The resignation in late August 2018 of Nicolas Hulot, the French Minister of Ecological and Inclusive Transition, tragically highlighted the limits of a government’s capacity to act in concerted fashion for systemic long-term change for the society it is responsible for representing. “I cannot understand,” he said, “how we can all look on with indifference as a long-announced tragedy plays itself out. The planet is getting to be like a sauna, our natural resources are running out, and biodiversity is melting like snow in the sun. And this still isn’t seen as a priority issue.” It is difficult for the moment to gauge the extent to which this spectacular resignation has or will have the effect of raising awareness, but 2018, a year of extraordinary heat and numerous climate catastrophes, has confirmed the urgent need to mobilize to limit global warming. Among the options regularly advanced, the circular economy model is attracting increasing attention. As an economic system of exchange and production which aims, at all stages of product life-cycles, to improve the efficient use of resources and diminish environmental impact, it presents itself as an alternative to the current economic model which is dubbed “linear”, since it is characterized by the extraction of raw materials that are transformed, then put on the economic market and rarely recycled in a general way at the end of their life.
As Dominique Bourg shows here, this virtuous system would represent a step in the right direction, but, in view of the seriousness of the current environmental situation, we would probably have to go even further. This is what he advocates by arguing for the implementation of an “integral” ecology, a genuine challenge to our system of production/consumption and our ways of life, but one that would have to be enacted by the public authorities, which alone are capable of imposing on citizens the changes required to protect the general interests of humanity in the long term.
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