Have your relatives at the dinner table been asking you lately about the difference between false and genuine circularity? If so, and if you felt your answer came up short because the blog posts I’ve been feeding you are so long, let me try to encapsulate things so you have a snappy set of replies handy next time.
Hello folks, I’m sorry it’s been so long since the last post. The summer came and went, and now school has started again, the daily rhythm has kicked in anew, and I’m realizing that more than two months have elapsed since I last posted anything. That’s actually strange because I have such a lot to report on!
Earlier this summer, my partner Agnieszka and I were in the western USA for most of July. We had our base camp in Los Angeles — one of the US’s least sustainable cities, or so it seems. It’s such a culture shock when you’re coming over from Europe, even for people who, like us, have lived or grown up in the States. The expression “car culture” really comes into its own there. Most Americans, not so much by deliberate choice as by systemic necessity made gradually into a cultural value, use their automobiles in much the same way the average Swiss citizen uses their shoes.
Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not — I repeat: not — saying that repairing, re-using, re-manufacturing, and recycling are useless in and of themselves. If I were saying that, I would be going against my own deepest convictions as I see them embodied in the everyday practices of some of the people I admire most: the ecovillage dwellers who joyfully move towards a sufficiency mindset and remain within it, the permaculture geniuses who create tomorrow’s food, mobility and lodging utopias and implement them today, the “zero-waste” downshifters who devote their energy and creativity to living without treading heavily on the soil and the water, the voluntary simplicity advocates who patiently seek better, cleaner ways of consuming — and, yes, the industrial and agronomic engineers who spend all their efforts dealing with waste reduction and devising cleaner production solutions.
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.
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.