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A blog post by Guido Braam, CEO of Circle Economy.

I just returned from a great holiday with my family, during which I enjoyed some of the beauty that nature created for us 33 million years ago ( the Alps), what mankind added to this beauty 600 years ago ( Il Duomo), and what the locals created for us on the spot ( way too much delicious gnocchi gorgonzola).
Our kids are at an age that allows us to take longer trips to places like Florence and Milan, and these trips evoke fantastic questions with my eldest son. Julius is five years old now, and experiencing these cities through his curious eyes is a true adventure.

“Dad, why is David so incredibly tall?

“Dad, why did they put all those dead people in glass boxes?”

Or, one of my favorite questions of his, during a walk over the Piazza della Signoria:

“Dad, can you explain to me why all of these guys are butt naked?”

While I was patiently answering Julius’ questions, a situation from just before my holiday came to mind: I was watching RTL Late Night, where Boyan Slatexplained his solution for the plastic soup in our oceans. My wife was thrilled by his concept for a passive cleaning system. I didn’t share her excitement at all, and started explaining to her my experiences with Our Ocean’s Challenge, and how the real solution lies in preventing that plastic ends up in the ocean at all, and that plastic in the ocean usually has the size of plankton anyway, so that it’s impossible to prevent plastic from ending up in our food chain anyway with Slat’s concept. Etc. Etc. Etc…


How come that my son’s curious questions bring me so much joy, and that I love exploring them with him, without directly pointing out the nuances and immense complexity to him? When talking to him, I am very aware that explaining the nuances of a new concept that excites him will only slow him down. Why do I seem unable to do so in my professional life? Am I already becoming a grumpy old man, pointing out to others what they are doing wrong?

The more we at Circle Economy are gaining a deep understanding of circular economy, the more serious the risk of becoming grumpy old men (and women) becomes. We have developed and applied methods to define the ideal circular state for a company, region or sector, and therefore understand the nuances and complexities better every day. I am very proud of that, but on the same time thinking about my ever curious son  made me realize  I might be suffering from a mild form of expert curse, forgetting how curiosity and experimentation got me where I am now.

After this holiday reflection, I have come up with my ‘holiday New Year’s Resolution’(based on the new academic year, as I don’t want to wait until January). I want to keep an open mind to the questions and new insights of circular economy newbies, and trust that nuances will come later, like they are coming to me now. Because it’s not only about taking time to understand the nuances and complexity of things, but also in recognizing that the challenges we face require so many solutions and efforts to be addressed. I stand by the holistic approach of trying to prevent plastic from entering the oceans as soon as possible. But as I have learned with complexity and the system’s approach, there are always trade-offs, and I would not want to see the efforts like Slat’s stopping until we figure out how to prevent plastic from entering the ocean in the first place. There is too much work to do, so we need solutions coming from different angles and curious minds to come up with them!

Picture: Wikipedia

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