ANTHROPOCENE

I think this is an example of a (buzz)word whose time has come. I wrote about it in 2009, but it has since emerged into the national – and global – conversation…

bizwordH0209

 

I discovered the other day that we are living through the anthropocene age, a phrase coined by Dutch chemist Paul Crutzen in 2005 to describe human impact on, human management of and hopefully human rescue of the planet, in particular from anthropogenic (ie ‘man’-made) emissions and overconsumption of energy. But if you are thinking of greenshifting or going off-grid/totally unplugged — whether as corporate strategy or on a personal basis (leveraging a synergy of one as they say), you’re going to need to learn greenspeak, a whole new lexicon generated by the green wave and sustainability lobby.

Just cleaning up your act to acceptable standards (technically known as remediation) is not enough. With the help, if necessary, of an eco-concierge, an intermediary consultant, you should move beyond compliance and embed an eco-advantage culture, catering simultaneously for eco-chic and eco-cheap consumers (the former 
are trend-followers, the latter energy-aware scrimpers who couldn’t care less about the environment but are worried by fuel bills, rather as economic vegetarians eschew meat 
on cost grounds).

You can do this by way of promoting eco-iconic products and services, but product designers and process engineers must ‘unpack’ the ecological rucksack — the history of the manufacturing processes undergone by a product or object. Manufacturers need to protect the airshed (by analogy with watershed) by curbing off-gassing pollutants from buildings and installations, measure the embodied energy used in construction and maintenance, and observe waste management imperatives — the so-called waste hierarchy of avoid, reduce, reuse, recycle, reprocess, dispose.

Preconsumer recovery refers to a product recycled before it reaches the consumer, for example factory-floor packaging; postconsumer to a product recycled after use, and 
closing the loop to using a remanufactured product. Reduced energy consumption, measured in so-called negawatts, brings positive PR or earned media, as do carbon offset — buying tradeable eco-credits — and carbon capture and sequestration, turning CO2 into substances like the soil nutrient biochar.

Be aware, though, that environmental awareness can also earn you mockery. Twenty years ago they were ‘tree-huggers’ and ‘duck-squeezers’, but now the label for go-too-far eco-warriors, promoted by US psychiatrist Dr Jack Hirschowitz, is carborexic, a cruel synonym for the extreme green, ecofanatic or dark greenie. Carborexia has also been called eco-anxiety, ecoholism, eco-guilt and ecopathy.

Send your favourite buzzwords, jargon and new and exotic usages to tony.thorne@kcl.ac.uk

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