm diameters and several mil- di seases such as can cer. Researchers will have
limeters long. Nano tubes can be either semi- to proceed with caution. howeve r, because the rogether in watCI' ro torm so luble nano par- ar a larger scale (such c\s titanium dioxid e),
co nductors or in sulators, depending on how core material in mos t quantum dots is highly tides and rhar e,c n in vcr v low concentra- 11<1110parricles o f rhe same substancc do no t
their carbon sheets are rolled up. Dozens of t oxic cadmium, and toxicol ogical analysi s has tions rhey ca n lurm soil bKteria, raisin g trigger new reg ularory acrio n- evc n tho ugh ,
products containing carbon nanotube s are ye t ro be tackled. conce rns ,1bo ur how rhcse carbo n mo le - bv defini tion, nanoscal c in g redie nts can have
commercially available (in arder to increase dramati cally difterent pro perties, includ ing
SOURCE: See endnote 13. culcs will imcracr with n.11ur.1l ccosysrems."
strength without increasing weight), including differen r roxicological effecrs . And alrho ugh
In response ro heightencd co nccrns abo u r
nanoparti cles, som c scientisrs suggesr th at it somc co mpani es claim rhar rhey luvc con-
may be possib le ro mitigare porential toxic ducred th eir o wn wx icologica l srudies on
eftccrs by con uolling rhc surface chemisrr y of nano parricl es, those stud ies are rarely in the
ro " ti-ce radic;lls" rhar may cause inflammario n, dirio nal g uardians o f the bod y's immune sys -
nanoso1k matc ri als or by coaring thcm in public do main . 17
rissue damage, o r g rowrh o f rumo rs. rem su ch as the blood -brain barri er. Ironi -
pro tecti ve su bsranccs. These cfto rts are com - T he U.S. govc rn menr's 200 6 nano rec h
Nan o parricles ca n b e inlulcd , in gestcd , ca lly, the vcr y sa m e pro perries th at makc
i or abso rbed rh ro ug h rh e skin . Once in rhe en gineered nano p ar ticl es so attracri ve fo r plicated bv rhe cr rh,;-t;l1e re ;~~ .:; ...~~ntly no bud ger rcq uesrs S3S.5 m illio n fo r envi rOI1 -
s ra nd ardiz~d merhod to r mc.1su ring o r clur - mental , hca lrh , and safcry researc h on nano -
bloodstrcam, nano p arricl es can slip pasr rra- thc devclo pm enr o f targered d ru g dclivery


State ofthe World 2006 State ofthe World 2006


matcrials - kss rhan 4 percenr of rhe Today, more than a billion people lack mar rhe environmental rclease of en gi neered oping co untries pondered rhe opporruniries
Nariona l Nanorcch no logy lni riarive's rotal acccss ro sa k drinking water. Polluted water nanoparticles be prohibited until m o re is and cha llengcs posed by nanoscale sc ience
budge r. Crirics note thar the $38.5 million con tributes everl' year ro the dearhs of an known about their impacts 23 and tec hn o logy. While most of the discus -
allorrcd 111' rhe N~ l is a fraction of whar is esrim ared 15 million chi ldren t,mder agc 5. Access to i(lxpensive,:safe, and re new- sion toc used on promoting nanorcch R&D
m:cded and rhar ir indudcs research o n cnvi - Researchcrs are deve lopi ng both nanofil - abl~ncq~y -is key" to susraii1able dvelop - and prevcnting a "nano- divid e" berween
ronm e nral applicarions of nanorech as wel l rers and engin ecred nanoparticl es ro clean ment woddwide. In thc developing world, an Soud1 and Nord1, representarives fiom India
as the im plications of nanomaterials tor safety contam in ared wa'ter. Nanotech no logists at estima red 2 billion people lack access ro mod ami South Africa wa rn ed that raw marerials
and rh e Cll\'ironmenr. 1" Rcnsselaer Polyrcchnic lnsrirurc in New ern cnergy so urces. Na norech enthusiasts and labor in devc lop in g eco nom ies ri sk
Yo rk and rhc Banaras Hindu Un ivcrsity in point to cheap, flexible , cfficient solar cells as bi:i:om in g "redundanr in the nano -age."
Nanotech enthusiasts point to Indi a, for example, are reami n g up ro one of the most promising arcas of "grecn i\ccording ro South Africa's M inister ofSci-
cheap, flexible , efficient solar cells as develop carbo n nanotube 61rers ro remove nanotechnology." 24 ence and Technology: " With t he incrcased
one of the most promising areas of conram inanrs ti-om water. T he 61ters allow In 2004, me U .S. Department of Defense invcsrment in nanorechnology rescarch and
water mo lecules to pass rhrough a cluster of gra nred ovcr $18 million ro three nanotech innovarion , mosr traditional materials ...
"green nanotechnology."
carbo n nanoru bcs whilc napping harmfi.d start -up companies to devclop mili tary appli - wi ll ... be rcp laccd by cheaper, fu nctiona lly
bacteria like Eschel"ichia coli an d poliovirus cations of solar energy. With additional back- rich and srronger [materials]. It is important
\IVhilc U .S. and Eu ropcan governmenrs as tiny as 25-nanometers wid e. Their goa l is in g fro m corpo rate partners and ve nture ro ensure thar o ur natural reso urces do not
are belarcd ly conced ing rhar some rypc of ro develop a low-cost wate r tilter rhar can be capitalists, Nanosys (Palo Alto , Cali fornia), beco m e redu nda nt, especially bccause our
regularion is nceded , ir remains ro be sec n if clcaned and reused-" NanoSolar (also in Palo Airo), and Konarka cco no my is still ve ry much d epc ndent on
nanorech n:gularions 11~U be cobbled rogcd1cr With fund ing from th e U.S. Air Force, (Lowell, .Massachusetts) are developing a new rhem"To countcr t he potentialloss ofmar-
using exisring regul arions tor chemicals o r if Vcrmont -based Seldon Technologies is devel- gencration o fli gh nvc ight, fl exible so lar cells kets, the South Africa n gove rnm ent has ini -
a new, prec.turionary approach will prevail. In opi ng a porrable , hand- held filter that can that are basecl on se miconducring nanopar- tiat e d Project Autek ro develop new,
May 2005 rhc U.S. Environmcnral Protcnion quickly purity water fiom anl' source-a mud ticles. Inorganic nanomarerials such as quan - indu strial uses tor gold-Sourh Africa's
Agency revea led t l1dt ir 11as "considering a puddle, rivcr, or groundwatcr-and rendcr it rum dots that absorb a wide spectrum of l ~lrCT ar11e r.:.~------~.- ~~ l.J: .:~t...~"-~4. > i--'~; /---~
porcnrial vo lunrary pi lor program fo r clcan enough ro use on rhe barrlefield for li ght are printed on large sheers of metal toil (History shows -tl~at rapid rechnological v. ' ' --' '
nanoscalc marcrials rhar are exisring chemical emergency medica! treatmenr. The company that can be rolled out like plastic wrap onro clunge can nng major disruption and dis-
subsranccs." The proposcd vo lunrary iniria - claims that irs paren red , prororype filrer, also roofi:ops-allowin g ho mes or office build - location. A 2004 report by indusrry ana
rivc was sl.unmed as " inJdcquate and inap - bascd on ca rbo n nanoru be rcchnology, pro - in gs ro ge nerare their own power. Nanosolar lysrs L u x Research, ln c., hi g hli ghts th c
propriare" bv 17 emimnme ntal, hcalrh, and vides uan Jbsolu te barricr againsr passage of is also developing a semiconductor paim rhar pote nti al of nanorech ro "ultinutely dis-
ci,il society groups. 1'J microbial contan1inanrs." 11 could allow nano -powcrcd solar cells to be pbcc market shares, supply chains, and jobs
In Bangladesh, naturally occ urring arscni c applied ro any surt:Ke. '' in nca rl y evcry indu stry." I f a new nano-
Nanotech's lmplications in wells is <l majar thrcar ro public health , In addition ro current research rel ated ro engineered material outperforms a conven
rional materi.t l and can be produced at a
for the Global South afAicri ng an csrim ated 10- 20 pcrcenr ofrhe water and energy, nanotech proponents poinr
population . Researchers arRice University's ro thc furure environ mcnral benefirs of rev- comparabk cost, ir is likely ro rcplace the
Some nanorcch enrhusiasrs mainrain d1ar this Ce nter for Biological ancl Environmcnral olurionary manufacruring proccsses associ- co nvcmion .t l commodiry. The Lux repon
rechnology 11ill .tddrcss thc South 's mosr press- Nanorechnology are developing magnetitc ated wid1 bottom -up construcrion "that le:aves con rinues, " fu sr as the British Ind ustrial
ing nceds. Thc U~ Millennium Projecr's Task (iron oxide) nanocrrsr,tls ro capture and no wasted material behind." (See Box 5- 3. ) Rcvolution k n o~J.;cd handspi nn c rs and
Force on Sc ic nce, Tcd1r10logy and Innova- removc arsenic tiom conraminatcd wate r. Beyond minimizing waste, howcver , l1Jndwea,ers out of business, nanorechnol
tio n idenrifics nanotechnology Js an imporrant And at Oklahoma Sta te Universiry, chemists nanoscale manufacturing plarforms could also ogy wi ll disrupt a slew of multi -billion dol -
roo! fix addrcssing povern and achieving the are experi meming with rhc use of zinc oxide make geography, raw mate rials, and cvcn br co mpani es and industries. ""
Unitcd Natiot ts Millcnnium Development nanoparricles ro clean up arse nic in water. labor irrelevam.26 For example, NASA is invesring $ llmil
Goals. Curn:nr rcsearch on \\'atcr and energy Ald1ough the research is compelling, as norcd Ar the firsr North -South dia logue on lio n ro devel op "q uanrum wircs" made ti-om
are mo oli:-citcd examples ofnJ.norcch's poten - earlier scientific bodics such as th e Royal n<motechnology, sponsored by the Unitcd c.trbo n n.motubcs as a rcplacemcnt tor tradi
tia! co nrriburio ns ro emironment:al sustai n- Socicry and Royal Academy of Engineering in Nalions Industrial Dcvelopmcnr Organiza - tio nal coppe r wires. Scienrists at Rice Uni
abilirv ,md human den:lopmcnr. ' 0 the Unircd Kingd o m have rccommended tion in February 2005, scientists tlom devel - \'CI'Sity predict tilJt ca rbon nano tlbers will

86 87
State vfthe World 2006 Sta te afthe World 2006

k.nown asan aerogcl - bi llions of air bubbles

conduct electricity m u eh better than copper
trappcd in a matrix of nanosized partid es of
BOX S-3 . CHINA: WORLD LEADER IN STAN DARDIZAT ION OF :md transform thc electrical power grid . How
silica (glass) and plasric-is heat-resistant and
NANOTECHNOLOGY will Chile's cbpper mi nes, accounting for 40
an excellent insulator. Aerogels were otiginally
percent of global copper production , be
By all accoums. China is on rhe way to becom- In April 2005 China was the first country to
developed in the 1930s but thcir useful ness
atfccted by shifi:ing market demands' Wh at
ing a world-class science and techno logy (S&T) issue national standards for nanotech. and more was limired because they were brittle and
are the implications for the Chilean workers
powerhouse. The country doubled its science are on the way. China expects that its early absorbed moisturc. Aerogcl rechnology is
R&D spending between 1998 and 2003. After strides in standardization will lay the ground-
and economy? 29 currcntly being revisited, and onc researcher
Copper is just the tip of the iceberg.
the United Sta tes and japan, China invests more work for im:ernational nano standards, describes the new generation of aerogels as
in science R&O (public and privare spending strengrhening China's influence in the global Nanoseale techno log ies will dramaticall y
the "strongest, lighresr material known to
combined) than any country in me world. nanotech market. change the way that new materials are
man." Aerogels are airead y bcing incorpo
The backdrop for China's speeding nano- The current research focus is engineered designed and manufactured. By using nano -
nanomaterials, evidenced by the show-and-tell
rated in building materials, and researchcrs
science and technology advancement is the tcch to build from d1e bottom up rather than
country's looming environmental crisis-high gift presented to President Georg e W Bush also envision d1eir use to creare lightcr, \o nger
ti-om processing down, rhe quantity of raw
levels of pollution and a dearth of domes tic during his visit in 2002: a "self-cleaning" necktie m:lterials required could be sharply reduced. lasting tires 3 1
energy sources. The nation is already the that is srain-repellant thanks to a nanoscale
Though it is too early to predict which com -
second largest consumer of energy as well as coating.Among other breakthroughs, Chinese
moditics or workers will be aftected and how Na noscale technologies will dramatica lly
the second largest consumer of petroleum scientists discovered a method to control the
after the U nited States. but coal is its only diameter and direction of growth of multi-, nations that are most dependent on change th e way that new m a t e ria\5 a re
homegrown energy source.Will nanotech walled carbon nanotubes as well as phenomena agrictLlmral and natural resourcc exports will designed a nd m a nufactu red.
research in China foster indigenous solutions related to the elasticity and tensile strength of facc thc greatest disruptions. The point is not
to address environmental degradation? nanoscale copper. tlut the status quo should be preser ved, but
China 's support for nanotech research dates According to Chunli Bai, vice presidem of The environmema l gains tiom rcplacing
,[lut na.notech will bring huge socioeconomic
back to the 1980s.About $ 100 million in nano- the Chinese Academy of Sciences. China is play- nat'Ui;i rubber with nanomaterial s cou ld be
disruprions tor which socicry is not prcpared.
tech research funds were divvied up among ing catch-up in sorne areas of nanotech . He enormous. Lowc r dcmand tor tires cou ld
China's majar science agencies from 2001 to notes that Chinese scientists have yet to make T ake rubbcr, for instance. Currently,
alkviate thc burd e n of di scJrded tires in
2005 , and twice that amount will be allotted patenting a priority. and he points out that around 40 percent of a car tire is madc ti-o m
dumps and landfi ll s (a lthough nanomateri
over the next five years. Official statistics on China has only 200 or so nano-dedicated com- rubber, some synthetic and some natural.
als could also introduce ncw disposal prob
Chinese nanotech research are sparse. One panies- most with fewer than 40 employees. Re searchers are dcsign ing nanoparticles to
European industry observer claims that there Another problem is the scientific brain drain. lems and ncw contaminantS in rhe
srrengthen and cxtend d1e lite of tires and cre-
are more scientists working on nanotech in the Between the mid-1990s and 2003, China set up environment). But ifthe demand for n:uural
ating n::momaterials that could substitute
Beijing area than in all ofWestern Europe-at various recruitment programs"t.o lure back rubbcr plummets with the introduction of
tor- or even replace - rubber. One of the
. one twentieth the cost. China's majar nano young scientists and succeeded to bring heme ncw, nano-engineercd material s, it co ul d
foc used research centers include the Nacional about 2.500 ex-patria tes. world's leading tire produccrs is testing "Pre
also luvc devastating consequcnccs for mil
Center fq~ Nanoscience and Technology in Chinese researchers have been known to Nano" p:~rtidcs of silicon carbide that repon
lion s of rubber tappers and th c 1utional
Beijing anq the National Cemer for Nanoen- bui ld their own scanning tunneling and atomic cdly reduce abrasion by as muchas 50 percent
economies ofThailand, Indi.l, 1\labysia , Jnd
gineering in Shanghai. force microscopes, the fundamental tools of and increase skid resistance . Inmat LLC is
In the ftrst eight months of 2004, China led nanoscience. Despite these successes. there lndoncsia- the world's largest exportas of
producing nanoparticles of clay th.n can be
all other countries in the number of nanotech is pressure for Chinas rapidly developing mixed wid1 plastic and synthetic rubbcr to sea] 11.1tural rubbcr.
research papers. Since 1990, China has hosted S& T expertise to shift from basi c to applied Nanotechnology is already revolutioni zing
the inside of tires, creating an air-tight sur
dozens of nacional and internacional nanotech research by increasing public-private partner- thc ttile industry. Nano-Tex, a Calitornia
conferences, including ChinaNANO 2005 in ships-following the U.S. modei.Aithough fa-:e-porentially dcoeasing the amount of
bascd company, has liccnsed more than 80
Beijing, with more rhan 800 participating schol- public-private alliances may spur increased natural rubber required and making tires
textile milis worldwide- including l ndil' s
ars from over 40 countries. investment. greater emphasis on corporate li ghter, cheaper, and cooler running. The
two largest milis (sce Box 5-4 -to use its
Chinil is leading the way in standardization science will also have implications for public tcchnology is no" being in corpora red in ten -
of nanotechnology (such as measuring and R&D (such as changes in research priorities, nano -enab led " tabric cnhanccments ." Thc
nis balls and was originally dcveloped in the
naming of nanomaterials), an area that is crucial privatization. and intellectual property). trc,uments, whid1 are incorporared in cloth
late l990s in a joint R&D project of lllichc
for the further development of the technology. in g llld furniture sold b1 more than lOO
SOURCE: See endnore 26. \in and Hoechst Cel.mesc --' 0 companies, reportedly makc rhc bbrics stJin
A super lightwcig ht and stron g material

State ofthe World 2006 State ofthe Wol"ld 2006

ical elemcnts are not unpreccdented. Nobel

The world's largest transnational compa-
Prize-winning physicist Glenn Seaborg won
BOX S-4. INDIA: A GROWING MARKET FOR NANOSCIENCE R&D nics , leading academic la bs, and nanotech
U.S. patent #3,156,523 for rhe chemical
start-ups are all racing ro win monopoly con-
elcmcnt Americium (elcmcnt no. 95 on the
In 2003. Nano-Tex. a U.S.-based textile of India announced in 2004 that it is develop- trol of tiny tech 's qlossal :arket. A study
producer, announced that it had licensed its
periodic rabie ) on November 10, 1964. His
"ing a tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis kit based condu cred by the Uiliversiry of Arizona and
nanotech~based fabric coatings to two of on nano-sized biosensors. Currently, TB diag- second patentcd clement was Curi um (no.
the National Science Foundation found that
lndia's largest textile milis and that it planned nosis is expensive. takes several weeks. and 96 )-U.S. patcnt #3,\6 1,462 granrcd on
8,630 nanorch -relared pat.:nts were issued by
to establish an R&D center in India in the is available primarily in big hospitals. The new Deccmber 15, !964 . More reccntly, when
the U .S.. Patenr and Trademark Office in
area of te:xtile technology and nanomaterial kit wi/1 measure approximately 1 centimeter Harvard Universiry's Charles Lieber obrained
sciences. by 1 centimeter. and results would be pro- 2003 aJone , an increasc of 50 pcrcem bctwcen
a patcnt on nanoscale mera\ oxid e nanorods,
Given Indias strong R&D base in duced at a fraction of the time and cost of 2000 and 2003 (campa red with about 4 per -
be did not claim nanorods composed of a sin -
chemistry. physical sciences, biomedicine, current TB tests. cenr for patents in all rcchnology fidds ). The
gle rype of mctal- but instead claimed nano-
information technology, and materials, it is In July 2005 the world's largest seller of rop tivc counnies representcd werc rhe Unitcd
not surprising that the nano wave has reached scanning tunneling and atomic force micro- structured compounds composcd of any of
Srarcs (5,228 patenrs ), ).1pan (926), Ger-
this country, where more than 30 institutions scopes,Veeco lnstruments,lnc., opened a 33 chcmi ca\ elemcnrs. Patent lawyers havc
many (684 ), Ca11ada (244 ), and france ( 183 ).
are involved in research and training programs nanoscience center in Bangalore, a move that identitied Liebcr's patent (licensed exclu -
The top five entities wiru1i ng nanorech-related
in nanotechnology. For the period 2002-07, validares India as a growing market for nano- sively to Nanosys, In c.) as onc of the top 1O
the lndian government allocated Rs. 1 billion science R&D. The Veeco-lndia Nanotechnology patcnts included four multinational clecuoni c
patents rhat cou\d influence the devclop-
(approximately $22 million) to nanotech. laboratory will be jointly operated with the finm and onc universiry: IBM (198 patenrs ),
Micron Tcchnologies ( 129 ), Advanccd Micro ment of nanorcchnologyY
Although government support for nano is Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced Scien-
Although indu stry ana lysts frequenrly
scarce, there is growing interese in tiny tech tific Research. Dcvices ( l28),1nrel (90 ), .md thc Unive rsirv
in both the public and the private sector. With In October 2005, following 1O years of assert tl1at nanotcch is in irs infancy, "parent
of Cal itorn ia ( 89 )_,. tbickcts" on fundamental nanoscale materi -
nanotech research shifting to the corporate negotiations, the U.S. and lndian governments The current nanotcch parent grab is rem -
world, industry analysts are predicting that signed a scientific collaboration agreement. als, rools, and processes are airead)' crcaring
iniscent ofthe early days ofbiorech-"it's likc
"lndia's low costs for highly skilled manpower Under the agreement, the United States will thorny barriers for would -be innovators. To
and overheads" will turn India into a help India set up a regulatory agency similar to biotcch on sre roids" in rhc words of onc
th e extc nt thar these are " found ational "
"nanotech superpower." the Food and Drug Administration, which will patcnt attorney. biorechnolo gy
patentS- tllat is, semlml breaktllrough invcn -
In 2004. a subsidiary ofToyota entered allow successful clinical trials in India to be patents make claims on biological products
tions upon wlch later innovations are built-
into a joint venture with the lndian lnstitute automatically accepted in the U. S. market. and processes, nanorechnology patcnts may
of Chemical Technology for R&D on nanoma- The collaboration is expected to accelerate
researchcrs in the devcloping world cou\d _\:)e
literally stake claims on chemical elements, as
terials for automotive applications-including outsourcing to India. particularly in areas such shrol:it.Resc:u'chers i11 rhe global Sou rh are
well clS rhe compoun ds and rhc devices tlut
the use of nanom-aterials to reduce pollution as biotechnology and nanotechnology. likcly ro fine! that participation in tbc " nan -
incorporare them. In short, molecular-kvcl
while increasing performance. And the otech revolution" is bighly resnicted by patcnt
Central Scientific lnstruments Organisation SOURCE: See endnote 32. manutacturing pro1~dcs new ppo-rruniti es
rollbooths, obliging rhcm ro pay roya\ties
tor swccping monopo\y control over both 38
5 and liccnsing tees ro gain access.
3nimatc and inanin1ate 111Jtrt:r:'
At stake is co ntro l over nanosC<lie marcri-
als, devices, and process.:s that cut across
and spill -rcsistant without chan ging texture . Nanomonopoly
Onc trcatment called "Coolcst Comtort" mulripl c indusrry secto rs, ior a single New Meaning to "Life's Work"
wicks moisture away and drics quickly but is Ultimarely, inrell cctual property will play a nan osok inn ovation can be relevant for
For some pcople, thc word nanorcchnology
not imendcd for use with cotton. Willnatural majar role in deciding who will capture nan - widclv divergent applicarions. As rhe ~\nll
conjures up visions of exponcntially self-
fibers like cotton , and the 100 million fami- orech 's trillion-dollar market, who will gain St-reer Journal put ir, '\:ompanics that hold
rep licatin g " nanobots" (nanos izcd robotic
lies involvcd in cotton produ ction world- access ro nanoscaJe teclulologies, ;me! what the pionee:ing patents could potentially put up
6 machines )-out of control and dcvouring
wide, bccome obsolcre wirh the developmenr price will be. According ro Stanford U!ver - rolls on enti rc industries. " ' rh c planet until nothing remain s but "gray
of new nano -inspired fibcrs' World corran sity Law professor Mark Lemley, "pate nts Today, broad patcnrs e~re bcing grantcd
goo." \IVhi\c "gray goo" has madc hcad -
production was valued ar $24 biUion in 2003; will casta larger shadow over nanoted1ri1an that e~ficd severa\ indu strial sec rors c1nd
lincs, ir is more likely rhat if nanorechnol-
35 Atiican countries produce corran, and 22 they !uve ovcr any other modern science at include swecping claims o n entirc arcas ofrhe
ogists un\oose goo inad ve rtcnrly, ir wi\l be
are exportcrs ..n a comparable stage of dcvelopment."33 Periodi Tabk . l'arents on individual chcm-

State ofthe World 2006 State ofthe Wo rld 2006

"g rec n goo," a producr of nano biorech - form rhc srrucrure themselvcs." '~rus or other da.ngerOLtS pathogens that could the science is perccived to be in thc distam
no logy. This rerm retl:rs ro rhe inrcgrarion Scicnrisrs ar Berkeley's new synrheric biol- be u sed for bioterroi:iSin":! ti.orure-a perception tar could not be fur-
of biological marc rials wirh synrh eri c m are- ogv d eparrment are d esigning and con- NanobiorC""d mology raises m'my concerns. rhcr ri-om the truth.
z:-,( . : _,-! .
rial s ro build new mokc ular srrucrures. Syn - srrucring "biobots"-auronomous robots Will new, selfreplicaring life torms,_cspecially
rhcri c bi o logy rcfe rs ro rhe construcrion o f dcsigned for a spccial purpose rhat are rhe those rhar ar e designed ro function he Need for Debate
new living systems in th e laborator~ that can size of a virus or cell and composed of both auronomously in rhc environment, open a and Oversight
be programm ed ro perfonn spcciti c rasks. biological and artificial parrs. Pandora 's box o funtoresccn and unconrrol -
When sy nrh eri c biologv in volvcs rhe inre - Rcsearchers are using proreins liom spinach lable consequences ? Somc rcsea rchers in rhe In a just and judicious conrexr, nanorech
grarion of liv ing and non -livin g parts at ch loroplasrs ro creare elecrronic circuirs- field have begun ro acknowled ge potential could bring useful bcndits tO t he poor-
th e nano sca le, ir is sv n o nymou s wirh resulting in rhe world's firsr solid -stare pho- risks and erhical implications of rheir work. In clcaner water, c heapcr energy, and improved
nan ob iotec hnology. rosynrheric solar ccll. 2004 the edirors of Nawre called on scien- health. Then: could also be sig nifica nt envi -
\\'irh rhc rapid emcrgcnce of nanobiorech- Angel a Bclcher, a material scienrisr at MIT, risrs wo rking in the field of synrheric biology ro nmenra l ga ins ti-om replacing so me con -
no logy, g10neric engi nec ring is suddenly so has ge nericall y cngineercd rhe DNA of " ro co nsult and re flecr carcfully about ri sk- ve nrio nal materials wirh new nan o marerials.
lasr-ccnruoy T hc world 's firsr synrhetic biol- viruscs, inducing rhem ro grow tiny inorganic borh pcrccivcd and genuine-a nd ro mod - 13ur in a world where/ pn\;ati zarion of sci ~
o gy contcrence convcncd in Tune 2004. Two wires wirh magnctic and scmiconducting erare rhcir actions accordingly."" ence' and unprccedenred corporarc concen -
mo mh s l,ncr, rhe U niv<Orsiry ofCalifornia ar properrics thar may someday provide cir- In June 2005 the J. Craig Venter Institute, trarion preva il , ir is rhe techno logical
Bcrkekv esrablished thc firsr synthcric bio logy cuitry in high-spccd electronic componenrs. thc Ce nter for Strategic and lnrernarional imperarive and pursuir of profirs thar are
d ep.t rtm enr in rh e United Srares. By July With tunding from thc U .S. Department of Srudies, and lv!IT announced rhar they will propc lling rh c tiny tech revo lution - not
2005 IUtture capira li sts had raised $43 mil - Energ)', rhc J. Crai g Venrer lnstirure is underrake a joinr pro jccr ro examine the human develop menr needs or soc ial justice.
lion ro bankroll rwo srarr -up co mp,mies spe - buildin g a new type of bac rcrium using societal implications of synrheric ge nomics Will poo r communirics gai n acccss to nano - in synrh cti c biology.-w DNA manutacrurcd in rhe labo rarory. The and rcg ul atory needs. Unforrunarely, rhosc tech 's propri crary producrs' Wi ll develop-
goal is ro build synthctic orga nism s rhat who are stepping up ro assess rhc socicral in g nari o ns r eap th e be netits of new
When t he r oot problems are poverty can be programmed ro produce hydrogcn implications o f synth etic biology are dosel y techno logics thar ,tre being d eve lo ped for
and social injustice, new technology is o rbe used in rhe environmenr ro seq ucster linked ro rhose sccki ng to commcrcialize it. milirary uses' Will roday's ounotec h parenr
carbon dioxide. One of rhe projccr's direcrors, Drew Endy of grab csrab li sh barriers ro cntry and mega-
never the silver bullet solution.
Researchers ar the Scripps lnsrirute in La MIT, is coto under of Codon Devices, a com- monopolies on the basic clemenrs that are thc
jolb, California, havc creared an artificial pany rhar synrhesizes cusromi zed DNA seg- b uilding blocks o f thc entire na rural world?
:--!anobiorechnologisrs aim ro h.trn ess base rhar can be added ro the _tour narurally ments. Anorher projccr director, Robar lf currenr rrends cominue, nan oscalc tcch -
narure 's sd t~ repJi caring " man ufucrurin g plat- occurring bases o fDNA (A, G, C , and T ). Friedman, is employcd by rhe Venrer Insti - no logies will furrhcr concenrr.ttc cconomic
form " to r industrial uses. Toda y, rcscarc hcrs As rhe DNA srrand repli cares, rhe artificial rure, whose toundcr raised $30 mil! ion fiom power in rhe hands of mulrin ari o nal corpo-
are building bio logica l nuchines-or lw brid base (known as 3FB ) pairs up wirh another pri vare inv esro rs ro esrablish Synrhcric r.ttio ns and wid e n rhe gap bcrwccn rich and
o rg.mi ~ m s usi ng borh bi o logica l and no n- 3FB ro form a complerely new base pair. Genomics, lnc., in 2005, a co mpany rhar poor. When rhe roor problem s a re poverry
biologic,tlm.mer. The implic.ttions ofhuman - Thc goa l is ro incorporare rhe new and aims ro manufacture organisms for indus- and social inju sricc, new rechnology is ncver
dir ecrcd, madc -ro-ordcr li fe to rm s are improvcd DNA inro a microbe to learn trial purposcs.H rhe sil ver buller so lution.
breathta king: how ir evoheso Propclled by venturc capital and taxpayer Ha ven ' r we be en Itere bctore' Gcnerically
Enginecr Ca rio Monrc nu g no has creared a [n thc wake of sr..~rrling advanccs in the dollars, rh-e- lieTa of nanoborechno !ogy _ is omxlificd (GM .1 crops camc ro ma.rket-adccadc :
ck vicc:, lcss a millimcrer long, madc fi cld o f syntheric biology, rhe porentia l "for ; dvand ng rapidly in the absence o f public ago witi virrually no public discussion of rheir
tin m hearr cclls combincd wirh si lico n. abuse o r inadvertcnt disasrer" is cno rmo us. n debate or regularory ovcrsight. Fo r most oisks and benefirs and ll~thin rcgu latory tiame-
\[u s.: le ri ss uc growi ng o n rh e device's Ja;1uary 2005 scic ntsrs unvciled a new, auro- go1ernmems, nanobiotechnology So1ot even works that civil sociery organizations have
"roboric skelcron" all o11, ir ro move, and mared rcchniquc rhar makes ir faster and eas- o;;the radar. Eftorts ro address rhe tar-rcac h- dcscribed as ioudequate, non -uan sparem, or
rc:sc:.trc hcrs believe ir could so meda)' power ier to synrhcsize lo ng mokc ulcs of DNA. io)g soc ial, cthica l, and eowironmental impli - no n-exisrenr. As a resulr, quesrions and con -
compu rc r chips. \[onrenugno descri bes his Bur rcsearchcrs warn rhar rhis revolutionary carions o f synrh eti c biology mu sr no t be rroYersies surroundi ng sociocconomic, healtl1 , iom a~ ".tb;olmcly alil'c .. rhc cells actu- advance will 3lso permir thc' rapid synrhesis of confi ncd ro a gro up ofsdl~appoinrcd cxpcrrs. and environmcnul imp.tcts of Glvl toods are
ally g ro11, mulriply .tnd .tsse mble - they any small gc nome, including rhe smallpox Nor should oversig hr be postpo ncd beca use unresol ved , a nd milli ons of pcop lc luve

92 93

State of thc World 2006 Statc of the World 2006


materials across all industry sectors, b lur

spurned GM products. The parallels between W ho will contro l the technologies' Who instance, has put fo rward a propasa! fo r an
rfedistinction berween livin g and no n-liv
the introduction of biotech and nanotech are will bencfi.t tiom them? Who will play a role lnrernational Co nventio n o n the Evalu ation
iilg .matter; an d change the ve ry definition
of New Technologies-an intergovernmen -
undcniable. Despite thc nanotech commu - in dcciding how nanor.:chnolo gies affect
ral tac-ilil:y capable of earning rhc confi.dence
. .f w.hat ir mcaus_~o be huma n. The ch a
nit:y's persistent vows nor ro repear rhe same our futurc? !..:nge is to go e ti red and fa mil
clumsy mistakes, ir has been followin g in rhe Reccnt repo rts by govern m c nts and civi l o f governments and socicry as well as of rhe
iar approac h of rechnocraric rcg u!Jti ons
same foorsreps. 'societv ha1e ca ll cd tor the rcstri crion or pro - scientifi.c communi ty46
related to " risk" and ro gain an innovarive
In 2006, corporare funding tor nanotcch hibition of m.mutacrured nanopart iclcs in In the co min g decades , rechnologics
co nvergi ng at the nanoscale wifl revci lu - capaciry fo r demacra tic contro l and assess
R&D is expecred ro exceed p ubli cly sup - thc cnvironment. i\ rcport preparcd to r rhe
porred research for rhe fi.rsr rime. T he fa re of European Parliam enr, tor instance, recom - rionize th e dcsign and m anufacture of n ~w ment of science and techno logy.

converging rech no logies ar rhe nanoscale will m ends rh.u rhc "relcase of n e1 no-particles
likely be sealed in rhe immcdiare years ahead. shou ld be rcsrricrcd duc ro thc potemial
U nfo rrunarely, gove rnm~nrs are so tar acti 1~ etlccts on environmcm ;md human hcalth ."
aschecrlcacte rs- no.r rZgular~rs-i n-actct-;:ess- So mc civil socicty organizarions havc gone
;.1g thc nanorcch. revolurio n. Convit1 ced tlut further , calling tor a morarorium o n nan- .
techno logical con vergencc at the nanoscale is otec h rcsearc h and new com m crcial prod -
th e "future," leading nano nations - espc - ucts until such time as laboraron protocois
cially the United States, Japan, and severa! in and rcgulatory re gimes are in place to protecr
Eu ropc-are in an all -out racc ro sccure eco- workers and consumcrs, and until these mare -
nomic advantage: health and environmenta l rials are shown ro be s.e. Gi1en rhc regub -
con siderations are secoiidat); socioecono mic tory vacuunl .tnd thc t:lilure of le,tding na no
impacts will ha ve ro wait; regularions, if they narions ro ;Kt, thc ce1ll tora moratorium is jus-
ca nnot be avoided, must be volunrary so as titied and deserves public d.:b.ue. U mil soci-
not ro hinder commcrc ial dcvelopmcnr of cry can eng.1gc in a thorough an.1lvs is of rhe
nan o rech R&D 44 impli (<ttions of sy nthctiL bio l og~', gove rn -
Wirh public confi.dence in both privare ments must n1ovc to cstablish a n1onnoriu m
and governm ent science aran all -rime low, on lab experim cntarion with - and rhe rck.lsc
full societal debate o n nan osca le conve r- of--sy mhetic biolog) marerials-";
ge n ce is critica!. l t is not tor sc icntisrs and i\r a rime whcn rru lv rra nstorm ing tcch -
/ gove rnm em s ro "educare" rhc pub li c but no logies are e mctging td r t:1stu rhan public
, for soc icty ro determine t h c goa ls and poli cies can cvolvc to address rhcm, iris crit -
processes for thc techno logies rhey fi.nance. ica! to bro.1dcn thc conHnunity of p.lrti -
How can sociery assert democratic comro l pants \\'ho pl~1y ~l role in der~nnining how n~w
ovc r new technologics and parri in tcchnologies sho uld atkct our futu rc. Soci -
asscssing re sc.~ rch priorities' ety must g.1in .1 titllcr utldersr.mding of rhc
First and toremosr, society mu sr cngagc dirccnon ,\Lld imp.Kts ot scicncc and tech -
in a wide de bate about tunotech no logy and nology innovaran in a bro,Jdcr sociopolitical
its multipk economic, health, .tnd en viran - contexr. To kccp p.1cc with technological
mental implica ri o ns . i\.ny efforts by govern - ci1dn ge, we ne..:d itJnovati,e .1pproaches ro
ments o r industr y ro confin e disc ussions ro m onitOr , nd assess thc imrod ucr ion of new
m eetin gs of experts or ro tocus solel y rcchnologies. To rhis etKi, the inrcrnarional
on the health and satety aspccrs of nanoscale 1co mmun itv sho uld creare a nc11 Unircd
techn o logics 11ill be a mistake . Thc broadcr Narions body wirh rhe nl.lnd .tt..: ro track ,
soc ia l and cthica l issucs musr also be cvalu.1te, Jnd acccpr or rejcn nc11 rcchnolo -
addressed-including intellccrual propcrty. g ics .1nd rheir produets. ETC (;roup , tor

~- ~====- :...e-ff:s'WE&l - t_ , &==em
(;sfe'f r3 J (7002-J
E=a:)o~y j:J.t:A ~~ ( e- fi+~t--s,..,, leL-\u m 2 /:!::>
1\-t u"'- h, 1Y, yev.ew ,J.-es~ Se,s\Y\ 1\ For orthodox economists , ecological degradation is evidence of market fail-
ure.3 The market is unable to guide firms in the efficient use of environ-
tV(t.U \'f /<.., UsA. mental assets if they are not already fully incorporated within the market
system by means of a rational price structure. The first task of environmen-
tal economists therefore is to transform ecological assets into marketable
goods. For example, if clean a iris nota marketable good with a price, then
the market places no value on it. Thus when an industrial plant emits air
2-The Ecological Tyranny ofthe Bottom Line pollution, it simply externalizes the cost (which shows up in premature
deaths, damage to ecosystems , deterioration of environmental amenities,
etc.) to society, while the environmental damage is not internalized within
SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES OF ECONOMIC the market or on the balance sheet of the firm. The answer to this, from the
RED U CT 1O N 1 S M standpoint of neoclassical environmental economics, is to create markets
in clean air, thereby internalizing such externa! costs within the market.
In recent decades environmentalists have directed a persisten! ecological The overalllogic is one ofbringing the earth within the balance sheet.4
critique at economics, contending that economics has failed to value the
natural world. Lately economists ha ve begun to respond to this critique,
Costing the Earth
anda rapidly growing subdiscipline of environmental economics has
emerged that is dedicated to placing economic values on nature and inte- Since the environment (that is, the biosphere) is nota commodity, howev-
grating the environment more fully into the market system. However, the er, and is not reproduced according to the rules of the market, what means
question arises: ls the cure more dangerous than the disease? Does the are to be adopted in order to intemalize the environment within the market
attempt to internalize the natural environment within the capitalist market system? It is here that most of the attention of environmental economics is
system-without a radical transformation of the latter-lead l?_a ~ew directed. Neoclassical environ m en tal economists essentially rely on a
e!Tipire of the economy over ecology, a sort of neocolonialism where the old three-stage process. First, they break the environment clown into specific
colonialism is no longer seen as suffic!ent? And what are the ultimate con- goods and services, separated out from the biosphere and even from partic-
sequences of this? ular ecosystems, in such a way asto make them into commodities (toa
Although there are distinguished exceptions, most work in the relatively degree), for example, the timber available in a particular forest, the water
new field of environmental economics ; conducted within the. orthodox or quality in a given river, the species in a particular wildlife reserve, or the
neoclassical economic framework.' As the British Jeft-green economist maintenance of a certain global temperature over a number of decades .
Michael Jacobs has written, "At heart, the neoclassical approach to enviran- Then these goods and services are given an imputed price through the con-
mental economics has one aim: to turn the environment into a commodity struction of supply and demand curves, presumably allowing economists
which can be analyzed just like other commodities .... If only the environ- to ascertain the optimallevel of environmental protection.s Finally, various
ment were given its proper value in economic decision-making, the econo- market mechanisms and policy instruments are devised in order to either
mist reasons, it would be much more highly protected." "As far as change prices in existing markets or to crea te new markets so asto achieve
economists are concerned," Geofle Eads and Michael Fix likewise the desired leve] of environmental protection.
observed in a study published by the Urban Institute, "the problems of A great deal of attention is given in this process to the construction of
o . \ environmental pollution, excessive Jevels ofworkplace hazards, or unsafe demand curves for environmental goods and services. (The task of con-
consumer products exist largely beca use 'commodities' like environmental structing supply curves, associated with the costs of environmental protec-
pollution, workplace safety, and product safety do not trade in markets." 2 tion , is generally considered-perhaps mistakenly-to pose fewer

26 27

difficulties than demand curves.) Demand curves are constructed by deter- a human liJe based on the wage premiums that workers required in arder to
mining the willingness to pay of consumers. However, since actual mar- accept a higher risk of early death. On this basis a number of academic
kets for environmental goods and services do not for the most part studies concluded that the value of a worker's life in the United States (in
exist-that is, these products are not actually bought- the willingness to the early 198os) was worth between $soo,ooo and $2 million (far less than
pay on the part of consumers is imputed in a couple of ways. the annual sa lary of many corporate chief executive officers). The OM B
The first of these methods is known as hedonic pricing. 1n thi s then used these results to argue that certain forms of pollution abatement
approach consumer preferences are supposedly revealed through the were cost-effective, while others were not, in accordance with President
demand for goods and services that are closely associated with a given envi- Reagan's Executive Order No. 12291 that regulatory measures should "be
ronmental product. Such closely associated goods and services, existing chosen to maximize the net benefit to society." 7
within actual markets, are seen as in sorne way standing in for the en vi ron- The second majar method of determining consumer preferences is
mental product in question, or else offering the basis for comparisons from what is known as the valuation m~thod] Here hypothetical mar-
which calculations regarding the willingness to pay for a given enviran- kets are constructed imd consumers are asked to indica te their preferences
mental product can be derived. For example, the willingness of consumers through surveys. In such surveys representative samples of the population
to pay for a quiet neighborhood is calculated by comparing the market are asked what they would pay for a given leve! of protection for a given
price ofhomes near an airport with similar homes in a quieter loca le. Or environmental commodity, and at the same time what they would ha ve to
the willingness of people to protect a recreation si te can be imputed on the be given in compensation for losing it. Ideally, such surveys should cover a
basis of their willingness to pay transportation costs to visit the si te. large number of!evels of protection, generating a whole range of values
An example ofhedonic pricing in the United States occurs in govern- from consumers. This seldom proves practicable, however, and more often
ment attempts to value the environmental assets that would be lost-say in the surveys cover only a few levels of protection-for example, making a
the construction of a dam-b y letting the amount that sportsmen (and river fishable, swimmable, and drinkable. Using the responses of individu-
sportswomen) pay on average in their pursuit of fish and game stand in for als in these surveys, economists aggregate the results across the entire pop-
the value of these species, which is taken asan ind)cation of the value of a ulation in order to construct demand curves for the hypothetical
given local ecosystem.This is accomplished through the use of a concept environmental commodities.
known as wildlife fish user days (WFUD), representing the amount of Having determined the most appropriate (most cost-efficient) leve! of
money that an average individual sportsperson could be expected to spend environmenfal protection through hedonic pricing and contingent valua-
in 12 hours in pursuit of various forms of wildlife. Waterfowl were valued tion, neoclassical economists move on to the problem of how to alter exist-
in the early 198os at $19-$32 per WFUD, elk at $r6-$25 per WFUD, and ing markets orto create new ones in order to achieve the optimallevel of
fish at $14-$21 per WFUD. By this means the market utility associated with protection. 8 Much of environmental economics thus aims at the creation of
the pursuit of fish and game (representing the demand for environmental markets to sol ve problems of pollution and environmental degradation.
protection in the area to be flooded) could be compared, within the context Essentially, there are two market-oriented techniques used9 One is the
of a broader cost-benefit analysis, with the market utility to be derived from fairly straightforward imposition of taxes or subsidies that will increase the
(and the willingness of consumers to pay) for a new dam, or sorne other costs of inflicting environmental damage and the benefits of environmen-
development project. 6 tal improvements. The other technique is to use the state to crea te n ew
S_1::1:ch bottom-line thinking recognizes no boundaries outside of the ac- markets, which then opera te on their own. One example of this is the
counting ledger. A closely related form of cost-benefit analysis has been charging of en trance fees to parks, so asto restrict admission in accordance
applied to human beings, in assess ing risk within the occupational envi- with ability to pay. Another is changing property rights, such as the cre-
ronment. Under the Reagan administration, the Office of Management ation of exclus ive economic zones in coastal waters. Particularly popular
and Budget (OMB) attempted to promote calculations of the dallar value of among neoclassical environmental economists and policy makers is the
- --- ------- - - - - -- - ---- --~-~ ~s:::;;v 't" _ &L..;:c....:.. ~



use of the state to establish market-based incentives such as tradable pollu-

from the fundamental nature of the socioeconomic system in which we
tion permits. This allows pollution up toa certain overalllevel while mak-
live. In The Great Transformation, Karl Polanyi wrote:
ing it possible for firms that are more efficient in reducing pollutiorfo
benefit through the sale of these permits-thus forcing those firms that What we ca lll and is an element of na tu re inexplicably inte rwoven with man's institu-
continue to poli u te excessively to pay for their pollution. tions . To isolate it and forma market out ofit was perhaps the weirdest of all undertak-
ings of our ancestors .... The economic function is but one of many vital functions of
The en tire neoclassical view, it should be clear beyond any doubt at this
land . lt invests man's life with stability; it is the site ofhis habitation ; it is a condition of
point, rests on tuming the environment into a set of commodities. 1 Further,
his physical safety; it is the landscape and the seasons. We might as wel l imagine his
the goal is quite explicitly one of overcoming the so-called market failures of being born without hands and feet as carrying on his life without land. And yet to se pa-
the environment by constructing replacement markets for environmental rate land from man and organize society in such a way asto satisfy the requirements of
products. If environmental degradation and pollution are evident, the econo- a real e~ tate market was a v~al part of the utopian concept of ~ market economy."
mist reasons, it must be because the environment has not been fully incor-
The "weird" nature of such a reductionist approach to nature, arising
porated within the market economy, and does not operate according to the
out of an attempt to construct not only al! of society but also the en tire ecol-
laws of economic supply and demand. Yet, the faulty character of neoclassi-
ogy ofhumankind (and indeed ecological relations in general) along mar-
cal environmental economics beco mes evident when one realizes that this
ket-commodity lines, has its concrete manifestation in three interwoven
entire methodology is based on the utopian myth that the environment can
contradictions. The first is the radical break with all h~man histo-
and should beco me a part of a self-regulating market system.
ry necessitated by the reduction of the human relation to nature to a set of
market-based utilities, rooted in the egoistic preferences of individuals.
Contradictions ofEconomic Reductionism "For the first time," Marx wrote of capitalist society, "nature becomes pure-
ly an object for humankind, purely a matter of utili ty; cea ses to be recog-
Nature, however, is nota cornmodity produced to be sold on the market
nized as a power for itself; and the theoretical discovery of its autonomous
according to economic laws of supply and demand. Nor is ita market
laws appears merely as a ruse so asto subject it under human needs,
organized according to laws of individual consumer preferences. It is not
whether asan object of consumption oras a means of production." 13 By
even privately owned for the most part. The allocation and distribution of
reducing the human relation to nature purely to possess ive-individual
environmental goods is subject to state regulation.
terms , capit;lism thus represents (in spite of all of its technological
--- ,: ' The environment can be rationally considered a "condition of produc-
progress) not so mucha fuller development of human needs and powers in
tion" for the economy. However, it cannot be fully incorporated into the cir-
relation to the powers of nature, as the alienation of nature from society in
cular flow of a commodity economy. There are ethical reason s why we may
arder to develop a one-sided, egoistic relation to the world.
choose to preserve crucial parts of nature from the forces of the market.
The second contradiction of economic reductionism when applied to
Moreover, any attempt to allow the "tyranny of the bottorn line" guide our
nature is associated with the radical displacement of the very idea of value or
relation to nature in its entirety would be disastrous. Il
worth, resulting from the domination of market val u es over everything else.
The conditions of environrnental reproduction (that is, ecological sus-
This alienation of nature was highlighted by Kant's clas sic distinction
tainability) can be undermined not only through the economy failing to
between market price and intrinsic value: "That which is related to general
take environmental costs into account (the externalization of costs to the
human inclinations and needs has a market price. But that which consti-
environment), as is commonly supposed, but also by the attempted incor-
tutes the condition under which alone something can be an end in itself
poration of the environment into the economy-the commodification of
does not have mere relative worth (price) but an intrinsic worth (dignity). " 14
nature. The reason for this is that the underl ying problem can be traced
It is this widespread humanistic sense of systems of intrinsic value that
neithe r to the nature of the environment itself nor to market failures
are not reducible to mere market values and cannot be included within a
(imperfections in the workings of the market system), but rathe r arises
cost-benefit analysis that so often frustrates the attempts of econornists to
......... - -- ~-:



carry out contingent value analyses among the general public. If asked nature is reduced to mere cash nexus and is not treated in accordance with
whether the market economy should place a value on all of nature, most broader, more ecological principies.
people would probably say yes, but this really tells us nothing, give that For a neoclassical economist, songbird species are facing extinction be-
the concept of value in ordinary parlance may often mean something like cause their relative prices are too low (that is, they are outside the market).
dignity rather than price. Time and again, when asked toseta price on par- The "natural" solution from this standpoint then is to find a way ofbidding
ticular environmental goods such as air quality ora picturesque landscape, up the price of songbirds by creating markets for them. However, finding a
large numbers of people will simply refuse-sometimes with the suspicion way of assigning a higher relative price to songbirds is unlikely to do much
that such exercises point not to preservation but to something more like a good as long as the primary reason for their approaching extinction is expan-
protection racket. rs . sion of the en tire system of contemporary agribusiness, with its disastrous
For many, probably a majority of people-even in our self-centered, (and frequently poisonous) effect on the habitat on which these birds depend.
acquisitive society-nature is not something to be broken into pieces and Similar issues arise in the case of forest ecosystems, although in this sit-
then inserted into a system of relative prices. Viewing nature in te~ms of uation it is nota question ofbeing outside the market or lacking a pricetag.
individual consumer preferences rather than convictions, duties, aesthetic Forests have long been managed on market-based principies. The result in
judgments, etc., is for most people a kind of"category mistake." rGAs E. F. most cases has been the loss of forests, since the market sees forests, notas
Schumacher noted in his critique of the application of cost-benefit analysis ecosystems, but as consisting of so many million or billion board feet of
to the environment in his Small Is Beautiful, the attempt "to measure the standing timber. According to the rules of accumulation under a system of
immeasurable is absurd and constitutes [on the part of the economist] but market values, a relatively untouched, pristine forest (i.e., an intact forest
an elabora te method of moving from preconceived notions to foregone ecosystem supporting diverse species) is a "gift of nature" not yet in a fully
conclusions; al! one has to do to obtain the desired results [the reduction of managed state, containing trees that may be hundreds of years old and that
parts of the environment to commodity values] is to impute suitable values are no longer growing ata rate that is justified according to the curren! rate
to the immeasurable costs and benefits." What is worst about this under- of interest. Such unproductive assets therefore need to be harvested as
taking "is the pretence that everything has a price or, in other words, that quickly as possible and replaced by an industrial tree plantation consisting
money is the highest of all values." 17 of a single species of tree, with individual trees of uniform age, grown with
The third contradiction of economic reductionism when applied to the the help of a massive infusion of industrial chemicals, and harvested and
environment can be seen in the material consequences, not merely those of turned into commodities within a few decades. Such monocultures no
a moral nature. Although the internalization ofthe environment within the longer support a diverse range of plant and animal species. In effect, an
economy, by providing commodity prices for everything in nature, and extreme division (and simplification) of nature has occurred beca use it has
establishing markets (often by artificial means) to sol ve all problems of pol- been turned into a commodity. Forest ecosystems are threatened therefore,
lution, resource exhaustion, etc., is often presented as the way out of our not by the failure to incorporate them into the market system, but rather by
ecological problems , a good case can be made that such solutions, while the "natural" operations of the commodity system itself, and by th e
sometimes attenuating the problems in the short term, only accentuate the extreme narrowness of its objectives. 18
contradictions overall, undermining both the conditions oflife and the con- From an ecological standpoint, insofar as the diversity of life is an ob-
ditions of production. The reason for this is the sheer dynamism of the cap- jective , the market is extremely inefficient compared with nature itself.
italist commodity economy, which by its very nature accepts no barriers Encountering a tropical forest for the first time, the great nineteenth-
outside of itself, and seeks constantly to increase its sphere of influence century naturalist Alexander von Humboldt remarked that the very density
without regard to the effects of this on the biosphere. It is not so much the of the forest "enlarged the domains of organic nature. " 19 This principie ,
failure to internalize large parts of nature into the economy that is the central to Darwin's evolutionary theory, carne to be known as the law of
so urce of environmental problems, but rather that more and more of diverge nce-the more di verse form s of life in a given area (the more


ecological niches seized upon), the more that area will support. Yet turning system of capitalist nature closing back on itself." 2 3 The irony here is that
forests into commodities has led to their degradation (i.e., extreme sim- capitalism, in typical fashion, sees any crisis as emanating from barriers to
plifica tion), thereby diminishing rather than enlarging the domains of the expansion of capital rather than the expansion of capital itself. The
organic nature in this sense. solution is to increase the domain of capital, recognizing that nature too is
properly part of the rational system of commodity exchange.
Justas Weber admitted in his General Economic History that historically
The ldeology ofNatural Capital
capitalism had been based on rapacious colonialism, but went on to den y
Recently, it has become popular among environmental economists-who that this had anything todo with modern rational capitalism, which no
are well aware of the destructive impact that the commodity eco no m y has longer relied on force or unequal exchange; so the contemporary enviran-
had on nature-to argue that the internalization of environmental costs mental economists argue that capitalism historically relied on a rapacious
has to be seen in a broader way. by recognizing that all of nature and its var- relation to nature, but that a modern rational capitalism-capitalism worthy
ious components are essentially "natural capital." 20 Such economists pres- of the name--is destined to bring all of nature within its balance sheet. 2 4 As
ent the environmental crisis not so muchas a failure of the market as a Martn O'Connor observes, "if capital is nature and nature is capital, the
failure of our accounting system, which does not recognize that capital - terms become virtually interchangeable; one is in every respect concerned
already includes all of existence. with the reproduction of capital, which is synonymous with saving nature. The
Creen entrepreneur Paul Hawken has popularized the view that true planet as a whole is our capital, which must be sustainably managed." 2 5
capitalism, as opposed to capitalism as we have known it thus far, would Yet with all the rhetoric of the valuation of natural capital, the actual
take natural capital into account, and by doing so save the environment. operation of the system has not material! y changed, and can't be expected
The system of market pricing has failed us with respect to the environ- to change. The rhetoric of nature and the planetas capital thus serves
ment, he wri tes , "for the most simple and frustrating of reasons: bad mainly to obscure the reality of the extreme exploitation of nature for the
accounting. Natural c~pital has never been placed on the balance sheets of sake of commodity exchange. Moreover, the principal result of the incorpo-
companies, countries or the world. Paraphrasing G. K. Chesterton, it could ration of such natural capital into the capitalist system of commodity pro-
be fairly said that capitalism might be a good idea except that we ha ve never duction--even if carried out-will be the further subordination of nature to
tried it yet. And try it we must and will, for capita li sm cannot be fully
attained or practiced un ti!, as any accounting statement will tell us, we ha ve
the needs of commodity exchange. There will be no actual net accumula- ' ,
tion of natural capital; rather, nature will incre~singly be con verted into :__)
; \

an accurate balance statement." 21 money or abstract exchange, subject to the vicissitudes ofWall Street. "The
Ecological-socialist economist Martn O'Connor has referred to this the- commodity," as eco-Marxist economist Elmar Altvater has observed, "is
oretical tendency critically as the attempted "capital ization of nature," narcissistic; it sees only itself reflected in gold." 26
meaning "the representation of the biophysical milieu (nature) and of non- Toda y parts of the redwood forest of northern California that are under
industrialized eco no mies and the human domestic sphere (human nature) priva te management (Pacific Lumber Corp.) are being removed beca use
as reservoirs of 'capital,' and the codification of these stocks as property trees that are centuries old are considered nonproducing assets, and the
tradable 'in the marketplace."' 2 2 rules of the market (and Wall Street) demand that they be liquidated and
The proper domain of capital is thus magically enlarged by a rr:ere replaced by younger, faster-growing trees, which can be placed in a "fully
change of terminology. Formerly, all of nature was treated as a "gift" to managed" condition. The tragic fa te of these forests-as noted earlier-is
capital andas an externa! and exploitable domain. Now it is increa singly not due to their exclusion from the capitalist balance sheet, but rather to
"redefined as itself a stock of capital." Correspondingly, the nature of capi- their inclusion. The market has no interna! mechanism that recognizes
talism is seen as changing "from accumulation and growth feeding on an that the results of such decisions are irreversible within the normal human
externa! domain to oste nsible self-management and conse rvation of the time span (it would take many generations to repair the damage, even ifthe

"'system would allow such an enormously costly-in terms of market hur:2_an capi~al fully compensate for any losses in natural capital, such as
exchange-process of restoration). forests, fish stocks, and petroleum reserves.
The new hegemonic vision of environmental economics thus seeks to Sorne ecological economists, however, have countered with what is
extend the domain of capital to al! of nature as the means of preserving the known as the "~tro!lg sustainability hypothesis," according to which
latter. "In what we might cal! the ecological phase of capital," Martn O'Con- human-made capital cannot always substitute for natural capital, since
nor critically observes, "the relevan! image is no longer of man acting on there is such a thing as critica! natural ~a pita!, that is, natural capital neces-
nature to 'produce' value, henceforth appropriated by the capitalist class. sary for the maintenance of the biosphere. Tropical forests, for example,
Rather, the image is of nature (and human nature) codified as capital incar- are home to about half the world's species and are critica! in regulating the
nate, regenerating itself through time by controlled regimes of investment planet's cli~ate. Once this is admitted , though, the dream of reducing al!
around the globe, all integrated in; ' calculus of production and of nature to natural capital to be incorporated within the market fades quite
exchange,' through the miracle of a price system extending across space quickly. The self-regulating market system has no way of valuing nature on
and time. This is nature conceived in the image of capital." 2 7 such a scale. Moreover, there is an inherent conflict between the mainte-
nance of ecosystems and the biosphere and the kind of rapid, unbounded '
economic growth that capitalism represents. 2 9
Accumulation and the Environment
Indeed, s.ustainable development envis ioned as the "pricing of the plan-
The principal characteristic of capitalism, which this whole market-utopian et" (to refer to the title of one recent book) is little more than _economic
~-;tio of the capitalization of nature ignores, is that it is a system of imperialism vis-a-vis nature.3 Ittends to avoid two core issues: wh-ether al!
self-expanding value in which accumulation of eco~~mic surplus-rooted environmental costs can actu_ally be internalized within the context of a
in exploitation and given the force of law by competition-must occur on profit-making economy, and"how the internalization of such costs can
an ever-larger scale. At the same time, t~is re_pres_ents a narrow form of account for the effects of increasing economic scale within a limited bios-
expansion that dissolves al! qualitative relations into quantitative ones, and phere. The difficulty of inte rnalizing all externa! cos ts becomes obvious
specifically in monetary or exchange value terms. The general formula for when one considers what it would take to internalize the costs to society
capital (genera lized commodity production), as Marx explained, is one of and the planet of the automobile-petroleum complex alone, which is
M-C-M ', whereby money is exchanged for a commodity (or the means of degrading .o ur cities, the planetary atmosp!"tere, and_human life itself.
producing a commodity), which is then sold again for money, but with a Indeed, as the great ecological economis~ r(~William Kapp,_ once remarked,
profit. This expresses capitalism's overriding goal: the expansion of money "Cap italism must be regarded asan economy of unpaid c~sts.'~fr The full
values (M') , not the satisfaction of human needs. The production of com- internalization of social and environmental co~ts within the structure of
modities (C) is simply the means to that end. t~ pri~ate market is unthinkable.
The ceaseless expansion that characterizes such a system is obvious. As To be sure, sorne advocates of natural capitalism, like Paul Hawken, con-
the great conserva ti ve economist joseph Schumpeter remarked , "capital- tend that economic growth itself on whatever scale raises no insurmount-
ism is a process , stationary capitalism would be a contradictio in adjecto." 28 able obstacle to the environment. This, however, has to take the form of
Economists, even environmenta l economists, rarely deal with the question unconventional growth characterized by the dematerialization of the econo-
of the effect that an increasing economic scale resulting from ceaseless eco- my-reductions in the throughput of raw materials and energy per unit of
nomic growth will have on the environment. ~ost econom ists treat the output. Hawken points to the possibility of a 2oo-mile-per-gallon car and
eco no m y as if it were suspended in space, notas a subsystem within a larg- what he calls the "magic carpet" of recyclingP However, thinking that such
er biosphere. Moreover, many economists who recognize the importance technological wonders can resolve the problem not only goes against the
of natural capital nevertheless adopt what is known as the "weak sustain- basic laws of thermodyna mics (specifically the entropy law, which tells us
ability hypothesis." According to this hypothesis, increases in the value of that nothing comes from nolhing) but also defies al! that we know about the
um;:o;;::!SI'UI)iiWfi&...,. %~


workings of capitalism itself, where technologk:al change is subordinated to On the other hand, the group Nordhaus labeled as natural scientists
market imperatives. The biggest obstacle to automobiles with greater gas thought the damage to the economy from the severe clima te change sce-
efficiency is posed by the whole automobile-petroleum complex,J.,e., the nario would range from a loss in G NP of severa! percent to roo percent; the
most powerful corporations in the world. At best, as Altvater has noted, "The latter expert assigned a IO percent chance to the virtual destruction of civi-
economic 'internalization' of economic effects is only a stop-gap; it would lization! Nordhaus suggested that the ones who know the most about the
not, in any imaginable situation, compensa te for the way in which natural economy are optimistic. Schneider countered with the obvious retort that
conditions are altered through the 'throughput' of materials and energy in the ones who know the most about the environment are worriedJ
production, consumption, and even distribution." 33 On the basis of the estima tes of the economic costs of global warming
projected by Nordhaus and other economists, such as William Cline, sorne
economists, most notabiy Lawrence Summers, formerly chief economist of
~ Ecological Blinders ofNeoclassical Economics
the World Bank and secretary of treasury in the Clinton administration,
The case of global warming illustrates well the conserva ti ve nature of eco- have argued that there are no strong economic reasons for moving fast on
nomics when confronted with existing and impending environmental global warming. Indeed, adopting the weak sustainability hypothesis, Sum-
catastrophes. In an attempt to guess the costs of global warming over the mers contended that "we can help our descendants as much by improving
next century, the prestigious neoclassical eco nomist William Nordhaus, infrastructure as by preserving rain forests." 37
writing for Science magazine in 1992, suggested that the costs would be This failure of economists to understand that human society and the
largely in the agricultura! realm, the main market sector to be affected, human economy exist within a larger biosphere and that undermining the
and carne up with a figure of a r percent loss in gross national product conditions of life is bound to undermine the conditions of production
(GNP) .3 4 When scientists criticized this estmate as being hopelessly takes us to the heart of the failure of both neoclassical economics and the
naive, Nordhaus admitted in a la ter article that his guess had not taken self-regulating market system itself. Nature is nota commodity and any
into account the effects that heating of the earth would ha ve on nonmar- attempt to treat itas such and to make it subject to the laws of the self-
ket sectors, i.e., the value of species driven into extinction and wetlands regulating market is therefore irrational, leading to the overexploitation of
lost with rising sea levels, the costs associated with the creation of envi - the biosphere by failing to reproduce the conditions necessary for its con-
ronmental refugees, etc. Since these nonmarket costs are hard to meas- tinued existence.
ure, Nordhaus had resorted toa limited sa mpling ofthe opinion s of As the sea le of the world commodity economy has grown, so ha ve the
economists, atmospheric scientists, and ecologists (so-called expert opin- number and scale of our ecological problems: global warming, destruction
ion) on what the costs would be_35 What was revealed , not surprisingly, of the ozone !ayer, extinction of species, loss of genetic diversity, the anni-
was an immense cultural divide. As the atmospheric scientist Stephen hilation of tropical rain forests, desertification, the spread of toxic wastes,
Schneider, one of Nordhaus's critics, summarized the results: pollution of oceans , the decline in environmental health, etc. Although
these problems are in many ways discrete, they are also interrelated and
The most striking difference in the [1994 Nordhau s [ stud y was that almos ! all the con-
ventional economists cons idered even a radical scenario in which a 6oC warmi ng would ha ve their source in the effects of the commodity eco no m y on nature-
unfold by the end of the next century (a scenario 1 would label as catas trophic , but whether by the externalization of costs or through the internalization of
improbable- maybe only a 10 percent chance of occurring) as not very catastrophi c nature into an economy geared to the unlimited growth of capital.
economically. Most conventional economists still thought even this gargantuan i: limat- Those arguing from an economic point of view sometimes say that as
ic change-equivalent to the scale of change from an ice age toan interglacia l epoch in
ecological resources become scarce, the economy will respond by moving
a hundred years, rather than thousands of years - would ha ve only a few pe,cent
toward preserva tion . Yet such a smooth functional relationship does not
impact on the world economy. In essence , they accept the paradigm that society is
almos! independent of nature. In their opinion, most natural services associated with exist. As the radical Green Rudolf Bah ro wrote , "The rising cost of land
current climate can be substituted with relatively little harm to the economy. has never been able to halt the building up and concretizing over of the

landscape." 38 Nor is it possible to salve the problem by applying what is environmental problem, our own struggles will teach us, lies beyo nd the
known as "the polluter pays principie," whereby costs are inflicted on the bottom line. It is here that the main resources for hope in the twenty-first
individual polluters. Such views deny the systematic and interreTated century are to be found .
nature of the problem: En tire industrial complexes are involved, and ulti-
mately it beco m es a question of the expansion of the market itself. Ecologi- Within the broader field of environmental eco no mies, it has become common to dis-
cal reforms within the system, like al! other reforms , are limited beca use tinguish betwee n those who are "environmental economists" proper (that is, neoclas-
the moment they begin to address the fundamental nature ofthe system sical environmental econom ists) and those who adhere to "ecological economics ."
The latter are distinguish ed by their application of thermodynamics (the entropy law)
itself, they are quickly curtailed by the vested interests.
to economics in the tradition of Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, by their greater empha-
sis ordimlts to growth (or the problem of economic scale in relation to the environ-
Beyond the Bottom Une ment) , and by the ir insistence that fundame ntal transformation s in values and
institutions are necessary to cope with th e deepening ecologica l cris is. Clearly, mos t
Ultimately the defense of the environment therefore requires a break with economists working on environmental issues at presentare working within the tradi-
the tyranny of the bottom line anda long revolution (it is hoped not too tion of neoclass ical environmental economics, the goal of which is to make current
long given the acceleration ofhistory associated with ecological change) in institutions work better, without in any way qu estioning the funda m ental values of

which other, more di verse values not connected to the bottom !in e of the the self-regulating market system. Hence, it is with this domina n t tradition, and not
with "ecological economists," that this essay is mainly concerned.
money-driven economy ha ve a chance of coming to the fore. What is need-
2 ~ Michael facobs, "The Limi ts to Neoclass icis m: Towards an lnstitutional Environmen-
ed is a system of production organized democratically in accordance with
tal Economic s," in Social Tlteory and tite Environment, M ichae l Redclift and Te d
the needs of th e direct producers and re flecting an e mpha sis on th e Benton, eds. (New York: Routledge. 1994) p. 69; George Eads and Michael Fix, Relief
fulfillment of the totality ofhuman needs (extending beyond the Hobbe- or Reform?: Reagan 's Regulatory Dilemma (Wa s hington , D.C.: Urban lns titute, 1984)
sian individual) _39 These have to be understood as connected to the sus- p. 14. The first part of this chapter draws h eavi ly on fa cobs's admirable critique of
tainability of n a ture , i. e., the conditions oflife as we know them . neoclassical environmenta l economics.
Production can be said to be nonalienating only if it pro motes the welfare Th is is stated explicitly by the influentia l 8 riti s h enviro nmental economist D. W.
Pearce, who writes in the opening sentence ofhis book Environmental Economics, " In
of every individual as the way of promoting the welfare of al!, and only if it
approaching the subject matter of environmenta l economics it is importan! to under-
fulfills the human need for a sustainable, and in that sense nonexploitative,
s tand that,with sorne exceptions, economists ha ve regarded environmental degrada-
relation to nature. tion as a partic ul ar instance of 'market failure.'" D. W. Pearce, Environmental
Since environmental costs under capitalism tend to be externalized Economics (New York: Longman. 1976) p. r.
while the benefits of avaricious disregard of environmental necessity feed 4 See R. Kerry Turner , Dav id Pea rce, a nd lan Bate man, Environmental Economics
the wealth of the few, environmental depredations lead to struggles for (Baltimore, Md.: fohns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1993) pp. 75-7
environmental justice . The struggle for material welfare among the great 5 See jacobs, "Limits ofNeoclassicism." pp. 70- r.

mass of the population, which was once understood mainly in economic 6 Marilyn Warin g, /fWomen Counted (New York: HarperCollins, 1988) p. 267; National
Wildlife (AprilfMay 1986) p. r2.
terms, is increasingly taking on a wider, more holistic environme ntal con-
7 Barry Commoner, Making Peau with the Planet (New York: New Press, 1992) pp. 64-6.
text. Hence, it is the struggle for environmental justlce-the stru ggle over
8 lt s hou ld be noted, howeve r, that not all neoclassical environmenta l econom ists are
the interrelationship of race, class, gender, and imperial oppress ion and concerned vvith such issues as hedonic pricing and contingent evaluation. 1t is possible
the depredation of the environ ment-that is likely to be the defining fea- to skip the stage of construction of demand curves that indica te co nsumer preferences
ture of the twenty-first century. The universaliza !ion of a capitalism that and to derive the initial criteria for the leve! of protection desired through political or
knows no bounds is unifying all that seek to exist in defiance of the sys- scientific means. Logically, all that is required at this stage is the ass u mption that mar-
tem. Historie struggles for social justice are becoming united, as never kets constitute the most efficient way in which to achieve a given leve! of environmental
protection-regardless ofhow those preferences were derived in the first place.
befo re, with struggles for the preservation of the earth. The solution to the
~- .........~-



9 These techniques ex elude more direct state regu lation (or command and control) JI K. William Kapp, The Social Costs of Private Enterprise (New York: Schocken Books,
divorced from the market-oriented approaches preferred by neoclassical environmen-
I971) p. 2J!.
tal economists. J2 See Paul Hawken , "Na tural Capitalism," Mother jones Magazin e (April 1997):
10 jacobs, "Limits of Neoclassicism," p. 74 pp. 4053, 59-62; john Bellamy Fo s ter, "Na tural Capitalism)" Dollars IJ[ Sense
11 The phrase" tyranny ofthe bottom line" is taken from Ralph W. Es tes. Tyranny ofthe
(May-june I997): p. 9
Bottom Line: Why Corporations Make Good People Do Bad Things (San Francisco:
JJ Altvater, Future ofthe Market, p. I86.
Berrett-Koehler, 1996). J4 William Nordhaus, "An Optimal Transition Path for Controlling Greenhouse Gases,"
12 Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation (Boston: Beacon Press, 1944) p. 178.
Science 258 (November 20. 1992): p. IJI6.
IJ Karl Marx, Grundrisse (New York: Vintage, 197J) pp. 409-10. In referring to the "ruse" J5 William Nordhaus, "Expert Opinion on Clima te Change," American Scientist, 82(1)
whereby the systematic understanding of nature's laws is viewed simply as a means of
(Januaryf February 1994): PP 45-51.
subjecting nature to human ends, Marx is clearly referring to the well -known maxim
36 Schnider, Laboratory Earth (New York: Basic Books, 1997) pp. IJJ4
of Bacon: "Nature is only overcome by obeying her": Francis Bacon, Novum Organum
37 Lawrence Surnmers, The Economist (May 30, 1992): p. 65.
(Chicago: Open Court. 1994), pp. 29, 4J 38 Rudolf Bahro, Avoiding Social and Ecological Disaster (Bath: Gateway Books, 1994) p. 50.
14 l mmanuel Kant, FounJations ofthe Metaphysics of Morals (Upper Saddle River, N.}.: 39 For a di scussion of th e environmentalist notion of the "acceleration ofhistory"
Pre nti ce- Hall. 1995) pp. 51-2. (promoted in particu lar by the Worldwatch ln stitute), see john Bellamy Foster, The
15 Mark Sagoff, Tite Economy ofthe Earth (New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1988) p. 88.
Vulnerable Planet (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1999). pp. I4J9
16 Ibid ., pp. 92-4.
17 E. F. Schumacher, Small/s Beautiful (New York: Harper & Row, 197J) p. 46.
r8 The co nsequences of this process can be seen in the destruction of the old-growth for-
est of the Pacific Northwest. See john Bellamy Foster, "The Limits of Environmental-
ism Without Class: Lessons from the Ancient Forest Struggle in the Pacific
Northwest," in this vol u me.
19 Alexander von Humboldt, quoted in Loren Eisley, Darwin's Century (New York:
Anchor Books. 1961) p. r83 .
20 See, for example, Thomas Prugh, Natural Capital and Human Economic Survival
(Solomons. Md.: International Society for Ecological Economics, 1995). The concept
of "natural capital" itself dates back to the ecological economics of the 185os in the
U.S., in the work of such thinkers as George Waring and Henry Carey. See George E.
Waring , jr. , "Agricu ltura! Features ofthe Census ofthe United States for 185o."
Organization 11( Environment I2(J): pp. J056.
21 Hawken , foreword in Pru gh, Natural Capital, p. xiv.
22 Martin O'Connor, o n the Misadventures ofCapitalist Nature," in ls Capitalism
Sustainable? Martin O'Connor, ed. (New York: Guilford Press, 1994) p. 126.
2J !bid.
24 Max Weber, Genual Economic History (New Brunswick, N.}.: Transaction, 1981) p. JOD.
25 O'Connor. "On the Misad,e ntures," pp. IJ2J.
26 El mar Altvater. The Future ofthe Market (New York: Verso, I99J) p. 184.
27 lbid., p. !JI.
28 joseph Schumpeter, Essays (Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley, 1951) p. 29J
29 On the weak and strong susta inability hypotheses, see Turner et al., Environmental
Economics, pp. JI. 54-6.
JO Peter H . May and Ronaldo Seroa Motta (eds. ), Pricing the Planet (New York: Columbia
Univ. Press. 1996).
- :-==c:::::;:::!,i;;
. :i!!!!!!!l!!!U!!Zb~f:l
. !:i:ii!-'
- ~ EL_~ LE 1
-~rw ~

I want to concentrate h ere on the energy efficiency part of this. The

issue of the materials used and the production technology are much
more intractable problems under the current regime of accumulation.
One of the reasons for this is that current productive processes often
involve toxins of the worst imaginabl ~ kind. For example, we know that
the proliferation of synthetic chemicals, many of which are extraordinari-
ly harmful--carcinogenic and teratogenic-is associated with the growth
g-Capitalism's Environmental Crisis- of the petrochemical industry and agribusiness, producing products such
ls Techniogy the Answer? as plastics and pesticides. (This was the central message of Barry Com-
moner's Closing Circle .) Yet attempts to overcome this dependence on
toxic production crea te a degree of resistance from the vested interests of
The standard solution offered to the environmental problem in advanced the capitalist order that on ly a revolutionary movement could surmount.
capitalist economies is to shift technology in a more benign direction: more In contras t. straightforward improve ments in energy efficiency ha ve
energy-efficient production, cars that get better mileage, replacement of always been emphasized by capital itself, and fall theoretically within the
fossil fuels with solar power, and recycling of resources. Other enviran- domain of what the system is said to be able to accomplish-even what it
mental reforms, such as reductions in population growth and even cuts in prides itself in .
consumption, are often advocated as well. The magic bullet of technology, In the past, it was common for environmentalists to compa re the
however, is by far the favorite , seeming to h-;w ot the possiGi!ity of envi- problems of the "three worlds" using the well-known environmental
ronmental improvement with the least effect on the smooth workng of the impact or "PAT" formula (Population x Affluence x Technology = Envi-
capitalist machine. The 1997 International Kyoto Protocol on global warm- ronmental Impact). The Third World's environmental problems, accord-
ing, designed to limit the greenhouse-gas emissions of nations, has only ing to this dominant pers pective, could be seen as arising first and
reinforced this attitude, encouraging many environmental advocates in the foremost from population growth rather than technology or affluence
United States (including Al Gore in his presidential campaign) to advocate (given the low leve! of industrialization). The environmental problems of
technological improvement in energy efficiency as the main escape from the Soviet bloc were attributed to its inferior technology, which was less
the environmental mess. efficient in terms of materials ~nd energy consumed per uni t of output,
There are two ways in which technological change can lower enviran- and more toxic in its immediate, localized environmental effects, than in
mental impact. First, it can reduce the materials and energy used per unit the West. The West's chief environmental prob lem, in contrast , was
of output and, second, it can substitute less harmful technology. Much of attributed neither to its population growth nor its technology (areas in
the improveme nt in air quality since the nineteenth century, including its which it had comparative environmental advantages), but to its affluence
aesthetics , resulted from the reduction in the smoke and sulfur dioxide and the growing burden that this imposed on the environment. The ace
emissions for which coa! burning is notorious. Solar energy, in contrast to in the hale for the wealthy capitalist countries was always seen to be their
other present and prospective sources of e nergy, is not only available in technological prowess-which would allow them to promote enviran-
inexhaustible supply (though limited at any given time and place) , but is mental improvements wh il e also expanding th eir affluence (that is,
also ecologically benign . Environmenta lists in general therefore prefe r a growth of capital and consumption).
shift to solar energy. Such considerations ha ve encouraged the view that al! What likelihood then is there that new or newly applied technology will
stops should be pulled out to promote technologies that increase efficiency, be able to preve nt environmental degradation from expanding along with
particular! y of energy, and use more benign productive processes tha t get the economy>
rid of the worst pollutants.

92 93
-~- -...iiT-~--~--~----~
~ ==5
~-~~~- ~~~~
( A p l T A L 1 S M ' S E N V 1 R O N M E N T A L C R 1 S 1 S 95 l
and leads indirectly, if not directly, to in c rea sed inroad s u pon our seams of coa l. .. Civ- !
The Jevons Paradox
ilization, says Baron Liebig, is the economy of power, and our power is coa l. lt is the
In order to answer this question it is useful to look at what ecological econ- very economy of the use of coal that makes our indu stry what it is; and the more we
render it efficient and economical, the more will our industry thrive, and our works of
omists cal! the Jevons Paradox.' William Stanley Jevons (1835-r882) is best
civilization grow. (pp. 140-142)
known as a British economist who was one of the pioneers of contempo-
rary neoclassical economic analysis, with its subjective value theory rooted Jevons went on to argue in detail that the whole history ofthe steam
in marginal utility. Jevons first achieved national fame, however, for his engine was a history of successive eco no mies in its use-and each time
work The Coal Question (r865). Jevons argued that British industrial growth this led to further increases in the scale of production and the demand for
h ad relied on cheap coa! and that the increasing cost of coa!, as deeper coa!. "Every such 'improvement ofthe engine," he observed, "when effect-
seams were mined, would genera te economic stagnation. Substituting coaJ e~ . does but accelerate anew the consumption of coa!. Every branch of
for corn, within the general Malthusian argument that says population manufacture receives a fresh impulse-hand labor is still further replaced
increases faster than food supply, h e observed: "Our subsistence no longer by mechanicallabor" (pp. IS2-I53)-
depe nds u pon our produce of corn. The momentous repeal of the Corn The contemporary significance of the Jevo ns paradox is se en with
Laws throws us from corn upon coa! " (The Coal Question, 3rd edition, pp. respect to the automobile in the United States. The introduction of more
194-195). Jevons argued that neither technology nor substitutability (that is, energy-efficient automobiles in this country in the 197os did not curtail the
the substitution of other energy sources for coa!) could alter this. demand for fue! because driving increased and the number of cars on the
Jevons was fabulously wrong in his calculations. His main mistake was to road soon doubled. Similarly, technological improvements in refrigeration
underes timate the importance of coa! substitutes such as petroleum and simply led to more and larger refrigerators. The same tendencies are in
hydroelectric power. Commenting on Jevons's argument in 1936, Keynes effect within industry, independent of individual consumption.
said it was "over-strained and exaggerated" (E ssays in Biography, 1951, p. 259).
But there is one aspect of Jevons's argument that has attracted the admi-
ration of ecological economists. Chapter 7 of The Coal Question was entitled
Technology and Accumulation
"Of the Economy of Fue!." He re he argued that increased efficiency in Although Jevons is deservedly credited for introducing his paradox, the full
using a natural resource, such as coa!, only resulted in increased demand force of the problem he raises is not addressed in The Coal Question. As one
for that resource, nota reduction in demand. This was beca use such of the early neoclassical economists, Jevons had abandoned the focus on
improvement in efficiency led toa rising scale of production. "It is wholly a class and accumulation that characterized the work of the classical econo-
confusion of ideas," Jevons wrote, mists. His economic analysis was primarily static equilibrium theory, ill-
equipped to deal with dynamic issues of accumulation and growth. Jevons,
to suppose that th e economi c use offue l is equivalent toa dimini s hed consumption .
who in many ways naturalized capitalism, could provide no more convinc-
The very co ntrary is the truth. As a rule, the new modes of eco nomy willlead toan
in c rea se of consumption accordin g toa principie re cog nized in man y parallel ing explanations for continuously increasing demand than to point to indi-
instances .... Th e same principies apply, with even greater force and di st inctiveness to vidual behavior and Malthusian demographics.
th e u se of such a general agent as coa l. lt is the very economy of its use which leads to Here it is impottant to acknowledge that capitalism is a system that pur-
its extensive consumption .... Nor is it difficult to see how this paradox arises .... lfthe sues accumulation and growth for its own sake. It is a juggernaut driven by
quantity of coal u sed in a blas t-furna ce, for in stance, be dimini s hed in co mparison with
the single-minded need on the part ofbusiness for ever greater accumula-
th e yie ld, the profits of the trade will increase, new capita l will be attracted, the price'of
tion of capital. "Accumulate, accumulate!-That is Moses and the Prophets!"
pig-iron will fall , but the demand for it increase; and eventually the greater numbe r of
furna ces will mo re than make up fo r th e diminished consu mption of each. And if s uch wrote Marx in Capital (vol. r, chapter 24, section 3). The only real-ehecks on
is n o t always the resu lt within a s ingle bran c h , it must be remembe red th at the this process are those generated by mutual competition and impersonal
progress of any branch of manufactu re exc ites a new act ivity in most other branches market forces , and, over the long run, periodic crises.



To be sure, mainstream econ8mists since the days of Adam Smith have increase, the only way in which the problem can be solved is by somehow
claimed that capitalism is a system devoted directly to the pursuit of wealth reducing these demands . There are three ways of conceiving this: stabiliza-
but indirectly to the pursuit ofhuman needs. In reality. the firstgoal entire- tion and even reduction of world population; improvements in technology;
ly overrides and transforms the second. Capitalists do not restrict their and more far-reaching socioeconomic transformations. Since most demog-
activities to the production of commodities that satisfy basic human needs , raphers agree that population is gradual! y stabilizing but that this will not
such as food, clothing, shelter, and the amenities essential to the reproduc- in itself solve the problem, given that perca pita consumption of materials
tion ofhuman beings and society. lnstead , the production ofmore and and energies continues to rise exponentially, the search for a solution
more profits becomes an end in itself. and the types of goods produced or invariably focuses on the other two aspects of the problem, and usual! y on
their ultimate usefulness becomes completely immaterial. The use value of the technologi<;:al componen t.
commodities is more and more subordinated to their exchange value. Use
values that are devoted to ostentatious consumption, and that are even
destructive to human beings and the earth (in the sense of rendering it Enter the Kyoto Protocol
unusable for human purposes ). are manufactured and the desire for these The Kyoto Protocol, which requires industrialized countries to cut their
destructive goods is manufactured along with them through the force of emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide by an average of 5.2
modern marketing (see Paul M. Sweezy, "Capitalism and the Environ- percent below 1990 levels sometime between 2008 and 2012, has generat-
ment," Monthly Review, 41: 2, June 1989). ed enormous resistance among those countries-despite the fact that fail-
It is this single-minded obsession with capital accumulation that distin- ure to check the addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere would
guishes capitalism from all other social systems, explaining why it can trigger a series of chain reactions , leading to global environmental disaster
never stand still. Competition, of the sort that forces u pon capital continu- within a relatively short span ofhistorical time. The United States has not
a! transformations in the m eans of production in order to maintain and ratified the protocol, and indeed the chances of ratification were so nonex-
enhance profitability, provides the esse ntial motor behind thi s drive to istent that President Clinton did not even send it to the Senate for
accumulate. This is what Joseph Schumpeter, in Capitalism, Socialism and ratification. Intense negotiations about the leve] to which carbon dioxide
Democracy, called capitalism's tendency toward "creative destruction;" its emissions ha ve to be reduced, the allowances to be made for for ests (so-
creation through innovation of new and more efficient forms of pro~uc called carbn sinks), and the role of tradable pollution permits that wo uld
tion anci distribution, and at the same time its des truction of previous allow states to 'comply by buying permits to pollute are still taking place.
forms of production and di s tribution. Caught up in this unrele nting The main object ofthe Kyoto Protocol, with regard to carbon dioxide and
process ofaccumulation and creative destruction, the system runs other greenhouse gases, is to stop the exponen tia! rate of their increase with-
roughshod over each and every thing that stands in its path: all human and in the atmosphere. A retum to 5 percent below the 1990 leve] of greenhouse
natural requireme nts that interfere with the accumulation of capital are gas emissions by 2012 would result in a strong check on the tendency for
considered barriers to be overcome. such emissions to increase exponentially along with the scale of produc tion.
The exponential growth of capitalism and the increas ing consumption At that point, the aim would obviously be to try to maintain this leve[ (assum-
of raw materials and energy that goes with it ha ve resulted in a rapidly com- ing no attempt is made to reduce it further), so that emissions increased only
pounding environmental problem. lt is thi s that les behind wh at th e arithmetically, not exponentially. Although it should be acknowledged that
Worldwatch Institute, in its S tate ofthe World 1999. called "the acceleration emissions at 5 percent below 1990 levels would still mean very substantial
ofhistory"-by which was meant the increasingly rapid transformation of in creases in the total amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
th~piaetary e~vironment and destruction of ecosystem s. This is often treated, as I have noted, as a technological problem , partic-
Since there is no way in which the ear th 's fundam e ntal capacity to ularly where carbon dioxide emissions are concerned. Fu tu re efficie ncies
supply the rapidly in creasing demands tha t are being placed on it can in energy consumption, in gas mileage, are expected to allow an increase in


98 99

the scale of production without worsening the annual additions of carbon automobile. What distinguished the automobile in this respect is that it
di oxide. In the decade following the Organization of Petroleum Exporting served asan epoch-making innovation twice-in two stages of automobi-
Countries (OPEC) oil crisis of 1973, the advanced capitalist countries as a lization. The first was the expansion of automobile production in the peri-
whole, faced with higher oil prices, lowered their overall energy consump- od up through the 1920s, including the beginning ofthe building of
tion to Gross Domes tic Product (GDP) ratio (or energy intensity of GDP) highways . The second was the massive buildup symbolized by the con-
by producing smaller cars with better gas mileage, as well as through other struction of the interstate highwa y system, the destruction of rival forms of
economies in the use offuel. (Although the jevons paradox insured thatthe public transit, and the accelerated rate of suburbanization that occurred
overall impact of greenhouse gases continued to rise.) Once this decade immediately after the Second World War. It is not too much to say that the
was over, ch<:ap!r oil prices allowed this ratio to rise once more. dominance of the automobil~was aswciated with an en tire regime of pro-
duction and consumption, which has underpinned and still underpins
accumulation in the advanced capitalist states.3
The Social Structure ofProduction and Consumption
lt is this automobile-industrial complex that is at the heart of our
Still, it would be wrong to see this as a mere technological problem or one dependence on petroleum toda y and that accounts for the largest portian of
of fue! efficiency, since the technologies that would allow us to avoid such a carbon dioxide emissions. At the time of the GulfWar with l raq, President
rapid buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere ha ve long existed. If we Bush told the population of the United States that the purpose of the war
take transport, for example, there ha ve long been modern means of trans- was to defend "our way oflife." Everyone knew what this meant: petrole-
portation, particularly public transit, that would vastly reduce carbon diox- um. Jevons had called coa] the "general agent" on which the entire British
ide emissions compared toa transport system built around the prvate industrial system depended and the economical use of (or cheapness) of
automobile, and that would actually be more efficient in terms of the free coa! as what allowed industry to thrive. Today petroleum plays an equally
and rapid movement of people as well. lnstead, the drive to accumulate dominant role in our industrial system.
capital pushed the advanced capitalist countries down the road of maxi- The capitalist class is divided when it comes to reductions in carbon
mum dependence on the automobile, as the most efficient way of generat- dioxide emissions to s low clown the rate of global warming. A significan!
ing profits. The growth of the "automobile-industrialization complex," part of the ruling class in the United States is willing to contempla te more
which includes not simply automobiles themselves but the glass, rubber, effi.cient tec"hnology, not so much through a greatly expanded system of
and steel industries, the petroleum industry, the users ofhighways for public transport, but rather through cars with greater gas mileage or
profit (such as trucking fi.rms), the makers ofhighways, and the real estate perhaps even a shift to cars using more benign forms of energy. Efficiency
interests tied to the urban-suburban structure--constituted the axis around in the use of energy, as long as it does not change the basic structure
which accumulation in the twentieth century largely turned (Sweezy, "Cars of production, is generally acceptable to capital as something that would
and Cities," Monthly Review, 23: rr, April 1972). ultima te! y spur production and increase the scale of accumulation (lead-
In Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy's Monopoly Capital, which was heavily ing to the Jevons Paradox). But a very large and powerful segment of
influenced by Schumpeter's business cycle theory (in addition to the theo- capital in the Un ited State s is not willing to accept even this, because
ries ofMarx, Veblen, Keynes, and Kalecki), the authors argued that as a his- greater gas mileage points gene rally to smaller engines and smaller cars .
torical system, capitalism has always been dependent on epoch-making Auto producers today, more than ever, are making the bulk of their profits
innovations. These are the kinds of innovations that alter the en tire struc- from th e production oflarge vehicles, with the growth in the market
ture of production and the geography of production on a massive scale and for sports utility ve hieles and minivans. Henry Ford ll's well-known adage
around which the bulk ofinvestment comes to cluster. that "minicars make mini profits," is sti ll the governing prin cipie. As
For Baran and Sweezy, three epoch-making innovations had come into for the petroleum interests, their vested interest in promoting the demand
play in the history of capitalism-the steam engine, the railroad, and the for oil is obvious. Viewed from this standpoint, it is scarcely surprising
- ------ - -----=-="""''----~--------------:~::::!:!!ii:~:!!-~!!!!!!i!l!S!i!f~~&~~:;;o



that there were virtually no votes to ratify the Kyoto Protocol within the Journalists neve r tire of pointing to the !ove of the automobile in the
U.S. Senate. United States. But such "love" is more often than nota kind of desperation
At every point, meanwhile, capitalists and their acolytes have blocked in the fa ce of extreme! y narrow options. The ways in which cars, roads, pub-
the implementation of solar power alterna ti ves, sorne of which are entirely le transports systems (often notable by their absence), urban centers, sub-
feasible at this stage. Corporations ha ve sought to take over solar power urbs, and malls have been constructed mean that people often ha ve virtually
from the grassroots movement, not in order to promote it, but in order to no choice but to drive if they are to work and Ji ve. Under these circum-
hold it in abeyance. Under capitalism, it is those energy sources that gener- stances the car (or mini van), which consumers seem to crave, also becomes
ate the most profits for capital-of which solar power is certainly not one- a kind of prison, made more tolerable (if only barely) by the introduction of
that are promoted, not those most beneficia! to humanity and the earth. cell phones and other gadgets. Meanwhile the social costs piJe u p. "Capital-
(This story has been told by Daniel M. Berman and John T. O'Connor in ism," as K. William Kapp declared in The Social Costs ofPrivate Enterprise,
Who Owns the Sun?)
must be regarded as an economy of unpaid costs, "unpaid" in so far as a substant ial
Non e of this, of course, should surprise us. Thorstein Veblen, who
portien ofthe actual costs of production rema in una ccounted for in entrepreneurial
might, a long with Rudolf Hilferding, be considered one of the originators outlays; instead they are s hifted to. and ultimately borne by. third persons or bythe
of the theory of monopoly capitalism, emphasized the fact that capitalism, community as a whole. (p. 231)
although it promoted a certain narrow kind ofbottom-line efficiency,
In such a system, it makes no sense to see possibilities for sustainable
nonetheless represented a system of prodigious waste from any rational-
development-; s l(mited to whether or not we can develop more technologi-
planning perspective such as that of the engineer. He characterized the oil
cal efficiency within the current framework of production-as though our
industry as one of "clamorous waste and mis handling" that led inevitably
entire system of production, with al! of its irrationality, waste, and exploita-
to "big b.usiness and monopoly control" (Absentee Ownershp, pp. 200-201) .
tion, has been "grandfathered" in. Rather, our hopes have to be pinned on
For Veblen , the whole industrial system under monopoly capitalism (or, as
transforming the system itself. This means not simply altering a particular
he called it, the system of"absentee ownership") was permeated by reckless
"mode of regulation" of the system, as Marxist regulation theorists say, but
and useless consumption ofhuman and natural resources, associated with
in transcending the existing regime of accumulation in its essentia l
the dominance of pecuniary goals over rational production. "The distinc-
aspects.)t is not technology that constitutes the problem but the socioeco:
tion between workmanship and salesmanship," he observed, "has progres-
nomic system itself. The social-productive means for implementing a more
sively been blurred ... until it will doubtless hold true now that the
sustainable relation to the environment within the context of a developed
shop-cost of many articles produced for the market is mainly chargeable to
socioeconomic formatio_n are available. It is the social relation s of produc-
the production of saleable appearances" (ibid., p. 300).
tion that stand in the way.
The sales effort has so penetrated into production itself that the use
value criteria for commodities has been undermined and transformed by
the needs of exchange value in quite radical ways. From this it is a small The lrreversibility of Capitalism's Environmental Crisis
step to the Galbraithian "dependence effect"-that what we consume is
Any attempt to follow out this contradiction in detail would take me well
dependen! on the nature ofproduction, rather than the reverse , as
beyond the confines of the present essay. 1 agree with Paul Sweezy, who
assumed in the "consumer sovereignty" hypothesis of neoclassical eco- said in "Cars and Cities,"
nomics (Galbraith, The Ajjluent Society, chapter rr). Control over produc-
while 1 believe certain palliatives to be possible, at leas! in principie, within the frame-
tion, coupled with the force of modern marketing, has given capital the
work ofthe present monopoly capitalist sys tem , 1 do not think that fundamental
power to manufacture "needs" (i.e., desires) along with products. In fact,
changes in the structure of cities and their relation to society a s a whole [or e qually
"product de~e lopment" in the giant corporation is usually seen as a subdi- large changes within the structu re of production and consumptionj can be effected
vision of marketing. without a radical change in the social order4
V'Jtt?*$"5t= ---...:~Zi ** S ~
-- ( &UaW


sons. See )ohn Bellamy Foster , "The Fetish of Fordism," Monthly Review. 39: ro
For Marx, the very nature of capitalist society from the very beginning
(March 1988), pp. 14-33.
had been built on a metabolic rift between city and country, human beings 4 Paul Sweezy. "Cars and Cities." Monthly Review, 51: II (April zooo), p. 32 (first pub
and the earth-a rift that has now been heightened beyond anything that lished in Monthly Review in 1972).
he could ha ve imagined (see Foster. "Marx's Theor~of Metabolic Rift," "An energy revolution is both possible and necessary, but it will be achieved only as

American ]o urna! of Sociology, September 1999). There is an irreversible part of a broader revolution that takes power away from capital and puts it in the
hands ofthe people where it belongs." Paul M. Sweezy. "The Guilt ofCapitalism ,"
environmental crisis within global capitalist society. But setting aside capi-
Monthly Review, 49: 2 ()une 1997), p. Gr.
talism, a sustainable relation to the earth is not beyond reach. To get there,
we have to change our social relations. A slightly different version, under the same title, was published in )apan in the Hitotsubashi
Jevons had no answer to the paradox he raised. Britain could either rap- Symposi~m; "The Twentieth Century: Dreams and Realities," Hitots uba s hi University,
idly use up its cheap so urce of fuel-the coa! u pon which its industrializa- Tokyo, December 2-3, 2000.
tion rested-or use it up more slowly. In the end, )evons said they should
use it up rapidly: "lfwe lavishly andboldly push forward in the creation of
our riches, both material and intellectual , it is hard to over-estimate the
pitch of beneficia! influence to which we may attain in the present. But the
maintenance of such a position is physically impossible. We ha veto make
the momentous choice between briefbut true greatness and longer contin-
ued mediocrity" (Tite Coal Question, pp. 459-460). Put that way, the direc-
tion to be taken was clear: to pursue glory in the present anda drastically
degraded position for future generations. lnsofar as Jevons's paradox con-
tinues to apply to us today-that is, insofar as technology by itself (given
the present framework of production) offers no way out of our enviren-
mental dilemmas, which general! y increase with the scale of the econo-
my-we must either adopt )evons's conclusion or pursue an alternative
that ) evons never discussed and which doubtless never ente red his mind:
the transformation of the social relations of production in the direction of
socialism, a society governed not by the search for profit but by people's
genuine needs, and the requirements of socio-ecological sustainability. 5

See Mario Giampietro and Kozo Mayumi, "Another View of Development, Ecological
Degradation, and North- South Trade," Review ofSocial Ewnomy , 56: 1 (Spring 1998).
pp. 24-6.
2 The literature on th e impo rtance ofthe Marxian distinction between use value and
exchange va lue in unders tanding environmental problems (including the relation
betwee n economic waste and social-env ironmental costs) is vast. See, for example,
)ohn Bellamy Foster and Henryk Szlajfer. The Faltering Economy (New York: Monthly
Review Press, 1984). pp. 297-316; Sh igeto Tsuru , The Political Economy ofthe Environ-
ment (London: Athlone Press, 1999); and Paul Burkett, Marx and Nature (N ew York:
St. Martin' s Press, 1999).
Regulation theorists s peak of a "regime of accumulation." geared to automobiliza-
tion, wh ich they call "Fordism." But this is histori cal ly mislcading for various rea-
provenientes de las formas de produccin y de consumo.
La problemtica ambiental que as se acenta y perpeta, no slo
Y PLANIFICACIN DEL DESARROLLO: LA D. IFCIL Lettom 3/.3 se manifiesta en los altos y crecientes niveles de contaminacin

Ufr tw.r:~-ve... :&~1on 1 ' .

generados en estos procesos, sino tambin en el irracional aprove-
chamiento de los recursos energticos, en la prdida de fertilidad de
s~o~f~Cv i (1~, ti\, los suelos, en la expansin de reas desertificadas, en la erosin de
1(>.~. tierras productivas y en la destruccin de diversos estilos culturales
Si-5/q ~
M ~L) 1::>.-+- . zoO r
:l ("1 'f ~b). - de aprovechamiento de los recursos. De esta manera, la dinmica
econmica ha generado un progresivo proceso de degradacin
l. INTRODUCCIN f 1. 52?- Z.7S ambiental, acompaado de una desigual distribucin social de los
costos ecolgicos. Si desde una perspectiva social el proceso
El objetivo de internalizar la "dimensin" ambiental en los paradig-
econmico plantea un conflicto entre crecimiento y distribucin,
mas tericos y en los instrumentos de la planificacin d('!l desarrollo
desde la perspectiva ambiental aparece como una contradiccin
ha planteado una serie de interrogantes metodolgicas y dificultades
entre conservacin y desarrollo. As, la crisis ambiental cuestiona los
prcticas an no resueltas. 1 Estas ltimas se refieren a la exclusin
paradigmas de la economa para internalizar las externalidades
de criterios ecolgicos fundamentales para asegurar la preservacin
socioambientales generadas por la racionalidad econmica domi-
de las bases productivas de los ecosistemas naturales en los proyectos
nante dentro de sus estructuras conceptuales y en sus instrumentos
de desarrollo y a la extemporaneidad con la que se elaboran los
de anlisis.
estudios de impacto ambiental, impidiendo que stos normen el
Esta contradiccin no se resuelve mediante un balance de costos
proceso de toma de decisiones sobre las alternativas productivas
ambientales y beneficios econmicos, sino con la construccin de un
posibles. Estas dificultades prcticas resultan de una racionalidad
nuevo paradigma de productividad que articule los procesos natura-
econmica que no incorpora fcilmente sus externalidades ambien-
les y tecnolgicos dentro de la racionalidad ambiental de un
tales ni los principios de un desarrollo sustentable. El difcil clculo
desarrollo sustentable. Esta nueva racionalidad se funda en una
contable de la contribucin de los procesos ambientales a la
conceptualizacin del ambiente como un potencial productivo, ms
productividad ecotecnolgica y una produccin sostenible de satis-
que como un costo del desarrollo y como un lugar de disposicin de
factores ha dificultado la incorporacin de principios que normen
desechos. Ls principios ambientales del desarrollo promueven la
los ritmos econmicos de extraccin y los patrones de transforma-
conservacin y la ampliacin de la capacidad productiva de los
cin de recursos, as como los procesos de disposicin de desechos
ecosistemas, basados en la productividad primaria de los ecosistemas,
la innovacin de tecnologas sustentables ecolgicamente y en los
1 Sin embargo, es ya larga la lista de publicaciones sobre metodologas, estudios
valores culturales de las comunidades locales.
de caso y experiencias que se han venido generando en Amrica Latina en torno a
la planificacin ambiental del desarrollo. Cf. O. Sunkel y N. Gligo, Estilos de desarrollo A'nte los conflictos de intereses que surgen al aplicar una estrategia
y medio ambiente en la Amrica Latina, vols. 1 y 11, op. cit., 1980. H. Sejenovich, "Notas de desarrollo de las fuerzas productivas de la sociedad fundada en su
sobre una prospectiva ambiental de la planificacin del desarrollo", Revista potencial ambiental y orientada hacia una gestin descentralizada de
Interamericana de Planifieacin, voL 18, nm. 69, 1974, pp. 52-69. CEPAIALPES-PNUMA, los recursos, han predominado los esfuerzos por controlar los efectos
La dimensin ambiental en la planificacin del desarrollo, Grupo Editor Latinoamericano,
negativos de la racionalidad econmica dominante mediante la
1986. Vase tambin los estudios de OEA: Minimwn conflict: guideliness for planning the
we ofAmerican hwnid tropic enviromnents; Estudios de casos de uwni!jo ambiental: desarrollo aplicacin de normas jurdicas y tcnicas. Si bien sigue tomando
integrado de un rea en Los trpicos hmedos-selva centml de Pen; Programa de desarrollo fuerza la importancia de adoptar un acercamiento ms global y
integral de la Amazonia boliviana, Washington, D.C., OEA, 1987. Sin duda, el esfuezo comprehensivo, de carcter multidisciplinario e interdisciplinario,
-Ills ambicioso e importante en la regin, fue el desarrollado por el Ministerio del para explicar la gnesis y buscar soluciones ms integrales a la
Ambiente y los Recursos Naturales Renovables de Venezuela, en cooperacin con el
problemtica ambiental, en el nivel concreto de la toma de decisiones
PNUD durante 1980-1982, Sistemas ambientales venezolanos, Caracas, 1982.


siguen imperando los criterios y acciones sectoriales as como los de aprovechamiento de los recursos sobre los valores culturales de
intentos de internalizar las externalidades ambientales por medio de las comunidades, as como la produccin de indicadores referentes
los instrumentos convencionales del anlisis y del clculo econmico. ~la distribucin social de los costos y beneficios ambientales surgidos
de las prcticas actuales y de diferentes alternativas de manejo de los
Los obstculos para introducir estos criterios cualitativos del
Il. PARADIGMAS TERICOS Y POLTICAS AMBIENTALES desarrollo en el clculo econmico de un sistema de precios de
mercado han sido sealados por autores como Shigeto Tsuru. Este
La transformacin de la racionalidad econmica mediante los autor ha propuesto la sustitucin de las cuentas nacionales reflejadas
principios de sustentabilidad ecolgica y equidad social se ha visto en el producto nacional bruto por una evaluacin ms concreta del
limitada por los obstculos que presentan los p aradigmas tericos y bienestar social a partir de los conceptos de capital e ingreso de Fisher
los instrumentos de la economa para internalizar los diversos y (The nature of capital incorne, Nueva York, Macmillan, Londres, 1960).5
complejos procesos que constituyen el potencial ambiental y para La redefinicin y operacionalidad de estos conceptos de "riqueza
traducir los costos socioambientales a unidades econmicas homo- social", "capital", "produccin", "ingreso" y "consun1o" claraxnente
gneas. Sin embargo, este proceso tambin se ha visto dificultado dependen de su funcionamiento en una Tacionalidad productiva
por una conceptualizacin demasiado imprecisa y laxa del ambiente, alternativa. Esta reconceptualizacin del capital y del ingreso en
que impide su incorporacin operativa como un conjunto de fuerzas trminos de la oferta natural, la produccin y el consumo de bienes
y procesos productivos en una nueva racionalidad econmica. 2 La ambientales necesariamente requiere una evaluacin de las condi-
elaboracin de criterios de evaluacin y de indicadores sobre el ciones de productividad sostenida de los recursos de los ecosiste-
patrimonio de recursos naturales, el potencial ecolgico y los costos mas, sujeta al efecto de las prcticas productivas, los patrones
ambientales del desarrollo, es un proceso incipiente que an no ha tecnolgicos de uso de recursos y los hbitos de consumo de
desarrollado bases conceptuales e instrumentos operativos suficien- diferentes formaciones sociales. La produccin y distribucin de la
tes de planificacin y gestin. riqueza vendtia a depender de procesos sociales tales como las
No obstante sus limitaciones, est f01jndose una nueva teora d el formas de acceso, propiedad y apropiacin de los recursos, as como
desarrollo fundada en los valores del ambientalismo. As, el concepto de la innovacin de formas alternativas de produccin y consumo.
de bienestar tiende a ser remplazado por un concepto ms amplio Esta evaluacin requiere la produccin de nuevos indicadores
de calidad de vida. 3 Algunos socilogos se han preocupado as por sociales y ambientales, un levantamiento de las cuentas patrimonia-
introducir estimaciones sobre las percepciones subjetivas y los les de los recursos potenciales de una regin o una comunidad, el
sistemas de valores que inciden en la calidad de vida de los hombres anlisis de la distribucin social de los costos y beneficios ambien-
y de las comunidades; sin embargo, los conceptos sobre estos tales de ~strategias alternativas de aprovechamiento de los recursos,
procesos se mantienen en un nivel terico alejado de una sociologa y la ponderacin de la contribucin del medio fsico y humano al
emprica, capaz de derivar indicadores aplicables a las polticas 5 "Para Fisher, el ingreso consiste solamente en los servicios recibidos por los
concretas del desarrollo. 4 Ms difcil resulta la evaluacin de la consumid01es ltimos , ya sea d e su ambiente material o humano, y que juntos pueden
calidad de vida, que deriva de los efectos de los procesos econmicos llamarse 'l'iqueza social' o 'capital'. La riqueza social no slo consiste en el capital real
de los pmductores, tal como planta y equipo, sino tambin, lo que hoy en da se llaman
2 ' recursos de pmpiedad co mn', as como en el capital geolgico y en el capital real
Vanse los captulos 2 y 12 en este volumen.
3 L.W. Milbraith, "A conceptualization and research strategy for the study of de los consumidores. En este esquema, la 'produccin' se define como una adicin
ecological aspects of the quality of life", en Social Indicators Resemch, vol. 1O, nm. 2, a esta l'iqueza social y el 'consumo' como una substraccin de la misma. Puesto que
1982, pp. 133-157. el 'ingreso' es esencialmente proporcional al acerYo de riqueza social, el 'consumo'
E. U. Smith, "Four issues unique to socio-cultural indicators", en Social lndicators tendra un efecto negativo en el 'ingreso', mientras que la 'produccin' seda positiva"
Research, vol. 5, nm. 1, 1978, pp. 111-120. (Sh. Tsuru, "In place of GNP", Social Science Information, op. cit., pp. 18-19).

desarrollo de las fuerzas productivas y a la distribucin de la riqueza ,significado ms amplio, tanto en la concepcin de su gnesis
histrica, como en su caracterizacin como un potencial productivo y
Ante los problemas tericos y prcticos de esta empresa, ha un sistema de recursos. 8
parecido ms prctico elaborar estudios de evaluacin de impacto La cuestin ambiental desde la perspectiva de la economa de la.
ambiental. Sin embargo, frecuentemente estas metodologas exclu- descontaminacin mantiene el conflicto entre costos ecolgicos y
yen criterios socioambientales para normar la toma de decisiones, al beneficios econmicos. Las reservas naturales y la conservacin de
carecer de fundamentos cientficos sobre los procesos ecolgicos, los equilibrios ecolgicos restringen el mbito de intervencin de las
sociales y culturales que intervienen en el manejo integrado de los inversiones de capital; las normas ambientales establecen los niveles
aceptables de contaminacin y explotacin de los recursos, en
recursos, as como de instrumentos prcticos para incorporar estos
procesos de evaluacin ambiental a los proyectos de inversin. 6
1 relacin con ciertas tasas de crecimiento econmico. Sin embargo,
1 en una visin alternativa del desarrollo en la que la productividad
ecolgica y la tecnolgica se integran en un proceso productivo
global -que articula los procesos naturales, culturales y tecnolgi-
III. ECONOMA DE LA DESCONTAMINACIN, MANEJO INTEGRADO DE cos-, ambiente y desarrollo se conjugan y se retroalimentan de forma.
Es comprensible que los pases altamente industrializados y
La dificultad para evaluar los costos ecolgicos y sociales del localizados en ecosistemas ms estables se planteen la solucin de la.
crecimiento econmico, as como para incorporar al clculo econ- problemtica ambiental como un balance entre costos ecolgicos y
mico los criterios cualltativos y los diversos procesos (inconmensura- beneficios econmicos, propuesta por cierto ms realista que
bles) de orden ecolgico, tecnolgico, cultural y social que caracteri- aquellas primeras reacciones a la percepcin de los lmites del
zan a los valores y potenciales productivos de una racionalidad crecimiento que clamaban por un freno al crecimiento econmico y
ambiental, ha implicado que la planificacin ambiental del desarrollo demogrfico. La economa de la contaminacin en estos pases, ha.
se haya restringido a la perspectiva de una economa poltica de la permitido establecer normas que introducen los costos ecolgicos en
contaminacin. 7 los clculos de rentabilidad de las empresas, a la vez que activan los
La poltica ambiental se ha orientado sobre todo hacia los objetivos mecanismos del mercado para generar una nueva rama de actividad
de preservar ciertos espacios ecolgicos (reservas de la biosfera y econmica: la industria descontaminante.
reas protegidas) y de controlar los ndices de generacin, as como Sin embargo, la funcionalidad de este balance entre costos
las formas de disposicin de desperdicios de la produccin y el ecolgicos y beneficios econmicos no slo surge de la eficacia de
consumo. Estos problemas se han agudizado en los pases subdesa- las medidas legales, de los controles pblicos y de la conciencia social
rrollados y dependientes por la fragilidad de sus ecosistemas y por sobre los problemas ambientales. La activacin de los procesos de
la ineficacia institucional para controlar sus efectos. Sin embargo, la innovacin tecnolgica para generar productos sustitutos mediante
conceptualizacin del ambiente, sobre todo en el mbito latinoame- las seales de mercado sobre la escasez de recursos, as como la.
ricano, ha sobrepasado la visin conservacionista de los problemas introduccin de funciones de dao ambiental dentro de las funciones
derivados de la contaminacin destructiva de los recursos, para abrir globales de produccin para equilibrar el crecimiento econinico
una perspectiva de desarrollo en la que el ambiente adquiere un con la preservacin del ambiente, no resulta de un mecanismo
automtico y perfectamente elstico de la economa de mercado.
Ciertamente, existe una articulacin ms funcional entre el
6 G .E. Beanlands y P.N. Duinker, "The ecological basis for environmental impact
sistema de innovacin, el sistema jurdico y el sistema productivo de
assessment", Morges, IUCN-CEP, 1981.
7 C. Klemm, "Conservation and development: economic and social costs",
IUCN.CEP, Work inProgress, nm. 14, Morges, 1982.
8 Vase cap. 9, supm.
los pases centrales. Pero su eficacia se funda bsicamente en su ... ver en qu grado el planificador del desanollo puede incorpo-ar en su
capacidad de aprovisionamiento de los recursos y en la explotacin instrumental metodolgico algunas ,ariables que le permitan integrar la
de la fuerza de trabajo de los pases pobres, ms que en las dimensin ambiental, y a partir de su anlisis, poder generar recomenda-
posibilidades tecnolgicas de generar procesos productivos alimen- ciones que conijan los efectos ms graYes del estilo "tradicional" del
tados por una materia indiferenciada, de reducir los consumos desarrollo [... ] sobre el medio ambiente. De esta forma se seala la
productivos a un simple insumo de masa y energa, o de recircular necesidad de realizar un diagnstico capaz de alcanzar "los puntos cdticos
los desechos de los procesos de produccin y consumo. ms importantes" de la relacin entre procesos econmicos, sociales y
Las condiciones de dependencia econmica que sufren los pases ecolgicos "incorporando los recursos naturales no enovables" en las
funciones de produccin econmica, o examinando la forma como la
pobres, agravadas por el endeudamiento externo, generan mayores
tecnologa daa la calidad de los recursos renovables y afecta a las tasas de
presiones sobre los ritmos de extraccin de sus recursos; igualmente, crecimiento biolgico[ .. .] Se trata de logar un clculo acional de costos
obstaculizan la ejecucin de acciones dirigidas a una gestin integral y beneficios entre variables econmicas, sociales y ambientales [y de]
de los mismos para un desarrollo autodeterminado y sustentable. El evaluar distintas alternativas de asignacin de recwsos, buscando aquella
financiamiento de proyectos de desarrollo se realiza con base en combinacin que d los resultados ms satisfacto1ios, de acuerdo con una
criterios de rentabilidad en el corto plazo que no incluyen considera- "funcin objetivo" de amplio contenido que pondere adecuadamente las
ciones referentes a las caractersticas ecosistmicas que garanticen la metas econmicas, sociales y ambientales. 9
fertilidad a largo plazo de los suelos; tampoco toman en cuenta la
conservacin de valores culturales y la preservacin de las prcticas Sin embargo, es poco clara la manera de "racionalizar" estas
productivas tradicionales, que constituyen factores bsicos de la dimensiones y objetivos que responden a diferentes procesos
integridad tnica de las comunidades. materiales de carcter inconmensurable en una "funcin objetivo",
La solucin al uso irracional del patrimonio de recursos y a la que si bien pretende alcanzar un amplio contenido, no escapa a las
degradacin ambiental que genera la incorporacin de patrones dificultades que implica ser evaluado por un patrn nico de medida
tecnolgicos y prcticas productivas inapropiados, provenientes del y por indicadores homogneos de clculo econmico. Este problema
sujetamiento de los pases del Sur al orden econmico internacional, es particularmente difcil de solucionar cuando se pretende que estas
es de carcter eminentemente poltico. Sin emba-go, las alternativas ' acciones se promuevan a partir de una planificacin centralizada en
de desarrollo requieren un fundamento conceptual que oriente los la que "el objetivo central de las tcnicas de programacin global
potenciales de la naturaleza hacia otros fines, as como la constuc- consiste en determinar a nivel macroeconmico los requerimientos
cin de los medios adecuados para su gestacin y gestin. Si bien ha que en materia de formacin de capital, ahorro interno y externo,
habido notables avances metodolgicos y conceptuales, stos no han consumo y balance externo impone el logro de una determinada tasa
logrado integ-arse a nuevas prcticas de planificacin ni a nuevos de crecimiento econmico". 10
mecanismos institucionales pa-a lograr un ordenamiento ecolgico Existe un fuerte grado de incompatibilidad entre el objetivo ele
de las actividades productivas y un manejo integ-ado de los recursos . alcanzar una determinada tasa de crecimiento en trminos ele precios
As, ha permanecido aletargado un potencial de pensamiento terico de mercado, y la posibilidad de incluir en este clculo econmico, los
y una praxis social capaz de generar una nueva -acionalidad valores y principios que promueven los potenciales ambientales del
productiva para el desarrollo sustentable. desarrollo sustentable. Un sistema de clculo econmico fundado en
Los retos que plantea el ambiente al desarrollo sustentable han la optimizacin ele una funcin objetivo debe reducir los factores qu'e
sido abordados en trminos correctivos, mediante la incorporacin se considerarn en el proceso de desarrollo a unidades de medida
de variables y de una dimensin ambiental en las funciones de agregables y cuantificables. A falta ele estos indicadores integradores
produccin y en la integracin de los valores socioambientales a las 9 CEPAL-Pr-.:lJ~L-\, "Incorpo raci n de la dimensin ambiental en la planificacin",
metas econmicas, mediante ajustes en las prcticas de planificacin op. cit., p. 35.
del desarrollo. As, un estudio de la CEPAL plantea que se tratara de: l O /bid., p . 36.
y de procesos automticos que los reflejen en la formacin de precios
de mercado, esta funcin de produccin sustentable se conforma a de los futuros posibles. En este sentido, las condiciones de sustenta-
partir de un sistema de precios de planificacin, los cuales introducen bilidad a largo plazo de la produccin y las preferencias futuras de
valoraciones cualitativas para ponderar procesos ambientales y consumo no se traducen en necesidades actuales de inversin de
objetivos sociales alternativos. Sin embargo, ello no alcanza a capital; los objetivos cualitativos, as como las potencialidades, riesgos
establecer un sistema de evaluacin diversificado y especfico de toda e incertidumbres que implican el cambio global y el desarrollo
una serie de procesos y objetivos ecolgicos, sociales y culturales. sustentable, no son fcilmente internalizables en los instrumentos del
A lo anterior se aade la dificultad de valorar los procesos clculo econmico.
temporales de largo plazo. A pesar de los esfuerzos por constru- un A las dificultades para actualizar los costos o beneficios futuros de
concepto de capital natural que internalice las externalidades una estrategia productiva y los procesos ecolgicos de largo plazo,
socioambientales en el clculo econmico, la economa de mercado los paradigmas econmicos en boga tambin enfrentan el problema
es incapaz de aportar criterios racionales para la inversin de de traducir a un patrn de precios una serie de procesos que escapan
recursos limitados en un horizonte extendido de tiempo. 11 Como a tal forma de valoracin. Cul sera el costo monetario de la prdida.
seala Gutman, del germoplasma y de diversidad gentica de los recursos biticos?
Cul es el precio que debe asignarse a las condiciones de estabilidad
... en todo proceso de optimizacin en que se incluye la dimensin y resiliencia de los ecosistemas? Cul es el costo de los efectos
temporal, la teora econmica neoclsica lo interpreta como una tasa de actuales y futuros de los procesos de degradacin irreversible -la
inters que pena el futuro, en beneficio del presente (o del pasado). Esta erosin y desertificacin- de los ecosistemas productivos? Qu
concepcin del futuro, como "un costo" que hace superflua toda beneficio monetario podra compensar el hambre y la miseria, la
conside1acin del la1go plazo, no deviene de ninguna caracterstica del destruccin cultural, la prdida de conocimientos y prcticas
tiempo fsico, ni siquiera de una ineluctable psicologa social, sino de la productivas, as como la expoliacin de los recursos de las sociedades
racionalizacin terica del papel del capital en el proceso de produccin. 12 tradicionales?
Lo anterior muestra algunas de las serias limitaciones de los
El problema de tar una tasa social de descuento enfrenta las instrumentos del clculo econmico para valorizar un ambiente
dificultades de traducir valores culturales, objetivos sociales y tiempos humano y un desarrollo sustentable y equitativo. La economa de la
ecolgicos en un sistema de precios de mercado. A su vez, la contaminacin evala el deterioro ambiental como equivalente a una
percepcin de la temporalidad (como otros tantos valmes) es un rasgo "cantidad de recursos que hay que destinar para devolverlo a su
cultural que impide establecer una norma comn o un sistema de estado natural". Empero, la limitacin de esta premisa y de los
equivalencias entre un valor actual y su renuncia por un beneficio medios para satisfacerla se hacen evidentes desde diversos puntos de
futuro. A esto se suma la imposibilidad de descontar un futuro vista: a] el costo de restauracin ambiental no equivale al potencial
incierto, en tanto que su condicionamiento social y la ocurrencia de productivo del ecosistema, sujeto a otras formas alternativas de uso;
catstrofes naturales impredecibles no son traducibles a efectos de b] alcanzados ciertos grados irreversibles de degradacin, no existe
las fuerzas de mercado como base para una evaluacin prospectiva un costo real que pueda restablecer el ecosistema original-cul sera
la inversin necesaria para recuperar las selvas tropicales de Mxico
!1 J. Martnez-Alier, "Ecological economics and eco-socialism", Capitalism, Nature,
Socialism, nm. 2, 1989, pp. 109-122. y Centroamrica?, y e] la recuperacin de las capacidades productivas
2 P. Gutman, "Economa y ambiente", en E. Leff, Los problemas del conocimiento... , de estos ecosistemas implica procesos de largo plazo que los hace
op. cit. Para un estudio amplio y crtico de la evolucin del pensamiento econmico intraducibles en los trminos contables de las funciones de corto
y de la crisis de sus categoras de anlisis, ].M. Naredo, La economa en evolucin, op. plazo de la teora marginal.
cit., 1987.
1 Por otra parte, la diferenciacin de los costos y beneficios
3 D. Weiss, "A note on the limited relevance of discouming in cost-benefit
analysis", Social Indicators Research, vol. 8, nm. 3, 1980, pp. 341-346. socioambientales derivados de diferentes estrategias de uso del suelo
y de los recursos -i.e., el manejo integrado de recursos en economas
autogestionarias y de autosubsistencia, frente a los modelos altamen- otra dimensin del desarrollo de las fuerzas productivas de las
te tecnologizados de la produccin agrcola y ganadera para el formaciones sociales, as como a otra perspectiva del desarrollo
mercado- hace que stos resulten inconmensurables en trminos de sustentable.
un clculo econmico puro. Ms an, estos clculos pierden su
sentido si se evalan las estrategias del desarrollo de largo plazo, en
las que los beneficios econmicos del presente ya no justifican
romper los mecanismos de equilibrio ecolgico y de rege1;1eracin de IV. LA INTERNALIZACIN DE LOS COSTOS AMBIENTALES: DEL ANLISIS
los recursos naturales, buscando en el crecimiento econmico MARGINALISTA A LA ACCIN POLTICA DE LOS GRUPOS MARGINADOS
sostenible la dudosa garanta de un desarrollo sustentable.
As pues, no hay niveles reales de inversin capaces de regenerar Las polticas ambientales se han venido orientando de manera
a ecosistemas que han alcanzado cierto grado de degradacin, as predominante por los criterios de una "economa de la contamina-
como tampoco se puede asignar un costo al restablecimiento de cin". De este modo, el costo del agotamiento de los recursos y de la
ciertos valores e identidades culturales. Es imposible hacer renacer degradacin del ambiente es analizado en trminos del gasto
de sus cenizas a los procesos vitales que se han consumido en aras necesario para proteger los ecosistemas, as corno para reciclar los
de la ganancia. Los costos de rehabilitacin de los procesos subproductos y desechos de los procesos productivos y de consumo.
ecodestructivos, generados por la racionalidad econmica fundada De modo que una funcin de dao ambiental se concibe corno el costo
en un clculo econmico en trminos de valor de mercado, son alternativo de inversin en la rehabilitacin del medio ambiente, con
inconmensurables respecto al potencial productivo de un manejo el propsito de lograr establecer un posible clculo d el punto ptimo
integrado de los recursos generados a partir de los principios de una de inversin ambiental.
productividad ecotecnolgica y orientado por los objetivos y valores Las limitaciones del paradigma econmico prevaleciente para el
de una racionalidad ambiental. Ms an, es imposible asignar a priori diseo de polticas ambientales y de desarrollo sustentable son
un costo de preservacin de ciertas condiciones ecosistmicas, destacadas por Bifani, cuando afirma:
debido al grado de incertidumbre que existe en las variaciones y
cambios catastrficos de los ecosistemas, 14 los cuales pueden resultar, La incapacidad del anlisis econmico para visualizar el problema de las
tanto de la ocurrencia de fenmenos naturales, como de la aplicacin externalidades, tal como se manifiestan en trminos de efectos sobre el
de patrones tecnolgicos y de las tasas de explotacin de los recursos. medio ambiente y el sistema social, fuera del mecanismo de mercado y,
Slo a partir de una concepcin limitada del ambiente, que lo ms an, el hecho de que se enfoca el problema slo desde el restringido
reduce a un costo ms de la produccin, es posible considerar que la punto de vista del anlisis tradicional de los precios de equilibrio, explica
incorporacin de los "factores ambientales [al proceso econmico) las fallas de la poltica econmica conYencional para enfrentarse a estos
problemas. 16
puede exigir una tasa de ahorro-inversin bastante mayor que la que
se calcula slo para atender el crecimiento econmico atribuido
enteramente en los modelos tradicionales de capital fijo y el Los problemas antes expuestos muestran la imposibilidad de
15 efectuar una poltica ambiental de desarrollo (en sentido amplio),
trabajo". Dentro de esta perspectiva economicista del ambiente, ste
aparece como un factor que limita la capacidad productiva para un dentro de! marco de las funciones marginalistas .. Una estrategia.
ambiental de desarrollo, orientada con un sentido descentralizador
crecimiento econmico a corto y mediano plazo . Sin embargo, desde
de las actividades productivas, plantea nuevos problemas para un
la perspectiva de una racionalidad ambiental y una productividad
sistema centralizado de clculo econmico. Esta dificultad surge de
ecotecnolgica, los procesos naturales y culturales se incorporan a
la no correspondencia entre un sistema de cuentas nacionales,
fundado en el valor de cambio d e la produccin, y la desconcentra-
14 G. Gallopn, "Tecnologa y sistemas ecolgicos", op. cit.
15 CEPAL-Pi':UH-\,op. cit., p. 37. 16 P. Bifani, Desan-ollo y medio ambiente, op. cit., 1980.
cin de los procesos productivos, orientada hacia el fortalecimiento de que el movimiento ambiental consolidara sus fuerzas, su sentido
de las economas comunitarias mediante sus capacidades de autoges- no se agotara en ser un eficaz transmisor de los valores inconmen-
tin y hacia la elevacin de sus niveles de autosubsistencia. surables del ambiente hacia la estructura de precios del mercado y
La internalizacin de los costos ecolgicos y la nivelacin de costos del capital. Lo ms sustantivo del movimiento ambiental es
desigual distribucin social no slo se ven obstaculizadas por los justamente su orientacin hacia la construccin de un nuevo
paradigmas tericos y los instrumentos econmicos dominantes. paradigma productivo y de una nueva racionalidad social.
Estos problemas son irresolubles como un proceso de racionalizacin Estos movimientos sociales, asociados con una serie de movimien-
econmica. La valoracin de los principios ambientales del desarro- tos tericos y de acciones conducentes a la innovacin de una
llo en las prcticas de planificacin puede llevar a incorporar normas racionalidad productiva alternativa, irn disolviendo las contradic-
legales y a asignar "precios de planificacin" a ciertas "variables ciones entre la lgica del capital y la contribucin de los procesos
ambientales". Pero esto no posibilita la traduccin de los valores de ecolgicos a la produccin y distribucin de la riqueza social. De ello
la conservacin y de la equidad a precios de mercado en trminos de depende que la perspectiva ambiental del desarrollo se convierta en
un "capital natural" para la construccin de un nuevo paradigma de un proyecto histrico, con los instrumentos cientficos y tcnicos, y
economa ecolgica. con los medios sociales y polticos necesarios para su realizacin.
La problemtica ambiental es una cuestin eminentemente poltica.
Ello se refleja en la emergencia de movimientos sociales de defensa de
los recursos, las tierras y los valores culturales de los pueblos; en su lucha
por el reconocimiento de su ambiente y la recuperacin de sus espacios V. POLTICAS AMBIENTALES: EL MERCADO, EL ESTADO Y LA SOCIEDAD
vitales; en la reorganizacin de sus prcticas de produccin y consumo CIVIL
mediante un proceso de innovaciones tecnolgicas, orientado hacia la
autodeterminacin de las comunidades en el desarrollo de las fuerzas La cuestin del medio ambiente emergi -antes de que se prefigu-
productivas, as como en el mejoramiento de sus condiciones ambien- rara con claridad el campo de la economa poltica del ambiente, de
tales y de su calidad de vida. la ecologa poltica y del ecomarxismo- como el problema de
El poder real generado por estas acciones y prcticas sociales internabzar las externalidades y de incorporar una "dimensin
frente a los intereses institucionalizados por la lgica del mercado y ambiental" a las prcticas de la planificacin del desarrollo. 17 Esto
la racionalidad econmica dominante est produciendo una serie de suceda en un momento en el que la planificacin del desarrollo
.efectos sobre los criterios que rigen la toma de decisiones sobre la estaba en boga en Amrica Latina. El avance de las polticas
apropiacin de los recursos productivos de los pueblos. Los costos neo liberales a partir del decenio de los ochenta ha venido limitando
ambientales del desarrollo, en su sentido amplio, no son internaliza- la intervencin del Estado en la economa; as, se ha dejado que los
bles por el sistema econmico. Es por medio de las luchas populares problemas ambientales sean regulados por la economa y normados
como se transmiten los costos de la opresin, de la explotacin y de por los marcos jurdicos establecidos. La economa de mercado
la depredacin al clculo econmico de las empresas y a las polticas apareci como el mecanismo regulador por excelencia del equili-
macroeconmicas de los gobiernos. brio ecolgico y la degradacin ambiental; como principio para
El movimiento ambientalista induce una fuerza social que, como valorizar los recm-sos naturales y los servicios ambientales, as como
presin poltica, incrementa el precio de los recursos y los servicios para actualiza1 las preferencias de los consumidores futuros y
ambientales, aumentando los costos privados del capital y llevndolos contabilizar los intereses actuales de la ciudadana. De esta manera,
ms cerca de loS> costos sociales. Sin embargo, ese mecanismo de
17 Cf. l. Sachs, "Approaches to a political economy of environment", en Social
"ajuste de cuentas" mediante la expresin de intereses est limitado
Science lnfonnation, vol. 10, nm. 5, 1971; y "Environment and planning: a few
a la correlacin de fuerzas puestas en juego, en la cual hasta ahora directives for research and planning", en Social Science Injomwtion, vol. 13, nm. 6,
los poderes establecidos siguen. predominando. Pero, aun en el caso 1974.

hoy en da se cuestiona la existencia de una planificacin ambiental sociedad un espacio para la expresin de sus intereses, para su
del desarrollo. 18 participacin en la toma de decisiones y para la gestin directa de
Sin embargo, los mecanismos del mercado son insuficientes para sus recursos productivos. Esto plantea la necesidad de generar
generar las condiciones de crecimiento econmico sustentable y mtodos de evaluacin abiertos a una multiplicidad de criterios e
sostenido sin la intervencin del Estado, y estos agentes juntos son instrumentos de gestin -que no sern homogneos y uniformes, ya
incapaces de asegurar el bienestar de las mayoras y una distribucin qe incluyen un conjunto de valores cualitativos y condiciones de
equitativa de la riqueza sin la participacin directa de la sociedad en sustentabilidad del desarrollo difciles de traducir en costos y precios
la gestin de sus recursos productivos. Ello ha llevado a plantear las -de mercado-, asociados a la racionalidad de diferentes agentes
formas de convivencia entre el mercado, las polticas sociales del econmicos y sociales que afectan a la calidad de vida de personas y
Estado y la gestin participativa de la sociedad civil, a cambiar el grupos culturales diversos.
nfasis de la planificacin centralizada a la gestin democrtica de Las polticas ambientales debern comprender nuevos instrumen-
los recursos de la sociedad. tos capaces de evaluar los efectos ecodestructivos conjugados de
De esta manera, ante los retos de la globalidad y del desarrollo diferentes agentes sociales y procesos productivos: de los pequeos
sustentable, est emergiendo el concepto de desarrollo social como . propietarios y de los campesinos marginados sobre tierras cada vez
un proceso compensatorio a las limitaciones del concepto de capital ms frgiles, la intervencin del Estado en el desarrollo y apoyo a
natural para internalizar las externalidades ambientales y detener el proyectos de desarrollo ecodestructivos (hidroelctricas, revolucin
avance de la pobreza. As, se est consolidando un consenso cada vez verde, expansin de la frontera agrcola y ganadera en el trpico
ms amplio que sita las races de la sustentabilidad en el nivel local, hmedo) y la implantacin de patrones tecnolgicos inadecuados
del ecosistema, de la comunidad y del municipio; all donde se para preservar la sustentabilidad ecolgica y la equidad social, as
definen las condiciones ecolgicas, polticas y culturales del desarro- como los mecanismos por los cuales estos procesos de degradacin
llo sustentable. De ese modo, se plantea una poltica de fortalecimien- ambiental se entrelazan con los procesos de empobrecimiento,
to de las comunidades para hacer surgir desde las bases sociales y polarizacin y marginacin de la sociedad.
populares, la construccin de una globalidad y una modernidad Las interrelaciones de los procesos socioambientales dependen
alternativas. 19 tambin de la manera como stos son abordados por las polticas
El discurso del desarrollo sustentable ha pasado de la planificacin sectoriales relativas al desarrollo. En este sentido,
ambiental dirigida desde el Estado a una propuesta en la que se
conjugaran los efectos equilibradores del mercado con un nuevo Las polticas puramente sectoriales son incapaces de proveer la solucin a
campo de concertaciones entre el Estado, los agentes econmicos y pwblemas complejos como los [ambientales]; ha sido frecuente que el
mismo xito de una poltica sectorial implicata un agravamiento del
los grupos sociales. Ello reconoce la necesidad de otorgar a la
pwblema general, debido a las reverberaciones que se transmiten por todo
IS Cf. P. Gutman, "Los paradigmas econmicos y la formacin ambiental", en E.
el sistema. Esto marca la necesidad urgente de una nueva visin poltica en
Leff (cootd.), Ciencias sociales y formacin ambiental, Barcelona, Ul';A~l-CEDISAPNUMA, trminos de sistemas complejos, capaz de tener en cuenta las interacciones
1994. mltiples y dinmicas, a distintas escalas desde lo local a lo global, as como
!9 Cf. INDERENA-FESCOL, El libro de los consejos verdes, Bogot, 1986; CEPAUR, "Human la necesidad de nuevos y giles mecanismos de coordinacin y concerta-
scale clevelopment", Development dialogue, Mota! a, CEPAURDag HammarsJ061cl cin capaces de operar simultneamente en forma trans-escala (localjna-
Foundation, 1989; L.A. Thrupp, "Legitimizing local knowledge: from displacement cionaljglobal).20
to empowerment for Third World people", Agriculture and human values, pp. 1324,
vetano de 1989; IUCNl!NEP-1\' \\' F, Caringfor the world: a stmtegyfor sustainability, 1991. Las tres polticas ambientales (la del mercado, la del Estado
E. Leff y J. Carabias, Cultura y manejo sustentable de los recursos naturales, op. cit., 1993;
A. Agatwal y S. Narain, "Hacia aldeas verdes. Estrategias pata un desarrollo nuaJ
20 G. Gallopn et aL, Ambiente y desarrollo en Amrica Latina y el Caribe: problemas,
estable y participatim en la India", Afedio ambiente y wbaniz.acin, nm. 39, IIEDAL
Buenos Aires, 1992, pp. 37-48. oport11.nidadesyprio1idades, op. cit., 1991, p. 70.

regulador y la de la gestin social de los recursos) deben, pues, rnacroeconmicas, de la normatividad jurdica y de un conjunto de
conjugarse en esta perspectiva transectorial en cuanto al manejo acciones sociales.
sustentable y democrtico del complejo sistema de recursos produc- El Estado debe proveer las condiciones ecolgicas de la produc-
tivos. Su eficacia depende de la elaboracin y puesta en prctica de cin sustentable -que no se desprenden de los mecanismos internos
del mercado y que se traducen en costos ambientales de la
instrumentos de polticas ambientales, sin los cuales el discurso
ambiental quedara en simple retrica. La incorporacin de los
costos ambientales a la racionalidad econmica de la empresa
l produccin-, mediante el establecimiento de normas a los procesos
productivos y a los procesos de apropiacin de la naturaleza. Una
depende de la capacidad para incrementar su productividad, al serie de costos de preservacin y recuperacin ambiental deben ser
tiempo que asume los costos de reconversin tecnolgica para asumidos por el Estado como parte del gasto pblico de carcter
eliminar residuos y desechos contaminantes y hacer ms eficiente el socioambiental. Sin embargo, las polticas macroeconmicas ambien-
uso del agua, de las materias primas y de la energa. Sin embargo, la tales del Estado, para internalizar las externalidades ambientales en
misma racionalidad econmica impone lmites a la ambientalizacin el sistema productivo en su conjunto, no pueden operar sin una
de la economa, por medio de los mecanismos del mercado y los poltica social del medio ambiente. No se trata de una poltica de
criterios de rentabilidad de corto plazo. Ah se abre necesariamente asistencia para minimizar la marginacin, atender el desempleo y
el campo de accin del Estado, estableciendo y vigilando el reducir la pobreza que genera el sistema productivo, sino para
cumplimiento de normas ambientales por parte de los actores transformarlo en un paradigma productivo sustentable mediante la
sociales y de los agentes econmicos y definiendo una poltica gestin ambiental participativa de la sociedad.
macroeconmica con criterios de sustentabilidad. Todo ello requeri- Para ello, no basta concebir la gestin participativa de la sociedad
r la elaboracin de instrumentos de poltica macroeconmica e con un concepto restringido y excluyente de selfndiance que implique
indicadores que permitan valorizar la sustentabilidad ecolgica, el dejar que las comunidades sobrevivan por sus propios medios ante
patrimonio de recursos naturales y culturales, los procesos ecolgi- los embates de una civilizacin que las somete y despoja. de sus
cos de mediano y largo plazo, la calidad de vida de la poblacin y las identidades culturales y de stis recursos naturales. La gestin social
preferencias futuras de los consumidores. de los recursos apunta hacia la emancipacin, la autodeterminacin
La armonizacin de las polticas ambientales neoliberales, las y la confianza de las comunidades en s mismas y contra la
polticas reguladoras del Estado y las polticas de gestin social de intervencin de un Estado paternalista y populista. Sin embargo, el
los recursos se combinan en diversos espacios, en el campo de las Estado deber proveer las condiciones mnimas necesarias para la
polticas de desarrollo y de la poltica en general. La capacidad para revitalizacin de las fuerzas creativas y productivas de la sociedad,
internalizar los costos ambientales de la racionalidad economicista as como dar curso a los proyectos de desarrollo sustentable que
del desarrollo en el nivel microeconmico estara limitada a emanen de las propias comunidades. Eso implica que el Estado
internalizar el costo de incorporaCin de la normatividad ecolgica tendr que proporcionar las condiciones polticas y econmicas
impuesta por el Estado a sus procesos productivos. Ello se traduce necesarias para desencadenar ese potencial y ser capaz de arbitrar
en costos de ahorro y reciclaje de insumas como agua, energa, entre intereses creados que muchas veces se benefician de la
subproductos y desechos. Estas normas delimitan a su vez la explotacin de los recursos naturales y se oponen a la autogestin
utilizacin y ritmos de explotacin de ciertos recursos renovables y productiva de las comunidades. Ello implicar poner en consonancia
no renovables (petrleo, bosques, uso del suelo, etc.). Sin embargo, las polticas econmicas con las polticas ambientales y de desarrollo
existe toda una serie de externalidades ambientales que se traducen social del Estado fundadas en los principios de la gestin ambiental
en costos sociales (destruccin de la base de recursos naturales, participativa.
contaminacin ambiental, descenso de la calidad de vida), que no
son internalizables en el nivel de la empresa. Estas condiciones
generales de la produccin sustentable dependen de las polticas