The worst that can be said about The Next Industrial Revolution, a 55 minute documentary by Shelley Morhaim is that it comes across like promotional material for the business initiatives of William McDonough. The documentary focuses on his movement to bridge the gap between the economic growth interests of capitalism and the planet sensitivity of environmentalism.
McDonough advocates the concept of cradle to cradle design claiming that a world where economic growth is possible without creating negative impacts on the planet Earth or unnecessarily draining its resources. Although environmentalism is very fashionable right now, it is commonly reduced to creating non-toxic cleaning products, all-natural fabrics and cars that run on corn alcohol. McDonough contends that these do nothing to address sustainability, which he charges is more important than making products that appeal to the feel good market of eco-shoppers. As such, The Next Industrial Revolution focuses on how he and others are working to create an industrial economy that is green friendly by designing things from the bottom up to be recyclable and sustainable, such as self-sufficient buildings, edible fabrics and automobile makers that operate in harmony with the local ecology.
McDonough believes that growth and luxury is possible without damaging the planet if one refits the systems that support lifestyles and production. Core to this belief is the guiding role which nature plays in design. McDonough is an architect by trade, and what he wants is for the human way of life to move away from consumption and exhaustion of resources and for it to come closer towards resembling the natural processes that has allowed nature to prosper indefinitely when it is untouched by human impacts.
While The Next Industrial Revolution sometimes feels like propaganda for the treehugger set, it at least promotes a message that is ultimately a positive one which reconciles the ideals of the eco-hippie with the material wants of the consumerist yuppie, and that can’t be a bad thing.