Disrupting the Technologically Mediated World of Citizens in the Circular Economy
Abstract Proceedings of 2019 International Conference on Resource Sustainability - Cities (icRS Cities)
The analysis of the relationship between the individual and the collective actions of the stakeholders on the current Circular Economy (CE) analytical framework is crucial to understand when it (CE) does or does not enable a more sustainable territorial development (Jonas, 2013; Raworth, 2017; Tukker, 2015). Industrial Ecology (Ecologie Industrielle et Territoriale -EIT, in French) makes part of the toolbox of strategies to develop and implement CE in France (ADEME, 2019), and it is recognized as a strategy tightly linked with the territory (Gobert & Brullot, 2017). This research will use the EIT, and the relationships emerging from and to it as its centre of interest. For the last decade CE has been portrayed as a technological revolution (EMF, 2017) promising to disrupt and take our economic system away from its current multidimensional unsustainability (Izak, Mansell, & Fuller, 2015). Technological developments have indeed enabled us to efficiently retain and generate value out of the products and materials we use in different industries (Hobson & Lynch, 2016). However, increased efficiency has enabled an increment in consumption (Herring & Sorrell, 2009; Lorek & Fuchs, 2013; Owen, 2012; Sioshansi, 2013) creating a rebound or backfire effect overall. On top of that rebound effect, such revolution is leaving individuals relying upon a technologically-mediated form of social engagement (Hobson, 2016) to respond to the challenges of co-creating a sustainable future. That technological mediation promotes individuals to engage, almost exclusively, economically with the rest of society through sustainable consumption patterns or sustainable lifestyles (Lorek & Fuchs, 2013). Such form of engagement perpetuates a system where the market forces, rather than the individuals, are the ones in control of generating change towards sustainability (Gibbs, 2009); it creates a force (of individuals rather than citizens) that responds to correct labelling and price signals (Tukker, 2015). This paper describes a recent experience where using Participatory Action Research (PAR) methods (Audouin et al., 2018; Colucci-Gray, Perazzone, Dodman, & Camino, 2013; Fletcher, 2017; Paquin, Busch, & Tilleman, 2015), the researcher participated in a diagnosis of the territorial sustainability of the Barsequanais, territory located in the Grand Est region in France. The goal of such first experience was to engage the communities in a collective participatory mapping session of their territory to examine the potential synergies among the different actors (people, community organisations, local authorities, businesses…) that could enable the development of collaborative strategies to empower the community towards their territorial sustainability. The project titled ‘Grand Chamberdement’ will have a second phase on fall 2019, and a third phase on Spring 2020 where its planned to be handed to their local authorities and citizens to continue maturing. The author, using a post-capitalist lens, discusses the relevance of co-creation of the norms, values and practices within a territorial development that could effectively disrupt and transform the current linear system and generate territorial sustainability. The PAR methods tested at the Barsequanais will be use as part of the methods for research on the pertinence of analysing the individual and collective actions on an EIT project in Strasbourg, France (CLES, 2019). The results of the exercise at the Barsequanais are still being analysed by the researcher using analytical developments on theories such as ‘cooperative capitalism’ (Porritt, 2012), ‘breakthrough capitalism’ (Elkington & Zeitz, 2014), ‘diverse economy’ (Gibson-Graham, 2008), and other de/post-growth theories (Escobar, 2015; Mathews, 2011). This research positions individual actions as the propelling force of collective actions towards sustainability; it gives agency to individuals by recognizing them as citizens rather than consumers. That framework will enable to stimulate the discussion between theory and practice about the agency of communities disrupting and transforming the current logic of the economic system into one that can successfully coexist with our current biospheric limits (Hawken, Lovins, & Lovins, 2013).