This article defines the new field of industrial ecology and identifies the fundamental premises which make this approach to the information society a significant improvement over current practices. The article compares the environment as overhead paradigm with the industrial ecology paradigm and uses a conceptual framework to clarify the relationships between industrial ecology, sustainable development and technology. The hypothesis that the information revolution and sustainability are aligned, mutually dependent directions of societal evolution is supported by the analogy of the automotive sector. Over the past 25 years the automobile industry has undergone an almost revolutionary change and the modern automobile is now a profitable product which also offers much improved environmental and social performance and is altogether a more complex system with a far higher information content than its predecessors. However, the limitations of technological evolution in achieving economic, environmental and social sustainability show that simply relying on technology will not avoid the need for difficult and complex political decisions.
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