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The Industrial Green Game: Implications for Environmental Design and Management
the transformational life cycle of products, processes, organizations, and infrastructures).
Ecological theory, if it holds, would predict that this is a loosely coupled system that exhibits asymmetrical interactions between levels (Allen and Starr, 1982). Normally, large, slower systems set the boundaries in which faster, smaller systems operate. The experimental and creative latitude of firms is often limited by physical, economic, and policy or regulatory infrastructures, which may require decades to change. However, a bottoms-up asymmetry can establish itself when the larger systems become tightly coupled and brittle or during periods of reorganization. In such times, small events can affect large systems. Advances in microdynamic systems, nanotechnologies, advanced materials, genetic engineering, or information systems and potential new ways of organizing and managing the production processes around these technologies could have significant bottoms-up impacts on the whole system. The "greening" of the industrial system means the greening of this space-time hierarchy from the level of the nation to that of micro- or nanoscale production.
Ultimately, this will involve the joint optimization of technical and social systems at different time periods and geographic scales and the solution of a number of what some observers have termed "messes," or systems of problems (Ackoff, 1981). The significance of such systems is that normal approaches to problem solving and policy making, which break problems into parts and solve each part, will not work. Systems-based problems require a fundamental shift in the mental models used by decision-makers at different organizational levels, from business managers to government policymakers and research scientists. The mess we must extricate ourselves from involves helping private- and public-sector organizations to learn their way out of dysfunctional, nonecological, nonsustainable ways of doing business. The adaptation of a holistic, ecological perspective is only likely to occur in organizations that have learned to learn, where values, operating assumptions, and frames of reference are questioned and changed as needed. Unfortunately, large bureaucracies may be the ultimate prototype for organizations with learning impairments.1 For this reason, industrial ecology must deal not only with industrial organizations, but also with macro-social systems, such as governments. The public and private sectors must work together to transform the intellectual and political ecology underlying our systems of materials and energy transformation at multiple scales.
Much of the research and application of industrial ecology has been focused on the level of the firm or the internal processes of the firm. The greening of our industrial infrastructure cannot be limited to solving firm-level problems alone, because all firms are embedded in larger physical, economic, and organizational systems and metasystems. These can continue to function in nonecological and nonsustainable ways outside of the influence of industry. This paper focuses on the national infrastructures in which firms operate.2 To support an evolving industrial ecology at a global scale, governments must fundamentally alter their