Reading the previous post you may have thought: Okay, so permacircularity is about circularity and permanence — about recycling, reusing, re-manufacturing, repairing, and reducing — but what does it consist in? Isn’t it some sort of neo-primitivist pipe dream? Do we really need to reduce? Why have zero or near-zero growth? Surely engineers nowadays are aware of the problems and have figured out ways for our economies to keep growing at the rates we need to have jobs and well-being, while constantly reducing our deleterious impacts on the biosphere?
Well, the answer is: No, they haven’t. In fact they can’t.
From a permacircular perspective, what matters most is this: We need to find a way for every inhabitant of the earth — whose numbers are, for the moment at least, still growing — to have access to the same level of well-being and self-realization. And we have to do it while remaining constantly within the limits of the biosphere. This implies, among other things, that as world population grows (and sorry, but yes, how fast and by how much it grows does matter) resource use, technological progress and frugality have to be combined in order to honor the right of every single human being — as well as the beings of all other living species — to have access to an equitable share of world wealth.
For my first post-welcome post, I’d like to offer comments on a few significant quotes from stuff I’ve read. This might help to sharpen the contrast between the circular growth economy I do not advocate and the permacircular economy I do advocate.
One of the main think tanks spearheading a totally mainstream approach to generalized cyclical metabolisms is the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, located in the UK. They publish lavish documents in full color and count many of the world’s largest industrial and financial multinationals among their members.
Okay — it’s not the sexiest of blog titles. Nevertheless, it says exactly what I mean, so I’ll keep it. “Permacircularity” is a concept I’ve coined with my colleague Dominique Bourg. He and I both do research at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.
What does it mean? The expression is a composite of “permaculture” and “circular economy”. In a nutshell, I use it to designate a genuinely circular economy — one that not only insists on a generalized cyclical metabolism of the economy, but also on a culture of permanence: a deep questioning of the principle of economic growth.