The chair to which I was appointed at the University of Lausanne is labeled “Sustainability and Economic Anthropology.” This can mean many things. I take it to mean an area of research and teaching that deals with the connections between economic culture (what, how, and why people produce and consume) and the possibility for a human community to exist in a sustainable fashion.
These days and for the foreseeable future, one of my main research projects is called “An economic anthropology of urban growth, water consumption, and (un)sustainability in the semi-arid Southwestern United States.”
In my previous post, I offered some thoughts about how, in our quest for a perma-circular economy and society, we could learn – or re-learn – from the great cycles of the Earth’s biosphere. In this post, I want to dwell on one of those cycles: the water cycle and, more specifically, the “water wisdom” we might gain from flowing water, in the form of rivers and streams – a wisdom I will call “hydrosophy.” While I live and work in a country blessed with beautiful watercourses and majestic watersheds circumscribed in part by formidable mountains, I couldn’t have written this post if my partner and I hadn’t traveled in the Southwestern United States this past summer and the one before. So I will begin from over there even though, as I am writing, it’s so far away from here… and I’ll end up suggesting that, perhaps, the Southwest’s most iconic river, the Colorado, might be the right place to start on our hydrosophical journey.
This is kind of a continuation, by other means, of the musings I offered in my earlier post on “native wisdom” and “Native Modernity.” At the beginning of March, 2017, I gave a half-hour lecture, complete with PowerPoint slides, to a group of about twenty Master’s students from the University of Lausanne, where I work here in Switzerland. The context was an interfaculty course on “Global Warming and Societal Change” (conducted jointly with the University of Lancaster) in which a colleague and I were to teach one session on homo economicus and the overcoming of “petro-anthropology.” You may wonder what those words have to do with permacircularity. Read on and I trust you’ll get some useful pointers.
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.