A new Science? Analysis of the Cycle of Life (ACL)

The more general search for a good life and for caring for the global situation of the Earth is causing us to deepen our ecological consciousness. Now we have to analyze the traces of carbon, toxins, heavy metals found in the industrial products we use in our everyday lives. A new science is being born from this concern, known by the acronym ACV (from the Spanish, Análisis del Ciclo de Vida, or Analysis of the Cycle of Life, ACL.) The impacts on the biosphere, on society and on health in each stage of a product are monitored, starting from their extraction, production, distribution, consumption and their elimination.

Let’s take an example: in making a one kilogram crystal vase, incredible as it may sound, 659 different ingredients are used in the different stages until the final product appears. Which are harmful? The Analysis of the Cycle of Life seeks to identify them. It is also applied to the so called green, or ecologically clean, products. The majority are only green at the end, or clean only in their final utilization, as in the case of ethanol. Being realists, we must admit that all industrial production leaves a trace of toxins, no matter how small. Nothing is totally green or clean. Only relatively eco-friendly. This was examined by Daniel Goleman in his recent book, Ecological intelligence, (Kairos 2009).

It would be ideal if each product, in addition to detailing its nutrients, fats and vitamins, also stated its negative impacts on health, society and the environment. This is being done in the United States by Good Guide, an institution accessible via the Internet, that establishes a triple qualification: green, for relatively pure products, yellow, if they contain harmful but not extremely bad elements, and red, unadvisable due to its negative ecologic footprint. Now the roles have been reversed: it is no longer the seller, but the buyer who establishes the criteria for purchasing, or for consuming, a given product.

The mode of production is changing and our brains have not had enough time yet to follow that transformation. The brain has a sort of internal radar that lets us know when threats or dangers are near. Smells, colors, flavors and sounds warn us about the products, if they are damaged or if they are all right, if an animal is attacking us, or not.

It so happens that our brains do not yet register subtle ecologic changes, nor do they detect chemical particles disseminated in the air that can poison us. Through biotechnology and nanotechnology, we have already introduced 104,000 artificial chemical compounds. With the resource of the Analysis of the Cycle of Life we can prove, for instance, the extent to which these synthetic chemical substances decrease the number of male spermatozoids, to the point that millions of men are rendered infertile.

We cannot continue saying: ecological changes are good only if they do not affect costs and earnings. That form of thinking is backwards and alienated, because it does not note the changes that happen in the consciousness. The mantra of the new enterprises is now: «the more sustainable the better; the healthier the better, the more eco-friendly the better.»

Ecological intelligence will be added to other types of intelligence; including it is now more necessary than ever.

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