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Is a circular economy actually a new idea?

I found an article about the development of a circular economy in a community in the Amazon. The community has helped revive populations of two endangered species by turning the waste from one activity into a resource for another.

They have done this with non-governmental organizations, universities, and companies. Which got me thinking, is a circular economy a westernized version of what used to happen in Indigenous communities before they were subjected to colonization?

It seems like populations who lived with nature, something that Western culture can’t really conceive of, did and do consider how waste from one area can be used in another. Take an elk as an example, it gets hunted for meat for food, but if we are only focused on food, elements like the animal’s skin and fur would be waste. But they can be used for other tasks like creating blankets.

So, here’s the thing. We now have a situation where local communities, under pressure from globalization are struggling to maintain their traditional economies. They are confronted with choices like selling their local forests in order to meet basic needs. But, with the help of some outsiders they are able to adopt a western version of something that may, in fact, be a pretty traditional approach.

This is my musings, but it reminds me how important it is for us to listen to Indigenous communities and elders. They may not use the same words to describe things as we choose in Western culture, but that isn’t important. It is important that we recognize all ways of interacting with the world.

About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.


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