8.4.1 Need for a paradigm shift

Integrated Product Policy

The approach we adopt before even we start an analysis influences our future understanding of any issue. These approaches can be referred to as paradigms (in the sense of Kuhn), preanalytic visions (Schumpeter’s terminology) or mental models (systems thinking). All three of the above observations require a paradigm shift, the first being the most important and to some extent influencing the other two. Meanwhile, duplicating assumptions and paradigms adopted in previous policies, the IPP consolidates the same, sub-optimal methods of environmental protection.

In the ecological economics and industrial ecology debate, the basic para­digm is that the economy is just a subsystem of a larger natural system and thus, that both systems mutually influence each other. So far, this has not been acknowledged in the IPP. Changing this mental model, like changing most of the mental models we use, is a leverage point, through which we can achieve disproportionately high results. Once this is acknowledged, further implications from ecological economics and industrial ecology become more obvious, such as the fact that the same biophysical laws that govern nature also govern the economy. In particular, it becomes clear that the scale of economic activity is bounded by the Earth’s carrying capacity and, consequently, that attempts should be made to limit the throughput of economic systems.

Once this most important paradigm shift is made, we still have to deal with the two further issues: accept our ignorance regarding economy-environment interac­tions and emphasize interconnectedness as a source of sustainability. Indeed, both also require shifts of paradigms and thus, altogether they can contribute to much wider consequences, as far as the design of the IPP and its potential impacts are concerned. These are referred to in the following two subsections, respectively.