Carbon is an amazing element, critical to life. But increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are changing our planet. John Elkington suggests we need to change our relationship with carbon and make some distinctions.
But what is "carbon productivity"? It involves generating radically greater economic, social and environmental value from the carbon we use. Architect Bill McDonough nicely frames the new language of carbon, distinguishing between three types:
· Living carbon: Organic, flowing in biological cycles, providing fresh food, healthy forests and fertile soil; something we want to cultivate and grow.
· Durable carbon: Locked in stable solids such as coal and limestone or recyclable polymers that are used and reused; ranges from reusable fibres such as paper and cloth to building and infrastructure elements that can last for generations and then be reused
· Fugitive carbon: Carbon that has ended up somewhere unwanted and can be toxic; includes carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, waste to energy plants, methane leaks, deforestation, much industrial agriculture and urban development