Can inequality within and between societies be explained in terms of merit and intelligence, or are the most important determinants of inequality beyond individual control? Both economist Henry George and geographer Jared Diamond essentially asked this same question, examining the fundamental forces that have shaped human history. They come to startlingly similar conclusions. These similarities have not, until now, been connected and compared so directly.
One day, a very long time ago and in a faraway place you have probably never heard of, or so the legend goes, a huge forest fire was raging all around the countryside. All the animals were terrified, running around in circles, crying and helplessly watching the impending disaster.
But there in the middle of the flames, and above all the cowering animals, was one tiny hummingbird busy flying from a small pond to the fire, each time fetching a few drops with its beak to throw on the flames. And then again/ And then again. And yet again.
After a certain time, an old grouchy armadillo, annoyed by this ridiculous useless agitation on the part of the hummingbird, cried out: “Tiny bird! Don’t be a fool. It is not with those minuscule drops of water one after the other that you are going to put out the fire and save us all! ”
To which the hummingbird replied, “Could be. But I’m still going to do my bit”.
More often than not the concept or application of what is called”Circular Economy” is treated as an entirely new toolbox or approach, that is to say somehow historyless,. Like Athena, at birth springing full formed from the head of Zeus. This is of course far from the case.
The goal of the above quickly fashioned mosaic is to serve as an explicit reminder — an incomplete reminder to be sure— of some of the great men and great thinking that came before, with this listing taking us up to the beginning of this still-new century,. (Surely I have missed here some of the important figures, who to my mind constitute the Founding Fathers of Circular Economy. So please do not be shy and share your thoughts on this with us.)
Walter Stahel, architect and industrial analyst, argues that the circular economy should be considered a framework: as a generic notion, the circular economy draws on several more specific approaches that gravitate around a set of basic principles.
Introductory summary and selected excerpts from a key read by Vincent Moreau, Marlyne Sahakian, Pascal van Griethuysen, and François Vuille, appearing in the Journal of Industrial Ecology dated 28 April 2017. We can strongly recommend the full contents of the Special Issue of that date: “Exploring the Circular Economy”.
In light of the environmental consequences of linear production and consumption processes, the circular economy (CE) is gaining momentum as a concept and practice, promoting closed material cycles by focusing on multiple strategies from material recycling to product reuse, as well as rethinking production and consumption chains toward increased resource efficiency.
Yet, by considering mainly cost-effective opportunities within the realm of economic competitiveness, it stops short of grappling with the institutional and social predispositions necessary for societal transitions to a CE.
Although the entropy law remains intransigent, institutional conditions and societal values can be challenged and transformed through political processes, in order to usher in a more equitable and circular economy.
– Bibliography compiled by Dr David Ness, School of Natural and Built Environments 13 July 2017
The modern view of a circular economy differs from the past. It has started in the second half of the 20th Century and is a case for the simultaneous and uncorrelated emergence of an idea
Jason Hickel is an anthropologist at the London School of Economics and author of The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions.