Factor X: Policy, Strategies and Instruments Towards a Sustainable Resource Use – TOWARD A 6 TON SOCIETY

August 25th, 2011

F. Schmidt-Bleek1 and Harry Lehmann


The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The

occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion.

As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must

disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.

Lincoln’s Second Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862


A. Where we stand

Ecological disruption is still increasing at a fast pace, as are global natural resource use, and population. Current environmental and economic policies have not been able to stop this trend. Traditional environmental protection and economic policies were not designed to lead to ecologically sustainable conditions. They tend to focus on correcting specific dangerous developments in the environment after these were discovered and politically acknowledged as a thread. Obviously, these policies cannot be precautious.

Planet earth is a closed system. Materials, fresh water and space are limited. Only solar radiation and geothermal energy are available without limits. Within one hour, the sun radiates to earth as much energy as the entire yearly energy need of the world economy. To date, neither solar energy nor the inexhaustible storage of geothermal energy have as yet been utilized to the possible extent. This is not because technology could not have been developed for transforming this ecologically “neutral” energy into technically useful forms. This failure is a consequence of “saving money” at the expense of ecological stability. Massive material flows in form of fossil energy carriers are set in motion in order to drive the industrial metabolism.

As a consequence, we are losing natural capital and in particular eco-systemic services at increasing speed, services that are pre-requisite to human life on earth. Increasingly, the world experiences such costly consequences as water shortages, desertification, climatic change, extinction of species, spread of old and new diseases, floods and hurricanes. In order to approach sustainable conditions, a systemic risk reduction policy has to be applied that focuses on the basic reasons for the present disharmony between the human economy and nature.


20 Years Factor10/MIPS Conzept Essential Terms and Concepts

August 25th, 2011


• Natural resources are understood to mean materials – including fossils -, water, and land, as they are available on planet earth.

• Eco-systemic services and functions are vital for the survival of humans on planet earth.

• In a system sense, environment protection means: the best possible maintenance of eco-systemic services and functions.

• The physical root cause of the continuing destabilization of eco-systemic services and functions is the gigantic mobilization and excessive consumption of natural resources for the production and consumption of technical energy, shelter, food, material wealth and security.

• The ecological quality of goods, services and technical energy depends essentially upon their life-cycle-wide resource intensity (“ecological rucksack”, MIPS).

• Eco-systemic services and functions cannot be created by technology to any noteworthy extent.

• The limitation of physical resources on planet earth, population growth, and the need to protect the eco-systemic services and functions call for an average tenfold increase in resource productivity of western goods and services as well as for providing technical energy.

• The minimization of mobilization, extraction, and use of natural resources should preferably take place at the front end of economic activities.

• The economic root cause for the growing loss of eco-systemic services and functions is the near zero price for using nature.

• The human economy must be constrained to function within the limits of the environment and its resources and in such a way that it works with the grain of, rather than against, natural laws and processes. Sustainability cannot be reached otherwise.

• To measure welfare with GNP is counterproductive from a systems point of view.

• Traditional policies have not been able to prevent the life-threatening deterioration of eco-system services or other serious developments like financial or nuclear meltdowns. Rather than continuing to seek successive solutions for individual problems, system policies must be developed that aim to improve welfare and wellbeing of people by optimizing the efficiency and precautionary nature of measures. This can be achieved by eliminating root causes of (potentially) harmful developments first, rather than separately repairing their symptoms. System policies reduce the risks associated with taking actions. System policies are essential for approaching sustainability. They do not exclude that certain mayor existing problems are treated with priority (e. g. climatic change). However, all solutions must aim at minimizing the use of natural resources. 



Juni 22nd, 2011

Translation of the book „WIEVIEL UMWELT BRAUCHT DER MENSCH, – MIPS, das Maß für ökologisches Wirtschaften“

Birkhäuser, Basel, Boston, Berlin, 1994

Translated by Reuben Deumling Berkeley, California, 1993



You have before you the English translation of the first extensive account of the Factor Concept 1. And here is a bit of history how Factor 10 came about:


It was in 1989 when I realized that our approach to environmental protection could not get us to sustainability. Lack of progress demanded that we had to re-consider getting involved in solving one isolated problem after the after. Our attention had to be switched from the emission side of the economy to the enormous consumption of natural resources. Only this way we could control the outputs and make the right decisions before the damage was done and payments for it became due. And what about energy? Shouldn’t we begin to worry about its material intensity, rather than limiting our focus on the associated emissions, like SO2 and CO2?


It was a difficult and exciting time. Hardly anybody believed that maintaining a stable ecosphere would require dramatically reducing the use of resources. Factor 10 I said was the average reduction goal for rich countries! What I claimed was that we should measure environmental stress potentials of goods and services with a balance rather than – or at least in addition to – with a gas chromatograph or a mass spectrometer. Megatons, so I declared, were our overriding problem, not nano-grams. And the ecological rucksack was to be the new yardstick for the production of dematerialized goods, and its big brother MIPS for assessing their whole life-cycle. Ernst von Weizsäcker gave me a chance to solidify my model at the newly created Wuppertal Institute. To some degree he even believed my ideas. As is well known: he reached out for factor 4 later when he began writing about resources and energy. When you ask him about that, he will tell you that a tenfold improvement has to be reached in the long term. His earlier finding that prices do not speak the ecological truth is as true today as ever. And as long as this is the case, sustainability is but a dream.


In my endeavors at Wuppertal I got selfless competent help from young colleagues who had the guts to stand up to doubts, ridicule and even abuse from inside and outside the institute. Without being able to name them all, here are those who made vital contributions early: Stefan Bringezu, Friedrich Hinterberger, Harry Lehmann, Christa Liedtke, Christopher Manstein, Helmut Schütz, Joachim Spangenberg, Hartmut Stiller, Ursula Tischner, und Jola Welfens. I am grateful for their help in bringing my model to life. Without them a large basket of publications would not have appeared, convincing the world slowly that resource productivity of goods and services play a decisive role if a future with a future is to be gained.


Lately, industry and the ministers of economy have begun to worry seriously about the continued availability of natural resources. Welcome to the debate on a limited planet earth! One can only hope that nations will not apply economic power ruthlessly in the struggles ahead. The poor people would be again the ones to pay the price. And ecologically as well as economically we would continue to move away even further from sustainable conditions.


During the past 20 years we have shown in many enterprises that a radical reduction of resource use for goods and services must not lead to a loss in end-use satisfaction.


But the big question stubbornly remains: what does it take for finally breaking away from the old ways and move toward a new economic reality?



20 Jahre Faktor10/MIPS Konzept – Zentrale Begriffe und Konzepte

Mai 31st, 2011



  1. Unter natürlichen Ressourcen werden auf dem Pleneten Erde vorkommendes Material(einschliesslich Fossile), Wasser und Landoberfläche verstanden.
  2. Öko-systemische Dienstleisungen und Funktionen 1 sind für das Überleben von Menschen auf dem Planeten Erde entscheidend.
  3. Im systemischen Sinne bedeutet Umweltschutz die weitestgehend mögliche Erhaltung der ökosystemischen Dienstleisungen und Funktionen.
  4. Die physikalische Wurzelursache der fortschreitenden Destabilisierung öko-systemischer Dienstleisungen und Funktionen ist die enorm umfangreiche Verschiebung und der verschwenderische Verbrauch/Veränderung natürlicher Ressourcen zur Schaffung von technischer Energie, Nahrung, materiellem Wohlstand, und Sicherheit.
  5. Die ökologische Qualität von Gütern, Dienstleistungen und technischer Energie hängt entscheidend von ihrer lebenszyklusweiten Ressourcenintensität ab (“Rucksack” und MIPS).
  6. Öko-systemische Dienstleisungen und Funktionen können mittels Technik nicht in nennenswertem Umfang erzeugt werden
  7. Die Begrenztheit physikalischer Ressourcen auf dem Planeten Erde, das Bevölkerungswachstum und die Notwendigkeit des Schutzes der öko-systemischen Dienstleistungen und Funktionen zwingen langfristig zu einer im Schnitt etwa zehnfachen Erhöhung der Resourccen-Produktivität (= Verminderung der Ressourcenintensität) 2 westlicher Güter und Dienstleistungen, wie auch der Versorgung mit technischer Energie.
  8. Die gezielte Minimierung des Verbrauches natürlicher Ressourcen muss möglichst an der Input- Seite der Wirtschaft erfolgen.
  9. Die entscheidende wirtschaftliche Wurzelursache für den wachsenden Verlust an ökologischer Nachhaltigkeit ist der traditionell Nahe-Null-Preis für die Nutzung der Natur.
  10. Ohne Einpassung der Wirtschaft in die “Leitplanken” der Natur kann es wirtschaftliche Nachhaltigkeit nicht geben.
  11. Mit Hilfe von BIP (GNP) das Wohlergehen einer Wirtschaft zu messen, ist aus systemischer Sicht kontraproduktiv.
  12. Zur Annäherung an nachhaltige Verhältnisse der Weltwirtschaft müssen Entscheidungsträger und deren Ratgeber aufhören, nachsorgende Lösungen für isolierte Probleme zu suchen, wie etwa Wassermangel oder “financial or nuclear melt-downs”. Zukunftsfähige Massnahmen müssen in eine system-konsistent vorsorgende Politik unter Berücksichtigung der Wurzelursachen wirtschaftlicher und ökologischer Fehlentwicklungen eingebunden werden. Diese Forderung schliesst nicht aus, dass gewisse Problme prioritär behandelt werden (z.B. Klimawandel und Arbeitslosigkeit). Aber auch die Lösung prioritärer Probleme darf kein Anlaß sein, sie mit erhöhtem Verbrauch an natürlichen Ressourcen zu bezahlen.


The Challenge Of The Whole: Creating System Policies To Tackle Sustainability

März 17th, 2011

F. Schmidt-Bleek, Markku Wilenius

In brief

While the world is talking about climate change, the real challenge of sustainability lies in a diminishing resource base for humans that calls for radical action. Sustainable economic conditions cannot be reached without increasing the resource productivity of the industrialized world dramatically. The price structure as well as economic boni and mali must be adjusted for approaching sustainability. The necessity to change lifestyles needs to be encouraged by all means of public policies. By 2050, the world-wide average per capita consumption shall not exceed 8 tons of material per year. System policies need be developed and applied to ascertain success. We need to start acting now. > more

Visions for Sustainable Resource Management

März 16th, 2011

Project workshop „Eco-Innovation Observatory“ , Dr. Stefan Bringezu, 25 January 2011 Wuppertal      mehr

Targets for Global Resource Consumption

März 16th, 2011


Workshop „Policies, strategies and instruments for towards a sustainable resource use“

Dr. Stefan Bringezu, Juni 2009 Berlin


Das Grundrecht der Meinungsfreiheit

März 16th, 2011

Das Grundrecht der Meinungsfreiheit schützt Äußerungen und zwar nicht nur Werturteile, sondern auch Tatsachenbehauptungen, wenn und soweit sie meinungsbezogen sind. Sogar abwertende Äußerungen dürfen, solange sie sachbezogen sind, scharf, schonungslos und sogar ausfallend sein, so der Bundesgerichtshof. Lediglich bewusst unwahre Tatsachenbehauptungen oder Äußerungen, bei denen es nicht mehr um Auseinandersetzung in der Sache geht, sondern jenseits polemischer und überspitzter Kritik um Diffamierung anderer, unterfallen nicht dem Schutz der Meinungsfreiheit.mehr


März 16th, 2011


Did you know that YOUR lawn mower, YOUR washing machine and YOUR trip by car to the church are at the expense of ever-increasing climate change? You can see the devastating results as commonplace on the nightly news; floods, hurricanes and water shortages. Dying children. And it’s only getting worse……GIBT ES ZUKUNFT?Traditioneller Umweltschutz konzentriert sich noch immer auf die Bekämpfung einzelner ungewollter Konsequenzen der Wohlfahrtsgestaltung an der Ausgangsseite der Wirtschaft, einschließlich CO2. Zukunftsgerichteter Schutz der Umwelt hingegen muss zum Ziele haben, den grundlegenden Konflikt zwischen heutiger Wirtschaftsgestaltung und den Gesetzen der Natur zu lösen. An vorderster Stelle steht hierbei, natürliche Ressourcen dramatisch effizienter zu nutzen als bisher. Technik kann dies leisten. Aber nur dann, wenn es sich lohnt, und gesetzliche Bestimmungen dies unterstützen.more

The Economic Crisis and the Climate Change Fundamental Defects of the Free Market System

März 16th, 2011




F. Schmidt-Bleek

1. Good living, prosperous economies, high levels of employment and peace require a healthy environment, including an agreeable climate and rich biodiversity. Today, all are threatened: urgent action to change course and reduce the overuse of fossil fuels, water and material resources is of paramount importance. To this end, the Factor 10 Club in 1994 called on governments to achieve within a generation a ten-fold increase in the efficiency with which their economies use energy, natural resources and other materials. The technologies required for a four-fold increase exist and, with appropriate policy reforms, a tenfold increase could be achieved.  > more