I thought that I would share this pretty fascinating passage from a book that I'm reading called Cradle to Cradle:Remaking the Way We Make Things, by Bill McDonough and Michael Braungart. In the book the authors argue that it is not good enough to simply use less of a "bad thing," but that we need to totally redesign the way that we live and how we make things so that materials can be used continuously and the "flow" of materials and resources will be mutually beneficial and reinforcing. As an example they give this amazing description:
"Consider a community of ants. As part of their daily activity, they:
-safely and effectively handle their own material wastes and those of other species
-grow and harvest their own food while nurturing the ecosystem of which they are a part
-construct houses, farms, dumps, cemeteries, living quarters, and food-storage facilities from materials that can be truly recycled
-create disinfectants and medicines that are healthy, safe, and biodegradable
Individually we are much larger than ants, but collectively their biomass exceeds ours. Just as there is almost no corner of the globe untouched by human presence, there is almost no land habitat, from harsh desert to inner city, untouched by some species of ant. They are a good example of a population whose density and productiveness are not a problem for the rest of the world, because everything they make and use returns to the cradle-to-cradle cycles of nature. All their materials, even their most deadly chemical weapons, are biodegradable, and when they return to the soil, they supply nutrients, restoring in the process some of those that were taken to support the colony. Ants also recycle the wastes of other species; leaf-cutter ants, for example, collect decomposing matter from the Earth's surface, carry it down into their colonies, and use it to feed the fungus gardens that they grow underground for food. During their movements and activities, they transport minerals to upper layers of soil, where plant life and fungi can use them as nutrients. They turn and aerate the soil and make passageways for water drainage, playing a vital role in maintaining soil fecundity and health. They truly are, as biologist E.O. Wilson has pointed out, the little things that run the world. But although they may run the world, they do not overrun it. Like the cherry tree, they make the world a better place (pg.80-81)"