Development of the linear economy

At the turn of the 20th century, mankind experienced a period of rapid economic and scientific growth. The incredible technological development that followed the Industrial Revolution and, above all, the post-World War II period, led to a rapid increase in wealth and, as a result, gave rise to and nurtured the idea of an infinite availability of resources, materials and products. This illusion of infinite resources has been both the cause and effect of development of the linear economy. The economic boom and the emergence of the “consumer society” have contributed to an acceleration of production processes and consequently to a reduction in the duration of product lives.

We convince ourselves that the economic system can satisfy every need, that everything the market asks for can be produced by adjusting production to demand (according to a model that pursues infinite growth). The common thinking was that the environmental system was capable of generating all the natural resources that served as inputs to the economic system. This way of producing and consuming would only work if planet Earth were infinite, with infinite resources and infinite energy at our disposal. We are well aware, however, that the resources our planet can offer us are limited, finite and exhaustible, especially at the rate at which we extract and use them today.

It is therefore clear that a development model that envisages unlimited growth in consumption is in contrast to the concept of sustainability. For this reason, the linear economic model began to lose popularity in the second half of the twentieth century, precisely with the emergence of energy crises and pollution on a global scale. The emergence of environmental problems and limits to available resources (energy and raw materials) are forcing the scientific community to re-evaluate the relationship between the economy and the environment, in favour of more sustainable models.

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