Lets hear it for Edgy Co-existence

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Another stimulating couple of days with the Ellen MacArthur team on the Isle of Wight working with a richly diverse group of people from across interests, disciplines and sectors, all of whom are working with the Foundation on the idea of the Circular Economy, one way or another.   We did one exercise that focused on 10 Winning strategies for the ecological age that had been worked up by ARUP’s Peter Head based around Janine Benyus' Biomimicry [ See her TED talk ], with a strap line of smart responsive simplicity.  The 10 strategies are:

1   Use waste as a resource

2   Diversify and co-operate

3   Gather and use energy efficiently

4   Optimise not maximise

5   Use materials sparingly

6   Clean up, not pollute

7   Do not draw down resources

8   Remain in balance with the biosphere

9   Run on information

10 Shop locally

Some of these seems self-evident at the common sense level, others much less so.  The 2nd,  "Diversify and co-operate" stimulated a lively discussion about whatever happened to the idea of competition, particularly as this is often more visible than co-operation in the everyday natural world that inspires this list.

It boils down to a question of preferred metaphors, of course, with nature red in tooth and claw often being seen to be too redolent of markets, competition and capitalism to be dwelt on by sensitive souls who don’t think that these can have much of a role in a sustainable future – and don't want them to have any such a role.  Nature as warmly collaborative and nurturing is a much nicer template for a preferred human future, especially if your tastes run to the more local, the simpler, and to a stepping back to a better time (though when this was is a puzzle).  Nature might be socially constructed, but that doesn't mean you can construct is any old how.

The reason that we have two metaphors is because these collaborative and competitive tendencies are both full on, all the time, resulting in a very edgy co-existence – and giving the natural world its resilience and diversity.  To pretend otherwise seems dishonest.

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