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  • Materials Democracy: An action plan for realising a redistributed materials economy

Tooze, James, Corbin, Elizebeth, Gladek, James and Monaghan, Chris, 2018, Journal Article, Materials Democracy: An action plan for realising a redistributed materials economy Making Futures, 2019 (2019). 0-30. ISSN 2042-1664 (In Press)

Abstract or Description:

Human activities within the industrial economy are now the main and most significant drivers of change to the Earth System. These changes, driven by both the scale of human population and the magnifying effects of human technologies “are multiple, complex, interacting, often exponential in rate and globally significant in magnitude” (Steffen et al. 2004: 81). The years since the 1950s “have without doubt seen the most rapid transformation of the human relationship with the natural world in the history of humankind” (Steffen et al. 2004: 131). Over approximately the same period, the use of manufactured materials has increased by 4 to 15 times (Allwood et al. 2012: 7) and correlates with a rapid rise in global GDP. The expansion of the global economy is directly linked to the rise in land, sea and atmospheric pollution, natural habitat loss and the extraction and consumption of resources. Creating a future free of these destructive patterns will require the abandonment of the ‘take, make and throw away’ culture, moving toward a circular economy in which human wants and needs are met by managing resources at their highest utility for the longest time within biological and technical cycles. Without a wholesale recalibration of the global materials economy to factor in both immediate and long-term implications of all material decisions, inclusive of extraction to processing and transference to recapture, aspirations for a 21st-century circular economy will stall.

This paper sets out a proposal for the development of an underlying common architecture and set of protocols for the generation, aggregation, and tracking of materials information in ways that are open, interoperable, and incorruptible. As such, materials information is envisioned as an
open web of interconnected databases. The authors propose that such a materials information commons could empower stakeholders at all levels to make more effective decisions. For such an infrastructure to be operable and effective, a concerted and coordinated effort across all scales
and sectors would need to be incentivised. This paper lays out the overarching context and need for such an undertaking and highlights both the opportunities and challenges therein. It surveys existing sources of materials information in order to expand upon and characterise recommended
criteria for key material, technological, and behavioural functionalities. Lastly, this paper poses a number of areas of focus for future research.

Subjects: Other > Technologies > J500 Materials Technology not otherwise specified > J590 Materials Technology not elsewhere classified
Creative Arts and Design > W200 Design studies > W290 Design studies not elsewhere classified
School or Centre: School of Design
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2019 14:53
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2019 14:53
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/3594

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