Shortfalls within our linear economy!

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

Hey there! Welcome to Thoughtful Thursdays brought you by Circular Business Podcast India: I'm your podcast host Sreepriya Sridharan.

Are you someone who believes that an economic growth is very much possible without environmental degradation? If so, then guess what? You are going to be intrigued by the thoughts I will share today. Before we dive in, let's first understand how the India economy operates today. The world around us is built on a vast array advanced technologies. The dawn of the Modern era began with the Industrial Revolution, research and development continued and with the onset of World War II automation made significant strides. 

Automation led to mass production, mass production reduced manufacturing times, and also reduced cost per unit. Automation eventually made manual labor much more affordable than at any point in history. Additionally, the once domestic or local supply chains continued chugging forward to the global supply chains of today, bringing products and services from around the world to our doorsteps.

Not too long ago, many of us were of the opinion that the supply of raw materials was limitless and that the pollution and toxic byproducts of mining and transforming these resources into consumer goods was simply a price we paid for progress. Now, this idea, the whole process relied on a linear economic model, of take, make and dispose. We mine finite resources from the earth’s surface, spend enormous amounts of (non-renewable) energy to transform those resources into consumer products. Finally, the product is distributed to the consumer who uses the product until it is no longer of service or interest to her and tosses the product when its useful-life is through for the original consumer. 

What other uses could there be for this product? How much more life of the raw materials used to manufacture the discarded product could now only be sitting in a landfill for hundreds of years to come? How many of you think there could be a better operating system available?

Now, pause - observe your surroundings. How was the vast majority of the items around you as you read this post manufactured? Today, most of the sophisticated equipment, gadgets and even clothing that we purchase and fill our lives with is manufactured using principles of the afore mentioned linear model.

With a global population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, the finite resources we excessively use today simply will not be enough to satisfy the global demand of a ballooning population. Undoubtedly the industrial revolution has helped improve the lifestyles of billions of people and countless communities across the globe; however, we cannot blind ourselves to the realities that comes with an increasing population and never-ending demand.

Think about this - Can you avoid disposing even one item for a single day? Wet waste, dry waste, packaged goods, Amazon, Zomato or Swiggy packaging - it all has to go somewhere. What makes us think that today's polluting, waste-filled linear operating system will be sufficient to sustain with an increasing population, rising consumption patterns and a dwindling supply of the earth’s resources? These limited resources go into all those products that we humans are heavily dependent on. For example, in the average smart phone roughly half of the elements of the periodic table are present!

Developing nations like India may seem almost a decade behind the economic and social progress made by developed nations, however we are fortunate that we also have that opportunity to learn from the mistakes made by developed nations on their path to progress.

To err.. is human, but to learn from mistakes is also human.

Linear operating systems have shown us its flaws, but it is time to redefine global success and broaden our spectrum to understand better operating systems so that economic progress and environment regeneration begin to happen hand-in-hand. Now is the time to redefine the path we and future generations take forward to begin to reverse the drawbacks of a linear operating system.

There may be skeptics which argue that India is not in a position to invest the time, money and resources to march down this untrodden path, but I for one argue that how can we afford not to! Do you think we can sustain the current pace of consumption and depletion of natural resources for another decade? Two decades? How much longer do we have until significant consequences, consequences that impact our every day lives begin to emerge?

So what is the solution? 

Join us for more conversation only on Circular Business Podcast-India. Do subscribe to our series wherever you listen to your podcasts, its free and it only means that you will get new episodes automatically. Feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions on our content and do follow our page by clinking on this link.

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