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Every Product Casts a Shadow

In this article, Hayden describes the economic and societal structures that have colluded to create housing and urban design focused on restricting women’s activities to the home and private sphere. She acknowledges that this is mostly implicit rather than explicit in the design of homes, but argues that increasing sprawl as a result of a push by builders towards private home ownership combined with an advertising industry devoted to selling all manner of household goods have combined to form cities (she makes no distinction between cities and suburbs, seeing them as large urban area) that are inhospitable and constrictive for women.

Furthermore, she believes “that the only remedy for this situation is to develop a new paradigm of the home, the neighborhood, and the city; to begin to describe the physical, social, and economic design of a human settlement that would support, rather than restrict, the activities of employed women and their families. ”5 Hayden describes several communal and group homes in Europe and the United States which meet some of her criteria, but she appears to contradict herself by stating that “most employed women are not interested in taking themselves and their families to live in communal families.

”6 In doing so, she stops short of the critique she makes in the beginning of her essay, that capitalism creates private homes as consumer objects in order to alienate people from one another, and that residential segregation (of the old, sick, etc. ) is to the detriment of women and society. Instead, Hayden suggests HOMES (Homemakers Organization for a More Egalitarian Society), a group of private homes that also includes amenities such as a daycare center and laundry facilities. This actually sounds like the co-operative housing that she believes employed women are not looking for.

The similarity suggests that imagining a “non-sexist city” is in fact more difficult than Hayden anticipated, and that stepping outside the box when it comes to urban design requires an exceptional imagination indeed. This article explores the conception and use of environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) in both product and public policy. Environmental LCA attempts to definitively evaluate the environmental impact of a given product during its entire life cycle – a ‘cradle to grave’ analysis.

The author identifies three different methods of using LCA: definitive (environmental science will solve all problems), conceptual (environmental science will change public opinion), and facilitative (environmental science will change company policy). These approaches have been described by different names and with slightly different definitions by other researchers, such as Weiss. Heiskanen’s unique goal in defining these categories is to “direct attention to the process of knowledge formation and utilization that occur when LCA is used in public environmental policy. ”7 (63).

Heiskanen’s most interesting assertion is that environmental product policy is over-dependent on the scientific method. She notes that “scientists’ judgments inevitably go beyond the factual evidence on which they are based” and “the facts assembled by scientists, themselves, do not enjoy an unassailable status. ”8 Product designers and policymakers often take science to be absolute truth, while in fact scientific work is as fallible as “any other form of knowledge construction” (65). For example, there has been a drastic push for the use of ethanol to replace gasoline in the US.

Billions of dollars in subsidies later, scientists realized that (oops! ) they had forgotten to factor in all of the greenhouse gases that would be released once prairie grass and rainforests were razed to make room for fields of corn. It appears, belatedly, that even after all of the scientific research on how much better ethanol would be for the environment, that it is in fact roughly equal to gasoline in environmental LCA. This is also a good example of a conceptual application of LCA, where scientific research changes public perceptions.

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