Making the Future

Making the Future

By Andrew Blum
We live in a manufactured world. But is it some kind of utopia, full of iPods, Swiffers, and pre-cut fruit? Or is it a proverbial hell on earth, physically destroying half the planet while eating away at the souls of the other half? For Michael Braungart and Godfrey Reggio, both assertions are gross understatements.

Braungart is arguably the world's leading environmental chemist, and the coauthor of Cradle to Cradle, which lays out an alternative paradigm for manufacturing in which everything isn't just recycled but "upcycled." It's an optimistic vision that has seduced more than a few captains of industry—including executives at Ford, Nike, and Herman Miller.

Reggio is the auteur filmmaker behind the Qatsi trilogy—three plotless, dialogueless feature films that each set a thousand images (together worth one word, he says) to a sweeping score by Philip Glass. While spectacular and seductive, their vision of the world is terrifying in its revelation of the beauty of destruction. Koyaanisqatsi, released in 1983, uses as its title a Hopi Indian word meaning "life out of balance."

They shared their opposing cosmologies of manufacturing, and what they promise for the future.


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