Are we bending too much?

Five years ago I started working with bamboo. What I favoure(d) about bamboo is its incredible ability to bend. That is because bamboo has a very fiberious and flexible structure. As a result, bamboo is very suitable for the building industry, where it can compete with steel applications. The benefit of using more bamboo over steel are the obvious ecological benefits of bamboo, but even more the fact that bamboo can often stay bamboo. It means that one can work with the natural features of bamboo as oppose to molding or turning it into something, bamboo is by origin less likely. Of course bamboo cannot replace steel as steel is a unique element, but bamboo can be used for applications, where it is automatically suitable for. It means we have to bend it less and therefore save more energy and costs.

Bending can be cost intensive

Whenever we bend things, we use energy. Energy can relate to lengthy production processes, but also the effort and time put into bending something. Simultaneously, when something is unnaturally bend, we have to maintain it. As some industries work with materials that have different features that differ to the idea of the material, efforts related to bending or after maintenance can become increasingly high. Sometimes it reminds me on my curly short hair, that when I try to bend it, it does not work well, requires me to utilize many materials (hair-spry, different blow driers and irons).  So I decided to keep it the way it is and work with its natural structure which saves much time, money, energy and overall cost.

Why does the right way of bending matter in a global context?

Because we are different people, different industries with different ideas, we all have different visions. That could be us as individuals, us as group such as being part of an organizations, but also us as part of a collective culture within a region or country. There is also us as collective in a global context, who we share resources with we use and process. But because it is challenging to think global always, it is easier to think in a more localized perspective. It means that we are more focused on the resources and products we want here and in that regard are unaware of the potential of other resources that might be more efficient and beneficial to use in our context and the other. In terms of the context of the other, one can refer to resources and processes that are beneficial to grow in foreign environments, but where these resources naturally thrive and promote socio-ecological-economic well-being as oppose to taking it away by extracting resources or converting land to receive those resources one has been adjusted to locally in the “here”.

Of course, utilizing other resources that are beneficial to foreign environments sounds challanging. It sounds challanging because it means that there is some level of uncertainty and because most humans are wired to prefer certainty over uncertainty, there is a greater reluctancy towards a change in production and consumption processes. However, by resisting such degree of uncertainty, one also resists the many opportunities that come with uncertainties. That is to utilize new production resources for which they are naturally beneficial and for which reduced efforts, such as the efforts that go into bending, exist to more easily fulfill a specific need or demand.

Bamboo, for instance, is not just an “Asian grass”, but it is also food, a building component and fantastic to provide ecosystem services. It works great in regions that are prone to earthquakes, where its strong root system provides stability to soils and where local populations are inherently connected to it. It regrows after cutting and because of that it means that little efforts have to go into landconversion or reforestation projects after harvest. It also means a sustainable supply of production resources, for which there is a growing shortage in various industries.

However, often it appears that there is little affinity to the benefits of “the other„ because most often common materials such as timber, concrete or steel in the building industry are viewed as the better or “knowlede-safe” building materials. But the reality is, that there is long a shortage of building materials and to keep up with growing populations and expanding cities, more resources might have to be used that are perceived as the more “unknown”, but simultaneously can serve as more efficient resources as they bend better and fit more into specific socio-economic-ecological use cases with little to no rebound effects from production. This may not just apply for bamboo and the building industry, but also the many other resources that are competed for in the same or different industries, or the many other materials that are not as sustainable in the long term as the energy that goes into their processing focusses too much on bending them into something that their natural properties less qualify for.

  • What industry are you working in?
  • What resources are you using there?
  • How much effort and energy goes into bending them?
  • Are there other resources that require less bending?
  • Are there potential biases that make you not want to explore them?
  • How can you overcome them?

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