CIRCULAR ECONOMY = CRADLE TO CRADLE = VIRTIOUS CIRCLE
Opposite / derogative form of the Arabic/Persian rooted term “Facet Circle”, which is generally used as a jargon in economics and also known as ‘barren circle’ in our modern times, is hardly ever used in Turkish.
Facet is an Arabic attribute meaning “perverse, immoral” (1). Whereas the role of the term Circle in this concept is a referral to “a curve formed by a constellation of any number of points placed at the same distance and plane”. As we all know it, that curve is enclosed and therefore does not permit for any linear motions (whether forward or backward) and thus only allows for the space on that given plane to be narrowed or enlarged. Unless criticized within its own specific conditions, no proposals for any linear notions as being “good or bad” can be made, since the contrast’s itself is not a direct result of principal cause. In day today usage of this term by the ordinary folk, the meaning of the word facet when used in sociological / cultural terms is supplemented by the word barren that refers to a monotonous circle. But, being barren does not mean facet (perverse, immoral) under all circumstances. Because what is “facet” may not be barren at all times (for example, a linear progressing economy despite the nature itself). Hence, the actual meaning of this word could have only been referring to the term vicious if the same was used as and economic jargon, for the same term is used in definition of economic states of developing countries since their actual economic developments always and each time ends up at the very same spot where it had initially started.
Indeed, in English language, the said economic jargon is used along with its counterpart term as “Virtuous Circle and Vicious Circle”. In those two opposing terms, the word “circle” refers to a specific meaning that would be explained as “complex chain of events that reinforce itself through a feedback loop that is made of parts which are connected to / depended upon each other” (2). Therefore, the Vicious Circle is the exact correspondence of the term facet circle as used in Turkish, with exact correspondence of the word vicious as facet (bad / defaulted or even faulty / with bad intend - vicious, but never barren).
On the other hand the meaning of the word “Virtuous” as used in the term “Virtuous Circle” means “meritorious; righteous, scrupulous”. Hence, in our language, a specific usage of the said term (Virtuous circle) does not exist in neither direct nor indirect manner. So, just like it is the case with the rest, we hardly use that term, which is a term refers to economics mostly, in our daily sociological / cultural communication and similar other walks of our lives: Worse, we haven’t got a clue about it! Despite the fact that the terms “sustainability” and Cradle to Cradle that have been gradually making their ways into our spoken-language as well as our conscious minds, actual roots of their meaning lie within that term “virtuous circle”; it is in fact the actual self! Though this is the case, actual content of that very term, which we are yet to bring it down into our day to day social and cultural lives just like the other / opposite, does not mean anything to us. On the other hand, it will be rather unfair to call it as being alienated and/or becoming marginalized for only the defined and declared terms / definitions could transformed and therefore what we are not aware of do not “exist” at all.
Our planet (and perhaps, or even the universe as a whole) has been going through that virtuous circle. We, the human beings, as part of our planet, have done almost all we possibly could (unconsciously?) to impair that circle… for centuries. It is, and would be, really difficult to foresee how that all we have done so far; particularly, since the second half of the 18th Century of industrial revolution to date, will take its place in our history and evaluated by future generations. Human beings, having realized the necessity of copying the nature and creatures in it, as well as copying the systems, elements etc. (biomimetics / biomimicry) centuries ago, learnt or realized far too late the fact, or simply ignored due to his weakness or incapability in terms of scientific / technologic terms, that himself is a part of this nature and therefore he had no other option but to adopt and copy those actual circling aspects of the nature that nature herself used for and in its production methods. Well, what is now obvious that the best response to this issue will be given by our future generations?
One of the widely recognized examples to biomimicry is the research made by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) on anatomical structure of birds. Though never flown in real sense, drawings of first “flying machine” in history were made by da Vinci. On the other hand, Hezârfen Ahmed Çelebi (1609 - 1640), a 17th Century Turkish Muslim scientist, is the first person to fly by wings he had developed (from 1623 to 1640). It is said that both Leonardo da Vinci and Hezarfen Ahmed Çelebi were inspired by İsmail Cevheri, a 10th century Turkish Muslim scientist (3).
Wright brothers, who successfully managed to build the first flying machine (1903), were too inspired by their observations of birds flying. Leaving aside many more prior and later examples to that matter, we can now say that one of the most important inventions of our recent times is the discovery in 2002 of that highly-capable of sticking feet of an animal called gecko and copying of that ability which was a breakthrough in biomimicry / biomimetics especially in fields of sports, health, defense industry and nanotechnology (4). Though initially named by Otto Herbert Schmitt during the 50’s (5), as far as the biomimicry / biomimetics concerned, human being has always “copied the biological structural aspects of nature in all technological fields” since the very first day that his journey to civilization has began (6).
Life’s itself on our planet holds the most magnificent example to that “virtuous circle”. So magnificent and so virtuous it is that even the crocodile’s tears do not go to waste, but provides nutrition for bees, butterflies and many other insect types (7). Though we have been discovering something new “in that circle” on a day to day basis, why on earth we consciously ignore to see the basic aspect of that circle; the virtuousness, all the while trying to copy each and every one of those miracles in that circle?
Though initial step to reduce the amount of waste that is acceptable was implemented by the “The Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA)” passed by USA Congress in 1965 (8), same issue was first brought to attention in Europe by a Swedish architect Walter Stahel (9) and by a research report published by Genevieve Reday that was submitted to European Commission in Brussels in 1976. In that report titled “The Potential for Substituting Manpower for Energy”, authors talked about a draft economic model named circular economy whereby the authors outlined their views on creation of employment, economic competition, preservation of natural sources and prevention of waste, which was later published as a book in 1982 under the title of "Jobs for Tomorrow, the Potential for Substituting Manpower for Energy”. Certain aspects mentioned in that book, namely; ecology, economics and social conformity, refers to those three basic factors now accepted as critical for sustainable development of our modern times (10).
Published in 1987, in a report titled “Economic Strategies of Durability – longer product-life of goods as waste prevention strategy”, the authors of the report prove that the economic actors adopting the methods of circular economy are in fact better off in terms of achieving higher profit margins than of those adopting throughput economy (a linear economic method based upon the quantity of products manufactured at any given time).
As a reaction to above-mentioned report, some specialists in 1987, by implementing the advantages of it being already compatible with the throughput economy/linear economic model, have come up with an alternative method named circular (loop) economy which they simply referred to as from cradle to grave. Stahel persistently claimed that a really sustainable solution was to manufacture durable goods that repeated and renewed themselves as defined under that cradle back to cradle model. During those times when this method was being discussed, Stahel delivered speeches at various conferences in Germany which were also attended by a German chemist named Michael Braungart where the two exchanged ideas and expressed in despair that they were only going against the tide without much success (10).
Born in 1958, Michael Braungart is a German chemist (11). Upon completing his PhD studies back in 1985 at Hanover University, he headed Greenpeace Chemistry department that was also established by him under the Greenpeace umbrella previously (12). Later in 1987, he also established EPEA (the Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency) in Hamburg under Greenpeace Chemistry (13).
A year later; in 1988, EPEA left the Greenpeace umbrella. Having set out to introduce, expand and set out application basis of Cradle to Cradle Design, which claimed that in design processes of products and systems the biomimetic methods should be adopted (14), EPEA as a non-profit organization has been carrying on with its activities to day. Cradle to Cradle is a registered trademark registered by and for the name of a consulting company titled McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC). In 2002 Braungard and an American architect William McDonough has published a book titled “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” and a manifest titled cradle to cradle design in which they explained in detail the ways and means of how that model may be brought in to life for implementation.
A non-detailed, basic inquiry held in to the history of the human being would show that he has always been aware of the fact that he had to first observe, copy and set an example of the nature -even during those times when the science had nothing to offer and technology non-existent- in order to raise the quality of his living standards and solve the problems. Indeed, we realize that means, ways and methods of manufacturing surely cannot be identical on a one-to-one basis; having such hopes would be nothing but wishes thinking! But, wouldn’t it be desirable if the same was at least within the capability of what the science and technology has on offer for us? Why on earth we are so late in realizing that manufacturing process should be implemented in accordance with the ways, means and capability of Virtuous Circle principles? What is so tragicomic is that the said realization is still a theoretical stance, with just a handful of self-volunteered people and organizations actually trying to practice it. First thing that will come to mind of a person who may read a phrase saying something like “There is disrespectful rough attacks against the nature throughout all stages of manufacturing; right from the actual acquisition of raw materials to implementation of ways, means and methods of manufacturing processes!”, would never ever be himself, but any one of those thousands of industrial establishments! That is just that typical subconscious defense mechanism of an ordinary everyday folk, who never bothered to dispose of the plastic, paper, glass, metal and similar waste in separate bags and never turned off the tap while washing his teeth: It’s them, NOT me!..
Human is the one and only enemy both to own kind and all other creatures as well as to nature as a whole. Indeed, it is because of his very genetic structure that makes it almost impossible for him to maintain his life within the principles of Virtuous Circle: He simply turns a blind eye to concepts that call for or refers to such virtuous forms of living; he excludes and never utilizes that call! As shown by the scientific investigations, societies could only be defined by the words and terms that are used in their common languages; this is one of the ways and means of evaluating the humanity as a whole. In that sense, it is a typical, paradoxical attitude of the human being, to expect the answer for that term, which is almost non-blended into our socio-cultural life as societies, from the capital owners who are naturally only involved in the economics of the life.
Cradle to Cradle philosophy, therefore, displays a resistance, a stance against the vicious circle in the field of economics, and hence encourages the players in the field of economics to join and take part in Virtuous Circle movement. However, though not so much in theoretical but especially in practical sense, that is just an encouragement / philosophy / approach that is aimed at the very tip of the pyramid, and therefore it somewhat makes me feel that it in fact aims to redesign the much needed social changes from top to bottom. Whereas the history proofs that this is an impossible struggle for all such attempts have only ended up in the dark pages of history. And anyway, we simply don’t need to dive deep into the pages of history; tracing the rising of Cradle to Cradle philosophy from its initial roots to date will suffice to simply proof this thesis; despite all that time that lapsed since then, it just cannot be claimed that it has now settled in the conscious of the consumers.
Even though we deemed that Industrial Revolution began in the year of 1800 as opposed to 1750, the very first Virtuous Circle movement that I was able to trace (put aside a law which was passed by the American Congress in 1965) is a research report published in 1976; 176 years later to be precise! Beside, almost 38 years elapsed since that movement has begun; ones who were born in that year are now almost middle aged people with kids. Plus, the actual founding members are still alive. I don’t even wish to begin thinking how they might be feeling today when they question the place of Circular Economy model (as known today as cradle to cradle philosophy) in the consciousnesses of the people, for which they spent a lifetime.
It is obvious that there are things that have been stirring in the consciousness of the consumers in USA and Europe, where there are now questions in minds and some changes in consumer attitudes… but, that is not good enough, since what the movement needs a through, proper start from the bottom on a worldwide scale. But as it seems even the majority of the intellectuals are either unaware of the issue or just acting in ignorance. It is simply because that this movement is seen as something beyond the people and therefore it is an economic trend to be enacted solely between the states and holdings. That philosophy is even referred to as the “Second industrial revolution”. Yes, we could accept it as a trend; a categorical classification termed as “before and after C2C” may not be so unacceptable after all… but it is surely not the second industrial revolution the way it stands today since there are those basic contradicting issues / parameters we would like to briefly explain as follows:
(First) Industrial Revolution was made for people despite the people; it was a movement (process) planned and led by the state supported by the state incentives, during which the lives of British people were turned upside down and social explosions were occurred. Though the lives of those generations were screwed up, the planning (of that revolution) was perfect: the humanity had won. It had all begun despite the people, but it had not been against the people; it was only against the nature for in those days the nature was not a consideration. We have just begun to realize that “real loser” in that is nothing but the nature itself: this is typical of the revolutions, for they are a win-lose systems that never lasts forever.
But now, the more we dry out the life lines of nature, the more the nature dries out our life lines in return… it is taking its revenge. We have been going through an infertile process where both the nature and human stand to lose. Therefore, C2C simply cannot be a revolution (e.g. the second industrial revolution) in that sense for C2C is not despite (against) the people: during its initial stages a generation of people are not sacrificed at all. On the contrary, it requires to be made under the state’s leadership with state incentives but volunteered cooperation of people; it is not “for people despite the people”. C2C is not against the nature; it is for the “nature”… it is an apology, a peace pipe offered to the loser. In that sense C2C cannot be a revolution since there is not a losing side and it simply aimed at for winning of both sides. C2C is a peace call in between the human and nature with its win-win philosophy.
C2C is neither an innovation that would be considered a breakthrough like in the case of innovation of wheel, nor the discovery of America. It is never like the nanotechnology that is a breakthrough in science. Manufacturing and industrial use of the material called is certainly a revolution, and humanity is set to see the biggest of all industrial revolutions by the actual manufacturing of quantum computers in near future. Whatever the concept may be, C2C is not a revolution, but an “awakening”.
As said above, for C2C having been simply seen an economic trend (beyond people) solely among the states (and holdings), game makers in the field of economics (states / capital owners / R&D groups...) are recognized as the dynamics of change, all the while the intellectual parties are satisfied by just discussing the subject matter and some conscious individuals are on the wait without creating any pressures on their claims. Whereas the state authority cannot push for such an economical model by adopting laws and regulations, but can only urges for it and implements necessary measures. Even if the players taking part in the chain of manufacturing wish to initialize a transformation by reaching a mutual agreement as a whole, they would facing a number of challenges from capital and demand to scientific and/or technologic incapability. Some of the companies, that are already have the scientific / technologic infrastructure for manufacturing of products and deciding to move ahead on their own accord, will not be able to reflect those initial transformation costs into their retail sale prices for they would have a rough ride (or cease to exist) in a competitive market for the levels of existing demand will be substantially low. If we are to consider the establishments as living organisms like humans, why should they take on risks (even though the same will become profitable on the long run, as proved in circular economy model)?
Even a brief observations held into America and European countries is satisfactory (to me) to show that unless the principles of those Circular Economy or Cradle to Cradle philosophy (whichever we may prefer to call it) are accepted by the lower layers of the society as a whole, it will get nowhere and remain a theory forever. And, as far as Turkey is concerned, I see it as a very challenging, even an impossible task to get our society to come to grasps with that philosophy under the name of C2C.
Unless we succeed in persuading people around us to lead an environment friendly life totally integrated with nature by the implementation of the ways and means of virtuous living circle, and further persuade them to believe that they must so request at all times, then I think that actual contents of this term shall never reach beyond “intellectual layers”, while the actual “practice” of it will only be attributable to “very strong brand names”.
Unless we free our minds of that sickening thought that “the environment as a whole is a kind of concession granted to us to muck about with”, unless we become fully aware that we are an inseparable part of the nature and therefore we must immediately stop damaging it before it is really too late, and unless we adopt the idea as a principal that we should not contaminate the environment while benefiting from it, and unless we find ways of recycling all our waste in manufacturing processes.... unless we stop cutting off the branch of life we sit upon, unless we stop drifting into that barren circle... and, unless we, as a whole, learn to recycle and manufacture by the rules of C2C philosophy, then I’m afraid that, we; as human beings, will cause our own DNA’s going through a mutation as our own nano waste to only get mixed into the water, air and earth!
Özlem (Yan) Devrim
Endüstri Ürünleri Tasarımcısı / Trend Uzmanı
Translated by Ersan Devrim