New Name - the "Circular Economy"
Yesterday I received an invitation to register for a seminar course being hosted by the Judge School of Business, Cambridge. With a registration fee of 2,000 pounds I'll give it a pass but it does sound intriguing if somewhat familiar.
The circular economy is about replacing neoclassical economics with a more sustainable, more regulated economy in which growth is modulated in favour of renewal. Instead of building products such as household appliances or smart phones to be consumed and discarded, design them to be remanufactured, upgraded and returned to service.
The focus is on curbing quantitative growth and, instead, putting our energies and resources into qualitative growth. Engineer for future upgrading. Engineer for extended utility and enjoyment. In this process diminish mankind's burden on the planet, our biosphere.
If that sounds familiar, it is. It is one of the core tenets of "steady state" economics or "low growth" economics in which growth is focused on greater knowledge, not greater production.
It may not be a new idea but it has fresh immediacy. When the steady state economic model was floated we were still very much in the Holocene. We still had room to grow. The urgency for a circular economy was less obvious. It was a hypothetical theory. The circumstances today differ greatly from the days when steady state was a mere musing.
Maybe we're starting to catch on.