Decreasing primary material flows Reducing man-made material flows
Of the billions of tonnes of raw materials displaced by human activity -- including fossil fuels, water, sand, gravel and rocks -- a substantial percentage is returned to the environment in a chemically degraded and/or mobilized form within a few weeks or months. Only a fraction (consisting largely of structural materials) is preserved in useful form for more than a year or two. The massive material translocations, including the emissions of toxic materials and greenhouse gases, are beginning to be reflected in economic terms, such as sharply rising insurance premiums for natural catastrophies.
The industrialized world must progressively reduce its material and energy throughput. There is no fixed relationship or magic between the total value of economic activity and material throughput. With little effort it is possible that a reduction of a least 50% of energy and materials throughput could be achieved without any appreciable reduction in economic indicators or living standards; if policy incentives are matched with the changes in industrial organization and practice and societal change, then it would be conceivable to achieve the goal of maintaining present levels of well-being with one tenth of the material input.
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