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Circularity: Toward a sustainable future
Letter to the Editor generic

Dear Editor:

As we confront the daunting challenge of sustaining humanity within the capacity of Earth’s natural systems, there is increasing discussion of the “circular economy.”

Circularity refers to the crucial necessity of capturing useful materials from the vast volume of waste being generated by the ravenous processes serving our reckless, technologically empowered global economy. It has been estimated that to sustain the world’s 8 billion people at the living standard of so-called “economically advanced” countries — using existing methods — would require three or four times Earth’s resources and pollution-assimilation capacity.

Ongoing depletion of our planet’s essential natural resources and degradation of vital life-support systems — contaminating land, air and water — must cease. This imperative is made even more urgent by collateral climate disruption, which, unless radically and quickly reduced, will become irreversibly catastrophic.

A circular economy must be achieved as soon as possible, pursuing these general approaches:

• Amply finance research and implementation of methods that rapidly reduce carbon emissions, resource extraction, and waste-stream disposal as a means to curtail the dangerously degrading effects of current production and consumption practices.

• Mandate transition to fully applying these methods so that, to the greatest extent possible, materials are sustainably removed from industrial, commercial, and consumer waste, using clean sources of energy.

• Establish national standards — and rapidly develop enforceable global international-trade mandates — to ensure widespread adoption of responsible manufacturing and commercial practices, applying them to achieve sustainable use of energy and material resources.

To avoid disastrous environmental consequences, circular economy policies must be widely implemented by mid-century.

David Kyler, Co-Director

Center for a Sustainable Coast

Saint Simons Island, Georgia

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