System description

Overview of the current economic system

In order to change something you need to see how it is from the start. We identify 21 vital flows in the system representing economic transactions and relationships to natural capital. The three main types of flow are:

  • Material flows, for example minerals, products, waste (in BLUE)
  • Flows of money representing economic transactions (in GREEN)
  • Work – selling of citizens’ time to firms and authorities (in RED)
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A natural capital approach to the circular economy

This article follows on from the previous one in the series on explainers about capitalism “What exactly about capitalism means it extracts and exploits?“. We are gravitating towards offering a solution but we need to take a deeper look at what we mean by capital.

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Passenger cars – the inconvenient truth

The Sankey diagram below covers Sweden but could probably apply to most of Europe and the US. It shows the total energy input into the country and what it is used on. It tells us an inconvenient truth that no-one seems to be talking about: domestic CO2 emissions come largely from use of passenger cars. If we are serious about killing CO2 we have to look at killing the car as we know it. We have hardly started to even dare have that conversation. The other inconvenient corollary is that our transport system is oil-dependent. And oil is finite. We need to redesign from the ground up the way we arrange things. It is high time. Let me explain.

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Models of sustainability

I know that the term sustainable is old fashioned, and people prefer “regenerative” for many good reasons. However, there are good reasons to take a look back at what sustainability is. One of them is that there are already well-accepted and widely used standards frameworks that, if put together, could give governments, local authorities and corporations best practice guidelines. That indeed would be a lot better than People, Planet, Profits triple bottom line thinking as I will explain.

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What exactly about capitalism means it extracts and exploits?


Not crony capitalism, not raw capitalism, not capitalism in the hands of wrong people but capitalism itself is the cause of the environmental degradation and social misery we see around us. Capitalism offers the rules if you like, the players play by those rules, and the results are what we see. If I am going to say something this bold, I need to be really specific and present good arguments. Let me attempt that, but you will have to bear with me through some details. This is not rocket science, but the whole subject area has many branching ideas so you will need to look hard to see the path through the subject matter.

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