Circular Economy is the Way Forward for Human Race

COP27 has just ended while the global conversation on the way forward is continuing. This article is written to highlight the importance of a circular economy for our common good and future (https://www.stewardshipasia.com.sg/knowledge/publications/circular-economy-way-forward-human-race)
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The human race is thriving on planet Earth, the only known abode in the vast universe!  The United Nations (UN) indicated that the total human population reached 8 billion on 15 November 2022, and is slated to reach 10 billion by mid-century. It is insightful to note that the human population was two billion about a hundred years ago; 300 million in 1 A.D; and the modern Homo sapiens appeared about 50,000 B.C.

Another side to the same coin i.e. thriving human race is degrading the Earth’s nature. As per the UN Convention to Combat Desertification up to forty percent of the Earth’s land area is degraded by deforestation and erosion.  Earth’s nature is declining at an unprecedented rate, and threatening the sustainability of the human race.  Nature provides essential services such as pollination for crops, water, food, energy, and carbon sequestration.  The organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that nature services are worth up to $140 trillion which is much more than the $ 96 trillion world economy or global gross domestic product.   Hence, humans must not take nature for granted and make transformative efforts to regenerate and sustain it for themselves and future generations.

Earth’s nature is a circular system.  It operates like a circular economy wherein everything becomes a source for something else.  It maintains equilibrium among the non-human systems via reusing | repurposing | and regeneration.  In order to satisfy their own needs and demands, humans devised a linear economy approach wherein resources from nature are taken, manufactured, used, and discarded.  Since the industrial revolution in 1765, humans vigorously pursued a linear economy so as to benefit in terms of productivity, time-efficiency, cost, aesthetics, and convenience.  The speediness of linear economy is prized over the slow processes of nature.  Growing consumerism worldwide is gratified with the linear economy.  The damaging effects of the linear economy on Earth’s nature are becoming increasingly evident.  They include accumulation of pollution and solid waste, erosion of land, biodiversity loss, resource depletion and associated cost increases, contamination of the food chain and water, and adverse effects on human health.  The only way forward for the human race is to emulate nature and pursue a circular economy, which is an economic system that uses a systemic approach to maintain a circular flow of resources, by regenerating, retaining, or adding to their value, while contributing to sustainability development.  In other words, the circular economy is a tighter-loop system that targets towards zero waste and pollution throughout material | product life cycles.  This can be understood from the example of ubiquitous electrical and electronic products without which the thriving digital products and services underpin our modern living cease to exist.  The circular economy approach for this sector reduces the need for extracting virgin raw materials from nature.  Singapore introduced Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) in 2021 under the Resource Sustainability Act.  Makers and suppliers of laptops, personal computers, and smartphones are required to collect 20 percent of the weight of devices they supply to the market for recycling.  A higher target 60% is set for large appliances such as TVs, refrigerators, and display systems.  The circular economy approach also involves reducing, repairing, remanufacturing, repurposing, regeneration, durability, and new business models, which help to reduce the overall carbon footprint and material footprint.  Diverse economic sectors such as textiles, plastics, cement, steel, aluminum, food, agriculture, energy, infrastructure, buildings and decoration, transportation, trade, finance, sports, recreation, entertainment, cosmetics, healthcare, and culture could leverage the benefits of the circular economy approach. The circular economy approach can be practiced by an individual, family, community, society, institution, organization, economic sector, region, and country.  OECD, World Economic Forum, World Bank, and Ellen McArthur Foundation (https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/topics/circular-economy-introduction/overview) forecast economic growth opportunities and millions of new jobs. 

Awareness leads to new mental frameworks and models. Better leadership practices at the personal level as well as organizational (family | group | community | society | institution) levels, emerge when a person’s mental frameworks and models are updated, refined, and well-considered. The circular economy is a new mental framework, and should be embraced for the progress as well as the survival of the human race on planet Earth! In nutshell, good stewardship involves a circular economy mindset in all endeavors at all times.  

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