Island and Indigenous systems of circularity: how Hawaiʻi can inform the development of universal circular economy policy goals

Given the dire consequences of the present global climate crisis, the need for alternative ecologically based economic models could not be more urgent. The economic and environmental concerns of the circular economy are well-developed in the literature. However, there remains a gap in research concerning the circular economy’s impact on culture and social equity. The underdeveloped social and cultural pillars of the circular economy, along with universal policy goals calling for a context- and need-based framework, makes it necessary to bridge natural and social science objectives in the circular economy. Islands can serve as model systems for studying the circular economy. We examine how Hawaiʻi, through the philosophy of aloha ʻāina, the Hawaiian ancestral circular economy, and contemporary community approaches toward advancing Indigenous economic justice can be one model system for understanding principles of circularity and policy advocacy. We introduce the concept of the ancestral circular economy and how aspects of this Indigenous institution can inform the development of universal circular economy policy goals. Furthermore, we present aloha ʻāina as a framework for reciprocal care between human–environment relations while addressing the social and cultural pillars that aid in the development of these dimensions of the circular economy.

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