R.I.P ‘Circular Economy 2.0’, Long Live The Circular Humansphere
Ending the concept of ‘Circular Economy 2.0’
The ‘Circular Economy 2.0’ was a call launched in early 2016 in The Huffington Post USA where I was asking to embed negative social externalities within the circular economy so to guaranty our next model will also be giving a chance for anyone to thrive.
The view was that yes, there is not enough resources, much wastage and pollution for a soon-to-be 10 billion people on the planet. But yes too, we have a huge inequality problem that will slow down the implementation of such a great design.
“Circularity without equality is like trees without its roots. It won’t survive. The great news is that both makes business sense!”
Since then, the Nasa funded HANDY Human-Nature dynamics system released its first projections on human civilizations advising us to look at reasons why past civilizations disappeared since we are on our pathway to these very same mistakes.
Reasons for all of these? For resources mismanagement, for pollution, for social inequalities, for greed? They all originate from our very own human beliefs. That very same belief system that we are now required to change drastically unless we would bear the consequences.
The great thinking in circular economy is the identification of root causes such as waste and pollution (the so-called environmental negative externalities) asking ourselves, shall we be more humble and learn from Nature to define our next business strategies? This is what I have been calling the “Circular Thinking”, or innovating in whichever way possible so our current goods and services no longer lead to waste or pollution, today and forever.
Now, to innovate, one should look at all our stocks and energies available on the planet. When I first called to embed social negative externalities at the same time of the environmental ones, I did not have an answer back then in 2016. I was mainly asking to insert three additional Circular Principles (now called ‘Just Circular Principles’ in alignment with Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics) on top of the three current ones ‘Safe Circular Principles’ (to learn more, please visit www.TheEllenMacArthurFoundation.org), so to ensure our next economic model will not only be circular, but equitable too:
Just Circular Principle #4: “Equity makes business sense as services could be design to address the needs of all”;
Just Circular Principle #5: “Developing people’s ability promoting any means of exchange is a priority as one should be accessing more with less in a service-based economy”;
Just Circular Principle #6: “Using labor is innovative as in a systemic regenerative model all abundantly available renewable energies should be considered”;
With these embedded Principles, we would ensure the next model of life is beneficial to most. Again, equality only means ability for anyone to freely thrive in full capabilities and life choices. This is according to people’s decision whether they wish to make the most of their lives to nurture the planet, thus, thrive.
“There is no guaranty the Circular Economy will be equitable. Since it is considered as the foundational thinking of our next economic model, let us make sure it will be.”
Now, the intention is to add to the debate, not go against it. Thus mentioning the term “Circular Economy 2.0” in my view may be confusing from now on.
The circular economy is a great concept should it not promote eternal growth but refrain from any upcoming consumption rebound. Avoiding such a rebound might not be addressed by technical solutions but by changing mindsets. In my view, embedding humans within this complex equation might help us shift beliefs into longer term decision making processes (which I call ‘Collective Decentration’) by including the survival of our next generations into these very same decision we take daily. This is what I have explained in the article Towards Regenerative Societies, while a more detailed article on this topic is about to be release by The Beam Magazine (titled “Empathy for the Future”).
The Circular Humansphere: Towards Regenerative Societies
My answer to the 2016 ‘Circular Economy 2.0’ article is this one today: The Circular Humansphere.
This future sphere where Humans will live is circular because we are regenerative beings ourselves. We function according to these rules too and we must learn from them.
In such a sphere, Humans are the key to the complexities we face today: on one hand, a wrongly designed relationship with our environment, on the other hand, a source of endless energies to fix our economic model while thriving.
Within such a sphere, we ask ourselves: “Who are we? What are we here for?” so to address the subsequent question: “What should be our new roles and functions in a new model of life that will care for everything and everyone, while making hands meet for all?”. The answer to such roles or functions could possibly be:
- “We are Nature”, we could regenerate it by considering ourselves as Circular Beings;
- “We are Energy”, designing an economy that cares for everything and everyone is thus possible;
- “We are Value”, we know enough to shift our consciousness away from mechanical and technological beliefs to build a framework based on deep empathy;
Sketch 1: The Life Equation, highlighting new relationships with the wider environmental design (fitting into the ecosystem, connecting with systems dynamics) and our model of life (protecting everything and everyone, dreaming from a new ecosystemic way of living)
Once you are answering these questions, you obviously realize that embedding humans goes far beyond the limits of an economic system. Thus let us move away from using the term ‘Circular Economy 2.0’ and mainly talk about the future of a Circular Humansphere!
Therefore, the new position will be how the Circular Humansphere will interact with several current thriving contexts:
- within the United Nations Human Development model and Index as in “granting access to all resources for communities is a priority”,
- within the Sustainable Development Goals as in “designing all negative externalities out implementing the ‘Circular Thinking’”,
- within — obviously — the Circular Economy as in “a third opportunity to innovate from a symbiotic perspective of all stocks and flows”,
- and, so to stay on our pathway to the Safe and Just Space for Humanity of Doughnut Economics as in “The Circular Humansphere is a suggestion to migrate and stay within the Just Space for Humanity in a regenerative model of society”.
Sketch 2: Our 3 behavioral changes strategies (“We Adapt” — is about fitting into the biosphere — since we are circular beings, “We Care” — is about an empathy-based framework — for everyone and everything in a new ecosystemic model of life, “We believe” — is about long-term governance — by changing our mindsets into new conditions preserving life on Earth) and our 2 measurement strategies (“We Monitor” — measures our distance-to-circularity — from today to a circular system of life, “We Thrive” — measures our distance-to-well-being — as a model based on deep ecosystem adaptation (We are Nature) and deep human value protection (We are Energy and We are Value) focuses on abundance of flows to all).
The Circular Humansphere should:
>>> help advance the Human Development model of Amartya Sen (adopted by the United Nations) by strengthening communities ‘s capabilities and choices. Communities anywhere in the world have the opportunity to live a life in full capacity if they experience strengthened capabilities and choices in every day activities;
Sketch 3: Managing resources wisely also means granting access to these stocks of resources. An Equitable Circular model that grants more access in a distributive manner would have a positive impact on communities as it will improve their capabilities and widen their choices to thrive. Granting access to resources in a distributive manner is also at the core of the HANDY Dynamics on the survival of civilizations.
“Of all stocks, human knowledge is the most important one but it needs high maintenance at all times”
The Circular Humansphere should:
>>> accelerate the reach to all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by developing our future economy in an inclusive and circular way, designing out all negative externalities. A caring-for-all ecosystemic framework that also makes business sense in a self-regenerative approach could be addressing not 6 or 7 SDG Goals but all of them at once;
Sketch 4: Applying the “Circular Thinking” into the social dimension would lead to a new model of life away from believing that greed, inequalities, poverty should exist in our human societies, the very same thinking that is helping us now stopping from believing that waste and pollution should have been part of the very same human societies. Getting a step further into changing our belief system could not only lead us to a regenerative model of life, but could definitely address all 17 Sustainable Development Goals more easily.
“In Nature, all beings have a role or a function to play to regenerate the biosphere. How is it that we have unemployment and poverty then?”
The Circular Humansphere could:
>>> be inserted within the Circular Economy as a way to innovate further with the resources and energies we have at hand. to ensure we design material circularity not to sell more services but to respond to needs with the objective of increasing human and non-human prosperity;
Sketch 5: Inserting The Circular Humansphere within the Circular Economy graph is mainly an opportunity to help us innovate further from a third dynamic stock of resources and from an endless source of distributive energies. Designing with the Humansphere in mind will help us design-for-empathy as an economy that is outcome-focused would need to experience its services from people’s viewpoint and feelings. The axis here shift towards sources of abundance, i.e. the Biosphere-Humansphere Nexus.
“Decoupling business and environmental impact is great. Adding societal impact on top is your unique selling point.”
The Circular Humansphere is a way to:
>>> help accelerate our reach into the Doughnut Economics’ Just Space for Humanity, besides the Safe Space one (Circular Economy). Working on both the Circular Economy and the Circular Humansphere in parallel or jointly, is a way to move us safely and in a just way to the common Space for Humanity;
Sketch 6: Moving into the Safe (Circular Economy) and Just (Circular Humansphere) Space for Humanity of Doughnut Economics is a suggestion to pave our ways to these better human conditions for all. Conceptualizing our economies as if waste and pollution should never have existed allows us to reach out to a Safe Space for Humanity more quickly, conceptualizing our societies as if inequality and poverty should have never existed will grant us access to a Just Space for Humanity, conceptualizing a community as if unborn generations would decide on our daily makings will diminish the risk of a rebound in our consumption patterns.
So it is about time to no longer talk about ‘Circular Economy 2.0’ but move on into the deeper co-creation of our new roles and functions within The Circular Humansphere in relation with all these thriving concepts related to life on Earth. The proposed three Safe Circular Principles remain a valid proposal together with a way to optimize circular value as a result of nicely designed regenerative designs focused on abundance of flows.
Sketch 7: The Circular Humansphere logo highlighting our connections with ecosystems on the left-side (We are Nature (the leaf)) and with a new model of life on the right-side (We are Energy (the energy symbol), We are Value (the heart)). This aims are rethinking about our roles or functions on Earth with the objective of preserving conditions conducive to all lives, human and non-human ones.
This model is based on the abilities for our societies to self-regenerate themselves following ecosystems’ rules. This is an open door for all of us to thrive again in a model which is based on abundance of flows (Nature + Humans embedded) away from scarcity (the disappearance of our resources due to greed, waste and pollution).
With this approach, The Circular Humansphere becomes the tool to design future regenerative societies.
For updates, follow #CircHumansphere @CircHumansphere or join us in the Linked In group ‘The Circular Humansphere’