The Earth is finite. And for the vast majority of human history this has not been a problem. With our small population, we could collect and consume only a small fraction of the wealth of the planet. We spread out and the population grew. Still there was no problem. Then we technologized our means of extraction and means of production and our ability to extract and consume has grown exponentially. Petrochemicals provided cheap energy and we industrialized and supersized growth. Simultaneously we invented new materials like plastics that were easy to manufacture and almost impossible to destroy.
The word pollution comes from the latin polluere, which means to soil or defile. Plastics have polluted even the most pristine ecosystems. Microplastics have even been found at the top of the world in the ice on Mt. Everest. The products we produce are soiling and defiling the planet. This toxicity comes from extraction, with damage to the natural environment and on site waste and spillage, from transport and from disposal, dumping and burning products and packaging. It works in a linear fashion: we extract, we produce, we consume, we dispose. On a finite planet, this equation will run until everything that is extractable becomes garbage.
Our waste will eventually overcome us.
To escape this linear equation of extraction, consumption and waste, scientists and engineers are turning to the natural world. In an ecosystem the waste from one life form is food for the next life form. A tree falls to the forest floor which then becomes a home for small animals and food for insects, fungi and bacteria who in turn enrich the soil with their waste providing a good place for a new tree to grow. This simple model of a circular system, is the evolutionary leap that humanity must make to avoid the life extinguishing folly of our current linear system.
We must learn to transform every molecule of one product into a new product without needing to extract more resources. Products and materials will need to be invented and designed to be a part of a circular system, rather than just serving a single utility. These circular cycles require energy. In the natural ecosystem, the sun’s energy is harvested by photosynthesis. Again we must discover how to harvest energy with low or no toxic accumulation.
The Circular Economy looks at this from the system level. How do we design a human civilization that operates in circular cycles where the waste of one process provides the resources of the next?
In this week’s PROOF, we learn about the circular economy and some leading innovators in this drive to transform our life on the planet. If you are interested in becoming a part of this movement you can take a few simple actions:
1. Reduce your consumption.
2. Buy products that come with minimal packaging.
3. Reuse or hand down products you no longer want.
4. Aim to reduce the waste you send to the landfill to zero.
5. Join a circular economy business or a project.
Please join us in creating a zero waste world that provides for all.
Proof 29 – The Circular Economy
In the News:
Organizations Generating a Thriving Future: Ellen MacArthur Foundation
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, develops and promotes the idea of a circular economy. It works with, and inspire, business, academia, policymakers, and institutions to mobilize systems solutions at scale, globally.
In addition to learning about the Foundation, consider participating in their free Summit 21, June 8-10. This free online event explores how we collaborate to connect government and industry to tackle our biggest global challenges while creating resilience and wellbeing. For more information click here.
What We’re Watching : Closing the Loop
Closing the Loop is the world’s first feature length documentary on the circular economy. It features five key strategies for going from a take-make-waste linear economy to a borrow-use-return circular economy. Despite what can seem like dire warnings, it is an optimistic film about innovative solutions.
What We’re Reading – Circular Economy for Dummies
A circular economy is an economic system designed to save money, eliminate waste, and achieve deep sustainability. No-brainer, right? Circular Economy For Dummies explains why the old way of doing things (the take-make-waste model of a linear economy) is fast going the way of the dinosaurs, and it gets you ready to think circular. From business processes and material lifecycles to circular design in just about every industry, this book is a fascinating glimpse into the sustainable future we urgently need.
What We’re Listening to – The Circular Economy Podcast
The Circular Economy Podcast interviews inspiring people who are making the circular economy happen. They explore how the circular economy makes a better business (and a better world): for you, your partners, and your customers.
BOLD.LY NOW is a movement of co-creative up-levelers who have a burning desire to step free of our collapsing world & take the most daring leap forward to a thriving world.
PROOF is a Generative Futures Initiative Project
The Generative Futures Initiative
Generating a Thriving Future for All