7

Potential for Cooperation and Collaboration

We have in the more recent past been forced to face up to a sharp increase in economic interdependence among nations. We are now forced to accustom ourselves to an accelerating ecological interdependence among nations.

The World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future, 1987

PERSPECTIVES

Finding Common Ground

JULIAN SZEKELY

Approaches to environmental problems and to industrial ecology differ significantly among the advanced industrial nations. In Western Europe, for example, particularly in the Nordic countries, Germany, and the Netherlands, a high level of social concerns, coupled with a high population density (especially in the Netherlands and Germany) and with a good cooperative relationship between government and industry, has resulted in the strict enforcement of tough environmental laws and the progressive recycling legislation that is now being proposed.

In Japan, the very high population density and the high cost of imported energy have mandated measures that have produced many showcase plants, such as ultraclean steel mills and modern power plants that emit very low levels of nitrogen and sulfur oxides. In the United States, the environmental record is less even, with strong adversarial relationships between government, industry, and the environmental activists. The United States leads the world in some areas, such as the automobile emission standards in California and beverage container recycling laws in many states. In areas such as solid waste disposal, however, the United States tends to lag behind. The United States, by the very nature of its society, has produced some imaginative solutions to environmental problems, such as the incorporation of circuit board assembly waste into cement manufacture and the use of molten metal baths for the treatment of solid wastes from incinerators. At the same time, industry has tended to resist new environmental regulations. When market incentives have been provided, however, the response tends to be fast.

In China and in the countries that made up the former Soviet Union and its allies, relatively little is being done to address environmental problems at this time. In China, the emphasis seems to be on industrial growth, while the countries of the former Soviet Union clearly lack the resources to develop the appropriate environmental control infrastructure.

The asymmetries and differences between the U.S. and Japanese societies offer insights into alternative approaches to addressing environmental concerns, and perhaps more important, to reorienting and transforming industrial ecologies of production and consumption.

  • Japan is an old country with well-established traditions and a homogeneous population, while the United States is a relatively new country with great diversity and subject to rapid change.

  • The United States is an industrial democracy, where public opinion and public pressure are often translated into action through representative government. In Japan, one political party has held power since the end of World War II. Because power is exercised through faction leaders, power brokers are only loosely dependent on the electoral process.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 44
Industrial Ecology: U.S.-Japan Perspectives 7 Potential for Cooperation and Collaboration We have in the more recent past been forced to face up to a sharp increase in economic interdependence among nations. We are now forced to accustom ourselves to an accelerating ecological interdependence among nations. The World Commission on Environment and Development, Our Common Future, 1987 PERSPECTIVES Finding Common Ground JULIAN SZEKELY Approaches to environmental problems and to industrial ecology differ significantly among the advanced industrial nations. In Western Europe, for example, particularly in the Nordic countries, Germany, and the Netherlands, a high level of social concerns, coupled with a high population density (especially in the Netherlands and Germany) and with a good cooperative relationship between government and industry, has resulted in the strict enforcement of tough environmental laws and the progressive recycling legislation that is now being proposed. In Japan, the very high population density and the high cost of imported energy have mandated measures that have produced many showcase plants, such as ultraclean steel mills and modern power plants that emit very low levels of nitrogen and sulfur oxides. In the United States, the environmental record is less even, with strong adversarial relationships between government, industry, and the environmental activists. The United States leads the world in some areas, such as the automobile emission standards in California and beverage container recycling laws in many states. In areas such as solid waste disposal, however, the United States tends to lag behind. The United States, by the very nature of its society, has produced some imaginative solutions to environmental problems, such as the incorporation of circuit board assembly waste into cement manufacture and the use of molten metal baths for the treatment of solid wastes from incinerators. At the same time, industry has tended to resist new environmental regulations. When market incentives have been provided, however, the response tends to be fast. In China and in the countries that made up the former Soviet Union and its allies, relatively little is being done to address environmental problems at this time. In China, the emphasis seems to be on industrial growth, while the countries of the former Soviet Union clearly lack the resources to develop the appropriate environmental control infrastructure. The asymmetries and differences between the U.S. and Japanese societies offer insights into alternative approaches to addressing environmental concerns, and perhaps more important, to reorienting and transforming industrial ecologies of production and consumption. Japan is an old country with well-established traditions and a homogeneous population, while the United States is a relatively new country with great diversity and subject to rapid change. The United States is an industrial democracy, where public opinion and public pressure are often translated into action through representative government. In Japan, one political party has held power since the end of World War II. Because power is exercised through faction leaders, power brokers are only loosely dependent on the electoral process.

OCR for page 44
Industrial Ecology: U.S.-Japan Perspectives The United States represents a relatively open market, while in Japan there are many barriers to entry. In the United States, where there is a firm belief in formal checks and balances, there tends to be an adversarial relationship between government and industry. Industrial competition is encouraged and anticompetitive alliances are outlawed or at least discouraged. In Japan, there are many industrial alliances (keiretsu), and there is close collaboration between industry and government. Corporate relationships in Japan allow more long-term planning and may subordinate profitability to market share (i.e., job creation), while in the United States, short-term profitability is a requirement, in part because of how corporations are financed. In many areas of technology, Japan's major keiretsu members dominate, with input from MITI, while in the United States, entrepreneurship has played a critical role in the growth of many major companies. Close relationships between government and industry have been largely confined to the defense sector, although that is now changing. In the United States, universities play a key role in fundamental research, while in Japan most of the research is being done in the major research laboratories. American research universities and many of the spin-off companies are an important source of technical innovation, especially in high technology. The emphasis on creativity and the acceptance of individuality in the United States provide a benign climate for innovation. The reliance on alliances and consensus in Japan is ideal for a realization of goals, once they are set, but is perhaps less conducive to the nurturing of innovative ideas. In the United States, environmental activists have played a key role in environmental policymaking. In Japan, implementation of environmental policies proceeds smoothly, but consensus must first be reached among those in a decision-making position, and who these are is at times not clear. The major asymmetries between Japan and the United States and the fundamentally different approaches to problems in industrial ecology could lead to the conclusion that collaboration between the two countries would be difficult. In some ways, just the reverse may be true. Since our experiences and approaches tend to complement each other, there are great opportunities for learning through the exchange of information and practices. At a time when there is considerable trade friction between the U.S. and Japan, collaboration in the environmental field could provide important, nonthreatening, noncompetitive areas in which U.S. and Japanese scientists and engineers could work together effectively. Prospects for Collaboration SHUZABURO TAKEDA Effects of the current worldwide social and economic trends necessitate new roles for governments, industry, academia, and the private sectors in forwarding environmental initiatives. The end of the Cold War will inevitably change the course of science and technology. Notable change may occur in a shift from military research to general research, including environmentally sound applications of technology. The role of market and democratic principles in bringing about the collapse of the Cold War system suggests the importance of the private sector in effecting change. The private sector will have a role to play in education and scientific research relating to the environment, which has traditionally been considered to be the jurisdiction of the government in Japan. Government, industry, and universities will need to have a clear idea about their respective roles and build organic cooperative relationships. There is also a need for an open forum with full public participation to build a broad-based consensus on these important matters. Each sector of the society must reassess its strengths. TABLE 4 Working in Harmony: Factors That Bind and Separate Characteristic Similarities Shared by Japan and the United States Industrialized Optimistic Gadget oriented Democratic Free market High GNP per capita Characteristic Differences Between Japan and the United States Japan United States Ancient nation New nation Inward looking Gregarious Resource poor Resource rich Confined Spacious Minimalist Bigger is better Homogeneous Heterogeneous Structured, stratified Loose, socially mobile Adaptive Innovative Seek consensus Welcome controversy Savings oriented Spending oriented Emphasis on form Emphasis on substance

OCR for page 44
Industrial Ecology: U.S.-Japan Perspectives The government, for example, can provide a long-term vision for the next century, whereas the private sector tends to focus on the short term. Governments should therefore work multilaterally to coordinate environmental efforts. Industry, as a driving force for technological change, needs to reconsider its R&D structure and work toward transforming the current industrial ecology to one that is sustainable. Industry should also reexamine the way it manages its activities and define its new responsibility toward the global community. This cooperative spirit will have to be built around the similarities and differences that exist between nations. Table 4 shows points of intersection and divergence between the United States and Japan are cultures. Such points must become the basis for building a cooperative, collaborative enterprise that examines issues relating to industrial ecology. DISCUSSION The workshop provided an excellent opportunity for the exchange of views and information on environmental practices in industry in the context of industrial ecology. Japan is a nation with a very high population density, so industrial pollution and waste disposal perhaps have a more direct impact on the population than in the United States, where it has been possible to separate industrial activity and population centers to a greater extent. At the same time, in Japan there is a cooperative relationship between government and industry, and plans, or “guidance,” by organizations like MITI are well heeded. In the United States, often there is an adversarial relationship between government and industry, and many of the environmental issues are decided in courts of law or are sensationalized by the news media. The material presented at the workshop, to some extent, reflected this state of affairs. Many of the contributions from the United States were philosophical, addressing conceptual issues, while many of the Japanese contributions were quite pragmatic, involving the presentation of case studies and actual success stories. The recycling of automobiles as discussed by representatives of Ford and Nissan provided interesting and important common ground. Workshop participants observed that the greatest potential for U.S.-Japanese collaboration and cooperation on industrial ecology exists in the substantive areas of the subject and less in developing new technology that may affect the competitive standing of either country. In addition, many participants believed there is much the United States could learn from Japan, and vice versa. Workshop discussion revealed two general areas of collaboration that would forward a better understanding of materials and new recycling methods: Studying and comparing the flows of materials and energy through specific industrial sectors in the two countries. Finding cross-industry linkages for the productive use of wastes (and embedded energy) such as adapting primary industry processes to make use of “waste” from secondary or manufacturing industries. Some participants also expressed a need to work together on developing and applying a common methodology for life cycle analysis. There were great differences in opinions expressed at the workshop about such a methodology. Yet development of an easily usable method to evaluate materials and products for environmental preferability poses significant challenges and suggests opportunity for collaboration. Existing mechanisms of exchange between the United States and Japan should be used to encourage further effort in these areas. Most participants agreed on the need for collaboration and extensive information exchange between the United States and Japan in industrial ecology. In view of the complexity and breadth of the issues, no clear road maps can be drawn at this stage, but there seems to be a strong consensus that further meetings of this type and larger bilateral and international conferences would be needed to define specific actionable items. The establishment of practical applications of life cycle analysis, the development of data bases for information about materials, the documentation of best practices, and collaborative efforts on precompetitive green technologies seem to be logical objectives to pursue.