Do we really want to ‘go back to normal’? 3: the environment

“Fifty years after the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, we need to revisit the ‘environmental policy’ paradigm because it … is meeting its limits in contributing to resolving the grand challenges of the 21st century.”

Energy and environment technologies have been named as one of seven priority focus areas of the UK’s new Innovation Strategy.

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As we come to the end of a first week of ‘going back to normal’, we need to also be looking at the bigger picture and ask what sort of ‘new normal’ we want.

For example, in crucial areas of how we run our economy:

Do we really want to ‘go back to normal’? 1: the future of work – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Do we really want to ‘go back to normal’? 2: the hospitality industry – Vision Group for Sidmouth

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Certainly over the past eighteen months, there has been a lot of thinking going on about how we treat the planet:

How has a year of lockdown changed our environment? – Vision Group for Sidmouth

To take some particular examples from the last eighteen months:

Covid, the environment and the spread of zoonotic diseases – Vision Group for Sidmouth

How is Devon doing on the environment and climate change? – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Beyond ‘doomism’: offering a vision for the environment – Vision Group for Sidmouth

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So, are we hurtling towards oblivion, or are we looking at some sort of paradigm shift?

There are certainly great efforts being made – with farmers, for instance:

The UK wastes millions of tonnes of food every year: here’s how we can change that

Climate Change special report: How farmers are trying to make a difference | ITV News Calendar

There are new technologies constantly being developed:

Scientists develop an ‘iron-air’ battery that stores electricity for days | Daily Mail Online

And today, the government published its Innovation Strategy, which includes serious funding for ‘green technology’:

Innovation Strategy: UK Government bets on nature-based climate solutions

Energy and environment technologies have been named as one of seven priority focus areas of the UK’s new Innovation Strategy, designed to increase annual public R&D to a record £22bn…

The Innovation Strategy is one of the many policy documents the Climate Change Committee (CCC) had been pushing the Government to launch ahead of Parliament’s summer recess, which begins today. Its publication follows on from the Transport Decarbonisation Plan last week, but the Heat and Buildings Strategy has been pushed back to autumn. At the time of writing, there is a still a chance that the Hydrogen Strategy may be published before the recess begins.

Innovation Strategy: UK Government bets on nature-based climate solutions and CCUS

Government launches Innovation Strategy | The Engineer The Engineer

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But what about a shift in how we think about the environment?

There has indeed been some serious thought from the last year and a half.

Here’s a very stimulating piece asking those fundamental questions:

The future of ‘environmental’ policy in the Anthropocene: time for a paradigm shift

What is the future of ‘environmental’ policy in times of earth system transformations and the recognition of the ‘Anthropocene’ as a new epoch in planetary history? I argue that fifty years after the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, we need to revisit the ‘environmental policy’ paradigm because it falls short on five grounds

…the ‘environmental policy’ paradigm is meeting its limits in contributing to resolving the grand challenges of the 21st century.

Full article: The future of ‘environmental’ policy in the Anthropocene: time for a paradigm shift

And to think in a joined-up way, one area which will need a serious shift in thinking and direction is the economy – and how it must work with the environment.

Here’s one specific area which is gaining ground:

Paradigm Shift: Conceptualizing the circular economy

Paradigm shift (n): a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions.

In our natural world, all physical matter revolves in an infinite cycle of restoration and regeneration. There is no waste in biological systems, only secondary resources. It therefore makes sense that our global economy — a system we recognize as a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment — should be harmonious with its larger ecological system, yet this is not the case. Our linear, take-make-waste platform, which may have been practical when resource scarcity was a distant concern, requires a paradigm shift. Given that there are no good choices in a bad system, the transition to alignment — to a circular economy — must happen now.

Paradigm Shift: Conceptualizing the circular economy | Greenbiz

Paradigm Shift – PYXERA Global

Circularity in the built environment: a call for a paradigm shift : Handbook of the Circular Economy

   
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