What is a Circular Economy?

The Earth is the ultimate circular economy.  It is essentially a closed system where everything cycles and is regenerated and restored.  Insofar as we keep within that central concept, we are within the bounds of what is sustainable on the planet… because there is no choice.

The planet as a whole has a circular economy that is comprised of endless smaller circles.  We really only see a few and are oblivious to most of the circles; however,  if we break them, it can be fatal to our future.

Circles are healthy because they encourage accountability.  A farmer who takes care of his own fields is rewarded, as are his children.  The entire basis of civilization has been agreed upon laws protecting these circles.  Mainly because they work on a practical level.

Many national boundaries are natural: oceans, lakes, rivers, and so on.  The people within them adapted to their natural circular economies, and their cultures grew up with knowledge of those circles and their boundaries.  Countries that keep breaking their natural circular boundaries fail and their people become refugees.

Although as humans we believe in and adapt to our homes, and expect our governments to protect our traditional boundaries, there is a broad disconnect between governments and their people about whether we have a right to maintain historical boundaries.  This loss of our own circular economies is unnatural and breaks the national circle that we live in by agreement.

Once broken, there is no reinforcement that keeps people living in a way that is sustainable.  If corporations destroy our country’s agricultural system in favor of shipments from across the globe to increase their profits… we lose ability to feed ourselves and the population feedback that gives us.

What happens locally when there is unrestrained movement of people who break their own circular economy?  Globally, we are seeing massive movement towards coalescing in economies that are not broken.  Problem is that 7 billion people cannot move to Britain, France, Canada, Germany, Australia, United States, and so on, and live sustainability.  It breaks the receiving country’s circular economy.

In the face of these destabilizing circular economies within my own state and country, I know that my own circular economy is at the same risk.

I look at my 5 acre property to determine what is possible for me to create here: can I create shelter from what is available?  Can I eat from what grows on my land?  Do I have fresh water available?  In truth, I can come quite close to doing just that.  My small circular economy is fairly complete and I can close any gaps, with time.

One thing I need from my larger circle is government-acceptable housing.  This is the biggest barrier in the US to living in a sustainable way on land.  There is massive regulation of US housing that is unknown in large parts of the world.  More nations are following the western lead in this matter, but still allow poor people to make their small modest homes.  It provides a level of social stability in the face of extreme income inequality worldwide.

In the United States, we have rising poverty and income inequality that now mirrors poorer countries.  Of the various ways I have seen this addressed, families living together at higher densities is becoming common.  Multigenerational homes have been the norm worldwide, but are gaining popularity in the US as more people are without stable income.  However, while in Mexico I might see 35 related people living openly in one five bedroom home, each bedroom holding a subfamily… this is illegal in many municipalities in the US.

At one point my son’s neighbor had 11 relatives living with his family of five.  In a standard 4 bedroom suburban home, a bit much by American standards and illegal in my son’s community.  They eventually moved out when all were employed again.  They were also lucky to have someone take them in and neighbors that didn’t report.

Our “recovered” economy has about one-half million homeless today, and many are children.  No official numbers, but there are 90 or so tent cities in New York City alone, and tent cities all across our country with unemployed people having minimal shelter.

Our housing laws are so draconian, it is hard for people to buy an inexpensive property and build their own homes, like my father and his father did.  We lived in one room for several years with no bathroom but the outhouse.  Before that it was a camp trailer.  We bathed in the kitchen sink.  That is no longer legal in most of this country.  The tortoise way is how we ended up with a two story home and no mortgage.  The rabbit gets a 30 year mortgage that cannot be paid off without stable income.  I would not prohibit either way, but the tortoise is one illegal little guy over most of this nation.

As the economy continues to provide fewer jobs than applicants… how are we going to reconcile these problems?  How are we going to reconcile this lack of employment with millions of illegal immigrants?  With millions of legal immigrants?

I have heard all the blather about unemployed Americans but… they are ours and we do not have a social net designed to take care of increasing numbers of unemployed.  Congress just voted a social net for incoming Syrians while half a million Americans live on the street.  Not popular with the people of this country.

If minimum wage is all there is for many working poor, then why are we continuing to pass harsher laws against any life they could create?  I grew up poor in a poor area.  We worked hard together and built a house on land we bought.  I remember being treated well at school and our family was respectable.

Our people are disposable to global megacorporations… can we go back to an older form where it is legal to buy land and build our own shelter?  To collect drinking water in cisterns like early settlers?  To create small home businesses legally?

The elemental truth is that global megacorporations have passed laws forcing us to buy their services, and in doing so forced us into decades of slavery to their jobs.  We have complied with each restriction.  Since they now throw us away as worthless to them… can we now throw the rules out that require us to purchase their goods?

Keeping rules made by those who have already moved on is not sustainable for those who have been discarded.  Increasing welfare and refusing people the right to become self-sustaining is also not sustainable.  Let’s create a new way forward.

About rebeccatreeseed

I am a naturalist raised by naturalists. Treeseed is my earned name, while Rebecca is my birth name. I am of Northern European descent, with a quarter Irish.quarter thrown in. I suspect I was a product of northern invaders into Ireland into Ireland. but hard to say since DNA disproved the family story about Apache blood! I have found some odd ancestors to replace them. Last year I bought 5 acres of pinyon-juniper forest on the side of a mountain in Santa Fe County, New Mexico. I am fulfilling a lifetime dream of a cabin in the mountains and a food forest that will feed me and local wildlife. I want to share this new phase of my life with others that might be interested.
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9 Responses to What is a Circular Economy?

  1. Helen says:

    I think in Britain there are also laws about how many people can occupy a room – and what gender they can be (eg not brothers and sisters over the age of 10). I think the law is made for the benefit of people, though, rather than businesses.

    On the other hand, the government here seems more and more self-seeking, so who knows what will happen next…. I am one of the ‘lucky’ ones in that I could get a mortgage instead of having to rely on renting (no more landlord’s workmen walking on my bed with their dirty boots, coming in unannounced and helping themselves to the contents of my kitchen cupboards….).

    • Hi Helen, I know what you mean, but I think you have a stronger social net than we do, at least that is what is said here. Do you have a lot of homeless? Our homeless cannot get government assistance, and there is a lot of resistance to it. Most of our laws in the US were promulgated by big businesses. But how does it help someone to say they cannot live in one room if their alternative is the street? It requires extensive social net for that. Something has to give for people to make a life.

      • Helen says:

        Yes, the social provisions for people are better here. The government we have now is trying to do away with it all but there is a lot of resistance. In fact, in the last few weeks the public defeated the government on a major issue.

        There is homelessness – both visible and hidden. I’ve been homeless myself (including twice with my child). I never had to sleep on the streets because I was taken in by my parents and friends (even if that meant sleeping on the sofa). And I doubt very much that anyone in this country would report anyone for having ‘overcrowding’, unless it was extreme and it was leading to antisocial behaviour in the neighbourhood.

      • It is harder when you have a child and it all falls apart. My hardest times with a child… the economy still provided me with a job. Now? I thank God I can retire, even if it means doing everything slowly.

      • Helen says:

        The social net doesn’t provide housing if you have a good job, are a student… So availability is part of the equation without doubt. On the other hand, it just shows that in spite of all of our advances in the end it comes down to people working together and offering their hand. Something unfortunately which the powers that be seem determined to destroy (even if not consciously).

      • Our middle class jobs have decreased by 900,000 in the last few years and low paying jobs have increased. Corporate welfare and tax breaks for the extremely wealthy have increased. Breaks for the bottom have decreased, like food stamps. We all need a garden and to extend a hand. My old garden could feed a lot of people, this new one is still too new. I feel bad for that. I used to help through my church but haven’t had enough produce yet. Ah well, 4 raised beds will help.

      • Helen says:

        Yes, and hopefully others will help, too!

  2. micelle2014 says:

    Thank you Rebecca for this well formulated argument and article. We are experiencing many of these social problems in South Africa as well. We are also seeking sustainable solutions to these pressing issues. I am sharing your article with my FB friends.

    • I appreciate your commeny. It is hard to know what to do. Of course we cannot find solutions if we don’t talk about the problems. I love input! More ideas are the best, and the US has few social nets. I am lucky that I earned money during better times.

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