Small landholding farmers often have a wealth of local knowledge about their landscape and crop varieties that allows them to deliver food to the mouths of local customers more efficiently than industrial agriculture [see my post entitled ‘Productive Cheating on November 25th, 2013]. This has been termed ‘knowledge-based agriculture’ as opposed to the ‘energy-based agriculture’ used by agri-business with its dependence on fossil fuels and chemical fertilizers, which are also fossil fuel based. Mark Bittman [in the New York Times on October 15th, 2013] argues it is easier to achieve sustainable food production using a knowledge-based rather than an energy-based approach.
The same is true of engineering design for sustainability. Engineers need to exploit their creativity and knowledge to generate elegant designs with minimal ecological footprints, i.e. designs need to be knowledge-based or intensive rather than energy-intensive.
Politicians are fond of extolling the virtue of having a knowledge-based economy. I am not sure many of them would articulate it in terms of knowledge-based agriculture or engineering, as I have above, but it is probably the best available route to a sustainable society.
Happy New Year to all my readers and followers.