To think more coherently about the environment and the economy

GREEN GROWTH: Is it possible for a recycling to extend the life of objects and materials? And what about local circuits and small scale businesses?

Hammer is a dr.polit. in sociology and regular reviewer in Ny Tid.
GREEN GROWTH: Is it possible with a recycling to extend the life of objects and materials? And what about local circuits and small-scale businesses?

(Note: The article is mostly machine-translated from Norwegian by Gtranslate)

In recent years, the spread of plastic garbage and plastic fragments across the Earth and into ecosystems has contributed to the circulation of the circular economy. For example, shipowner Fred suggested. Olsen in Dagens Næringsliv in September last year to stop all production of new plastic, with the aim of forcing increased collection and recycling of the plastic that is already produced.

Such thoughts introduce a pre-modern motive. For thousands of years, our way of life was characterized by nature's cycles and associated circular processes, where resources were reused and utility items repaired. This way of life was changed with the linear approach of industrial society – from resource extraction through production and use to waste in various forms. Through the use-and-throw logic, we gained growth-based progress and a better standard of living, but also increasing concern about the effects on nature. In the 1960s and 1970s, this led to an ecological counter-reaction, with utopian visions of a different society, rooted in local cycles and more small-scale ways of life. The eco-village stood out here as the very opposite of the industrial big community.

Within this framework, the concept of "circular economy" emerged. An important contributor for decades is Walter R. Stahel, who in 2019 published the book The Circular Economy: A User's Guide. Anyone who takes the time to read his short and concise text will realize that even though the vision has traces back to it Deep EcologyIn terms of thinking, the concept over the years has been incorporated into the logic of ecological modernization – with green change and green growth as honors.

This is an important point

There is a tendency that those who have persisted in the radical ecological visions of the 1970s are unable to appreciate the changing impulses that characterize the world in 2020. Arne Næs's distinction between deep and shallow ecology was important, but dichotomies were as this makes us easily blind to what's going on between extremes.

What we buy in a performance and service economy will not be things, but functions.

Circular industrial economy. Stahel is entering this gap. He promotes radical thoughts, though Instead of opposing the industrial community, he formulates a vision for a circular industrial economy. Where deep green visions often emphasize publics, sharing schemes, maintenance, repair and reuse of local level, Stahel adds re-fabrication of products and their components, leasing and recycling of molecules and atoms, at the regional as well as at the global level.

The book distinguishes between two main variants of circular thinking. One is referred to as the "R-cycle" and is about providing extended life to products and components through reuse, repair, re-fabrication or upgrading. The other is called the "D-cycle" and is about recovery of resources at the molecular and atomic levels. Both variants are important, since they in each way contribute to extending the life of objects and materials and thus reduce the speed of the flow of resources in the economy. Doubling a product's lifespan could result in a halving of boats resource use and waste volume. Stahel argues here that as much as possible should be brought into the R cycle, as this is the least resource intensive, often has a local anchorage and is therefore most sustainable.

Photo: pixabay

Repair Business

To move the world in a circular direction, we should get out of the silos and think more holistically and across. According to Stahel, both active political governance and more targeted research are necessary, but the most important driver of change will still be industry players who see the circular economyone as a market opportunity. Such a point will hardly be met with applause from those who look with skepticism on anyone who makes money on the green shift, and at any rate will replace all competition with harmonious cooperation.

Rather than dealing with such utopias, Stahel articulates a vision rooted in modernization and opportunities for green growth. At the same time, we can retrieve elements from more deep ecological thinking. It is emphasized that we must develop an economy where design, production, sales and use are aimed at reducing resource use, preventing waste and ensuring that discontinued products are easily transformed into fresh resources. Such a society will be more labor intensive than today's world, and many activities (repair, sharing and swap schemes and so on) will require practical expertise and be rooted in local cycles and small scale businesses.

Such thoughts lead Stahel to a vision of a performance and service economy where the responsibility for the product and its materials remains with the manufacturer, with its lifelong service and repair business. What we buy in such a society will not be things (mobiles and so on), but functions (the ability to communicate and so on). The basic mechanisms of the economy will thus consist in maximizing functionality, reducing resource use and preventing losses and waste – in pursuit of a goal that the value and quality of resources must be kept as high as possible – as long as possible.

The green shift

For the reader, it is tempting to see such thoughts in relief against today's political reality, where the green shift is sought to be created through increased consumption – for example, by stimulating us to quickly and purposefully buy electric cars and other new, environmentally friendly products. Such a solution strategy easily contributes to use-and-throw attitudes and probably does not quite coincide with Stahl's vision of a resource-saving, , Computer Science?

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