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Virtuous circles: Values, systems and sustainability

Virtuous Circles

Edited by Andy Jones, Michel Pimbert and Janice Jiggins
Published by IIED and CEESP
Website: www.iied.org
2011, 196pp, free to download

Birth, death, decay and rebirth, the natural cycle of life on Earth, might offer a model for sustainable living, but it's one that humankind has sought to ignore, according to the editors of Virtuous circles. Instead, our systems of production and survival are based on linear models: feed in non-renewable resources at one end and pump out long-lasting pollution at the other. It's not a cheery picture to begin a new year, but for those with the determination to look reality in the eye, this free-to-download publication does offer admirable clarity in its depiction of our planetary peril.

Energy, food production and water and waste management are the key areas of focus, and industrialised, fossil-fuel-dependent agriculture is allotted a large slice of blame for our downward, doom-ward spiral. The alternatives referred to in the title of the report are drawn from rural Ecuador, Peru and Nepal, and peri-urban Cuba. New Agriculturist readers may be familiar, for example, with the mixed farm biogas systems that give heat, light and manure to Nepali villagers, or the organic, community-run market gardens of Havana and other Cuban towns.

But while these examples are undoubtedly impressive in their capacity to re-use, recycle, and minimise dependence on external inputs, what answers do they offer to our increasingly urban world, where most of us either enjoy or aspire to a lifestyle of consumer products, blockbuster movies, internet shopping and calorie-rich foods? If you are searching for low-carbon New Year's resolutions, Virtuous Circles could provide inspiration. How we revolutionise our values and systems to achieve sustainability will be a harder nut to crack.

Date published: January 2012


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