100 days have passed since the COP26 summit in Glasgow and as we recover from another global catastrophe, the question remains as to what kind of planet we want to live on.
While Scotland’s goal of reaching zero emissions by 2045 is a start, it is not enough for many. In addition to the practical steps, one important thing is missing.
It’s a change of mindset around the way of life. Known as linear economics, it describes how we take resources from the earth, create new things, use them, and then waste them.
It is highly inefficient and natural resources behave as infinite, which they are not. This method is unsustainable and has devastating effects on the environment, from climate change to ocean plastics, mineral depletion and soil pollution, just to name a few.
The circular economy is a proposed alternative by which we design waste and pollution, consume as much material as possible, reuse and reclaim resources, and reproduce rather than destroy our natural environment. .
The circular economy path for agriculture – Alex Richie
This requires a completely new way of designing, in which the entire life cycle of the product is considered from the beginning. For this we can look at the efficiency of the natural world where everything feeds into something else.
For those unfamiliar with circular economics, this can be simplified in four basic principles:
One, turning waste into function. With careful design, there is no loss. Everything is designed to feed into something else, to get the maximum possible value out of each component material.
Two, designed to displace. This makes the product easier to repair and ultimately allows the raw material to be fully recovered, redesigned and reused as a new product.
Third, it is driven by renewable energy. In a circular economy, all energy must be generated from renewable sources: solar, wind and hydro technology.
Fourth, sharing and editing; Inquire about our current demand to personally own things and treat products, skills, space and resources as assets that can be rented or shared. It promotes a culture of repair, cycling and building and repairing and helps to eliminate impurities built inside.
Transitions away from the current linear economy require a change in how we think and use resources on a personal, social and global level. We must challenge old assumptions and be innovative about how things are created, from what, for what function, by whom and for how long.
The interesting thing to understand is that circular economics is better not only for the planet but also the economy. As by-products are no longer seen as a “waste” but as a valuable resource that can be reused, and technology increases the efficiency of renewable energy, this way of life will become easier.
The good news is that this shift in thinking is already happening here in Scotland, not only in board rooms but also in creative venues, studios and workshops.
Artists, designers and builders can help transition from a linear economy to a more circular economy because they are already thinking about it consistently. We are accustomed to using resources sparingly and imaginatively. And we know the materials, their capacity and their limitations.
In their advanced programs, the art organization Fife Contemporary acknowledges the role of designers, artists and creators. As part of a new exhibition called REsolve: Creative Approach to the Circular Economy, at Kirkcaldy Galleries, I have selected a number of experts who are actively involved in creative problem solving to make it sustainable. To create the future it is necessary to respect the limitations of the world. Resources and economic wealth are distributed fairly.
Many of these specialists work in Scotland today.
Waste from whiskey and gin extraction has been turned into modern furniture pieces by Draft Studios based in Dundee. The often abandoned wool of the Black Shevard sheep has been given a new lease of life by Janet Hughes, a designer of weaving and knitting garments. Jewel Stephanie Cheung looked around the house to find the semi-precious stones that could be exchanged in her interesting circles.
Glasgow-based artist Deedry Nelson took the Reformation Manifesto as her inspiration and Edinburgh’s Sarah Kalmos worked with renewable energy datasets to create a film work that reflects Scotland’s relationship with newcomers.
The summary for the solution is deliberately broadened as experts come up with new insights into what circular economics means to them.
The Dunblin-based Paul Ames sculpture Round and Round is inspired by the first powered flight in Scotland created by the Barnwell Brothers operating out of their workshop in Causeway Head, Sterling.
They used param wheels on that first plane and for Paul, the combination of invention, resource and adventure matched the human traits that propel us through new advances. The skills that help us cope with the challenges of climate change.
The exhibition is a small step towards changing our understanding of the circular economy. For those who can’t see the show in person, there is an online resource program on the Fife Contemporary website that I shared views and conversations with artists during the creation of the show.
There is also a wealth of resources and links for those who want to learn more about the circular economy. With that in mind I urge you after reading this article to commit to a small action that supports the circular economy.
It could be as simple as repairing this favorite pair of jeans, sharing your lawn mower with your neighbors, or deciding to build a solar panel system for your home.
Every little action has an impact and together we will build a stable future while embracing the creativity and ingenuity needed to enjoy a green Scotland.
Artist Mela Shaw is heading the exhibition solution: Creative Approach to the Circular Economy at the Kirkkaldi Gallery on May 8th. Visit www.fcac.co.uk to learn more.