Human health is intrinsically related to environmental health. That is perhaps one of the most valuable lessons to be learned from the Covid19 pandemic; which has proven to be a manifestation of the earlier published conclusion that pointed out climate change as a potential factor for the emergence of pattern transitions in spatial epidemics . At the same time, the research alerted that climate change had big influences on biological systems, including epidemic virus and their host population structure . In other words, the pandemic made evident how intertwined it is the relationship between the environment, climate change, and public health.
That is why the same oath that the medical doctors take should be sworn by anyone responsible for designing, planning, and managing production and consumption systems and processes.
‘First, do no harm!’
This is a fundamental element of the morality behind the Cradle to Cradle philosophy which through circularity and eco-effectiveness aims to achieve industrial processes where: “With proper design of products, processes, and development, we no longer have to feel bad about being here. Alternatively, we can even be proud of our big, healthy footprints!” . For many centuries now, this part of the Hippocratic Oath, which medical doctors and physicians take when initiating medical practice, has guided ethical medical practice. If this norm, would get integrated into economic development, a large portion of industrial activity would get primed to avoid consuming natural resources and energy to an extent that is unsustainable.
Although it still may be insufficient as a basis for policymaking and “dangerously naïve” for allegedly seeing no conflict between sustainability and unlimited growth , while moving from ‘doing things right’ (efficiency) towards working on the right things (effectiveness), Cradle to Cradle approach does provide a shift in the mindset that is needed to go beyond compliance and beyond the ‘less bad’ solutions.
It is a new vision of economic development that is beneficial for the local economy, environment, and society in the short and long-term. What I particularly find useful about this vision is that it adopts a more active approach to dealing with the anthropocentric impact on the environment. It calls for learning to live with the planet and becoming native to the place we inhabit. And that is something we have forgotten to do.
For many decades now, globalization has driven the economy based on ignoring externalities and focusing entirely on maximizing the short term economic benefit. This process is ingrained within the same axis around which the organization of labor and the exploitation of nature spin simultaneously to provide the illusion of infinite economic growth. Together, they function as a reinforcing loop that eventually ends-up creating commodities to the detriment of the health of the life-sustaining systems.
We produce and consume things without the full accountability for the stocks and flows that provide resources and energy for their manufacturing. That is why seeing commodities from the perspective of all the relations that provide them helps to establish effective production processes and mindful consumption practices. This vision is systemic and, thanks to it, circular economy and its cradle to cradle vision of materiality provide many functional solutions to avoid the ecological crash, while still ensuring that we secure enough resources for our societies to function and develop.
Circular economy places focus on closing, narrowing, and slowing the material loops. The effectiveness of its processes relies upon the careful mapping of all physical components of interrelated systems that provide commodities and services. In order to scale-up the impact of these processes to drive a more significant environmental impact, infrastructures should bring industries closer. They should facilitate synergetic and symbiotic productive relationships.
The same as a forest is more productive when the trees are closer together; the economy is more sustainable when companies are closer together. This closeness provides conditions for synergetic and symbiotic productive relationships, where waste is being minimized, and the efficiency of the energy use maximized.
The best way to achieve it is through closer collaboration between sectors and industries. Therefore, an important part of the ‘First, do no harm’ oath should rely upon recognizing that:
- NO COMPANY CAN BE SUSTAINABLE ON IT’S OWN.
- COMPANY CAN ONLY BE SUSTAINABLE LOCALLY.
But first, anyone who has the responsibility in producing and supplying commodities should begin seeing them as relationships between society and environment and be sworn under the same oath medical doctors and physicians are sworn:
‘First, do no harm!’
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