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 polictical and economic systsem leaders to acknowledge or act to address this unprecedented threat to our planetary existence on Spaceship Earth. This article 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 from
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.
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?
Here is a short article from the Post-carbon Institute concerning the controversy about whehter renewable energy can replace fossil fuels. ‘Powerdown’ is the term used to capture the idea of lowerng 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
This article offers an introduction to the earth’s ice cover (cryosphere) changes in which are now increasingly understood through scientific studies. Feedback loops from changes in the cryosphere have and important effect on both the atmosphere and the hydrosphere, as significant causes and effects of climate change:
Across land masses, seas, and oceans, roughly 70 percent of the fresh water exists as ice. But now, in response to the warming of our planet, that entire system is changing … primarily because ice responds to rising temperatures, melting with increasing heat. For example, shelf ice, which floats on the oceans near ice sheets, can weaken in response to the warming water below, causing destabilization and collapse. In the Arctic, sea ice is vanishing in the summers, changing the way in which the ocean absorbs sunlight. Across the continents, mountain glaciers and the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica are melting. Cryosphere changes like these are having profound impacts on our planet.
If Theresa may can offer “Brexit is Brexit”, then the authors of the book introduced in this video can possibly claim a more important truism as they present the case for a steady state economy operating within safe planetary boundaries.
This article from MAHB is written in the wake of the US President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. Here is a fragment:
Last year China added 23 GW of the total of 55 GW of windpower installed worldwide. [xi] Its target is for 26% of its national energy needs to come from the wind by 2030. At the same time, it has cancelled more than 100 coal-fired power plants that were planned or under construction, and announced plans to close over 1000 coal mines.
By such measures China has claimed leadership in the tussle for a share of what the New York Times estimates will be a $6 trillion global market for clean technologies by 2030.[xii]
With the Trump Administration’s decision to abdicate its climate responsibilities, China has scented a once-in-a-generation opportunity to assert world policy leadership also, as National Geographic recently noted. [xiii] “The Paris Agreement is a hard-won achievement,” President Xi Jinping told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January. “All signatories should stick to it instead of walking away from it, as this is a responsibility we must assume for future generations.” Following Trump’s exit notice, China has reaffirmed its intention of being a committed climate actor and its willingness to forge agreements with individual U.S. states.[xiv]