The Ellen McArthur Foundation is advancing the shift away from classical growth economic thinking by promoting the notion of the circular economy. This diagram maps the flows that would bring into economic processes: regeneration, renewal and recycling to minimise waste and negative environmental impacts.
A circular economy seeks to rebuild capital, whether this is financial, manufactured, human, social or natural. This ensures enhanced flows of goods and services. The system diagram illustrates the continuous flow of technical and biological materials through the ‘value circle’.
A new variable has recently been added to the complex array of variables that relate to climate change. This BBC report refers to new research about the darkening of the Greenland Icesheet due to the growth of algae and micro-organisms. As the icesheet darkens in colour (‘dark ice’) due to these blooms, it absorbs more of the sun’s radiation and thus accelerates the melting of the ice with the knock on effect of accelerating the contribution of the Greenland ice to rising sea levels.
For the first time we have an estimate of how much plastic has been added to the earth’s land and oceans since 2 million tonnes were first mass produced in 1950. This article presents the detail from the scientific report. This human-created addition to the surface of the planet is another exponentially growing feature of the Anthropocene Epoch which is having major unintended consequences for natural ecosystems. 8.3 billion tonnes is the equivalent weight of one billion elephants according to the report. One consequence of this new payload on Spaceship Earth is that up to a third the ocean fish we eat at the top of the food chain contain these indestructible long chain polymers that are not a part of nature but emanate only from the Machine World.
Almost every day I come across a new article that repeats the concerns I have long held about the imminence of socio-ecological collapse and the failure of our political and economic systsem leaders to acknowledge or act to address this unprecedented threat to our planetary existence on Spaceship Earth. This link JPLReformorTransformRees by William E. Rees, professor emeritus of human ecology and ecological economics at the University of British Columbia, Canada. It laments the lack of a global sustainability plan in the face of this evident trend towards widespread collapse. This extract gives a taster:
Staving Off the Coming Global Collapse
‘Overshoot’ is when a species uses resources faster than can be replenished. We’re already there. And show no signs of changing.
We have reached a unique juncture in human ecological history, one requiring a radical reconfiguration of planning values and goals. The “ecological footprint” of the global economy is already larger than the planet, yet a quarter of humanity still lives in poverty, the human family is expanding by 90 million a year, and material demands everywhere are rising. An unlikely tenfold reduction in the energy and material intensity of economic activity would be required to accommodate anticipated economic growth safely, posing an enormous challenge to planners in facilitating the transition to sustainability. Failure enhances the considerable possibility of global disaster.
simplistic, growth-oriented, market-based economic thinking … is all but running the world today. Prevailing neoliberal economic models make no useful reference to the dynamics of the ecosystems or social systems with which the economy interacts in the real world.
What truly intelligent species would attempt to fly spaceship Earth, with all its mind-boggling complexity, using the conceptual equivalent of a 1955 Volkswagen Beetle driver’s manual?
Failure to implement a global sustainability plan that addresses excess consumption and over-population while ensuring greater social equity may well be fatal to global civilization. Indeed, adherence to any variant of the growth-bound status quo promises a future of uncontrollable climate change, plummeting biodiversity, civil disorder, geopolitical turmoil and resource wars.
In these circumstances, should not elected politicians everywhere have an obligation to explain how their policies reflect the fact of global overshoot?
Ecological economics summarised – core ideas include “steady-state economies”, “carrying capacity”, “ecological footprints” and “environmental justice”.
Here is a short article from the Post-carbon Institute concerning the controversy about whether renewable energy can replace fossil fuels. ‘Powerdown’ is the term used to capture the idea of lowering demand for energy by means of simplifying and localising its consumption. Without a steep decrease in demand, there is little chance of achieving clean energy worldwide if consumption levels remain as today or continue to grow with GDP and expanding human populations.
Jeremy Williams has a look at the operating International Space Station (ISS) in this short blog. The example of how water is processed and recycled on the human-made space station using solar power replicates what we take for granted on planet eart to keep us alive. This detail illustrates why the metaphor of Spaceship Earth is so appropriate. A finite planet with remarkable support systems that maintain life is no place to go on destroying those natural sun-powered support systems or adding over 150 additonal passengers event minute of every day.
- In the next 14 years 1 billion extra humans will be added to the earth’s population.
- Every day 228000 more humans are born on the planet than die.
- Every minute, 150+ extra people are added each requiring more energy, water, food, and space on the planet