An integral approach is a huge task that many are hesitant to take on. But what we really need goes a step further still… that is a genuine system change. Then we are no longer talking about turning dials but about a completely new design, rewriting the blueprint. Oh! How on earth can we do that? And are enough people convinced that this is urgent enough? Or do we simply wait for our current economic system with all of its negative effects causing its own downfall? We got a pretty good taste of this with the covid epidemic. I don’t think that is an attractive strategy.
I suggest we take the positive route of inspiration. From Nature. Adopt the wise lessons from Nature’s rich R&D databank with 3.8 billion years of experience. Embrace innovations based on the same blueprint. Such as closing cycles to eliminate waste and conserving valuable raw materials. After all, Nature has no waste as, ultimately, something is always food for something else. Circularity is a tried and tested ecological concept that the current ambition of a circular economy is based on. It is applicable in all sectors that make use of raw materials, from consumer goods to urban development and agriculture. But worldwide, we still have a very long way to go. The Circularity Gap Report 2020 that the Dutch organisation Circle Economy presented in January at the World Economic Forum in Davos finds that the world’s economy is now only 8.6% circular – of all the minerals, fossil fuels, metals and biomass that enter it each year just 8.6% are reused. This has even fallen from 9.1% in the two years since the annual report was first launched in 2018. Pff.. there we go with our optimism… But now is the time to make a hugh step forward, so come on goverments, businesses, consumers: get your focus right and get on with it! A circular economy is desperately needed for reducing our impacts, protecting ecosystems and living within the means of one planet.
In the Netherlands we have seen the light. Our government has already expressed its clear ambition: circular agriculture and 50% reduction in use of primary resources (mineral, fossil and metals) in 2030. Together with many Dutch companies and knowledge insitutes it makes the Netherlands a leader in the transition towards a circular economy and I hope, with the help of Holland Circular Hotspot, we can inspire other countries to follow.
No circular economy without an energy transition! For this we can also look at Nature. The sun is its most important source of energy. In one hour, the earth receives more solar energy than we use worldwide in a year. All we need to do is apply our intelligence and innovative power to use the light and the heat everywhere, to make solar fuels. There are so many opportunities to innovate because here the sky really is the limit. We should have made efforts in this area far earlier instead of wasting billions of euros in public funding on perverse subsidies for combusting valuable biomass – which releases even more CO2 than fossil. Urgent call to the Dutch and other EU governments: never too late to correct an error!
But the most critical lesson from Nature is probably the importance of diversity. Diversity is the absolute basis for life. Why? Diversity makes it possible to adapt to new situations and to spread risks. Biodiversity –and with that, the numerous associated small mutual interactions between species– makes systems resilient so that they can take a knock. If we destroy biodiversity we loose the resilience of the system that also protects us humans from the dominance of nasty newcomers. And this is what we continuously do wrong and why covid has hit us.
Uniformity is destruction, literally – think of monocultures in agriculture and forestry that are an open invitation for pests and diseases – but it also applies to economic and social systems. Our contemporary economy is wrongly based on a far-reaching uniformity and short term returns for the sole purpose of efficiency and reducing costs. We have simply embraced the wrong values…. Let’s revalue our ecosystems and live off its interest instead of the capital. It is the only real value we have!!!