Renewable Matter # 18 / September-October

Putting Madrid and Barcellona back into Circulation

by Antonio Cianciullo

While we are putting this issue of Renewable Matter to bed, the conflict between Barcelona and Madrid is escalating. One could ask, “Why should the leading article of a magazine on the circular economy be devoted to a political event?” It seems something unrelated to the topics we deal with and it just follows other cases of clash between autonomist movements and central governments. Why is it worth mentioning? 

I believe it is worth talking about it for several reasons. First of all, what is striking is the level of maturity of the societies we are talking about. Catalonia is the historical flag of cultural, technological and political openness. An area with strong links with Italy as one can promptly realize by listening to Catalan. A region that on referendum day showed its ability to use non-violent techniques (we hope this will continue in the coming weeks and months).

Spain, on the other hand, as a whole, is a social body able to go beyond the inflexibility shown by its central government by refusing to enter into negotiations about the level of autonomy of the region, which, most probably, would have defused the situation. It also reveals the worries about a possible break-up of a country with such a long and troubled history. A unilateral action by Catalonia could become a glitch in the very system holding together not only Spain but also the European Union. But a unilateral action by Spain is also a glitch in the coexistence system of partly different traditions.

The head-on conflict thus created looks likely to weaken all parties involved. Guardia Civil’s violence against old people who wanted to vote in the referendum did not do Spain’s image a favour. And banks fleeing Barcelona have not done any good to the Catalan economy. 

It is rather clear that mediation is needed. But the European Union is a club of Countries having difficulty taking up this role. At the moment (the situation is fast evolving and it is possible that between the time this article goes to press and when you read it things might have changed), institutions appear unable to offer the necessary stimulus towards reason. 

And so far we are just offering a widely shared but inadequate analysis because it does not get to the bottom of the reasons that could provide a solution to this conflict. What could be brought in? For instance, mending could be obtained by the emergence of a wider point of view focussing on social, economic and environmental interests of a large area. Moving away from this conflict by standing on the side, aiming at a leap such as that suggested in these pages by Michaeal Braungart, one the founding fathers of the circular economy: moving from a damage reduction perspective to a benefit maximization one. “First of all we need to change our starting mindset and consider humans as an opportunity for the planet. [...] There are too many of us on Earth, therefore containing the damage is not enough.”

So, we should not settle for an armistice, but we should focus on the advantages deriving from factors overcoming national boundaries. Economic crisis and social imbalances lead to closure, walls and identity contraposition, while growth prospects with shared benefits strengthen the tendency to include new partners. Only sustainable environmental and social growth can last over time and spread to larger areas. 

“In a country where unemployment has reached 18.4%, the bioeconomy represents a great opportunity to combine growth, skilled job creation and environmental sustainability,” we wrote on our March-April issue, in the Dossier Spain edited by Mario Bonaccorso. Environmentally-friendly growth follows principles going beyond political borders: it follows exchanges of materials, energy, opportunities and minds without trapping them in strict geographical boxes. This is a perspective that could help solve the contraposition between nationalisms with a series of concentric identities. A new perspective for the Old Continent. 

 

 

M. Bonaccorso, “Sustainable Ambition. Dossier Spain,” Renewable Matter n. 15, March-April 2017; www.renewablematter.eu/art/306/Sustainable_Ambition