Colin Jordan

Apr 29, 2021

3 min read

REVIEW: Peggy Smedley — Sustainable in a Circular World (BOOK)

ASCE Excellence in Journalism Award winner Peggy Smedley doesn’t disappoint with the release of her new, green advocacy book Sustainable in a Circular World: Design and Restore Natural Ecosystems Through Innovation. With clear, precise but simply laden prose and statistics, she lays out concise arguments for the necessary regime changes in terms of governance, economic practices, industry and corporate standards, and every day, individualistic activities to create the titular, circular world model. Going green, says Smedley, is no longer a matter of opinion or debate.


Similar to the effective mixture of humility and educated confidence displayed by authors like Robin DiAngelo in White Fragility, Smedley eschews the idea of standard ‘changing’ of the individual’s ‘heart’ and ‘mind’, saying such a sentiment is only possible through said individual’s willful participation in adopting practices supportive of climate-friendly and overall green-centric philosophies. It’s really up to you, she essentially states in the book’s five, info-laden chapters. It’s up to you to believe the science, and do your part. The third chapter in Circular World echoes this statement beautifully. “This is our one opportunity to turn to the young innovators for help,” she writes. “They want to help; and we need to give them a shot to design and restore our natural ecosystems; our forests, soils, clean water, clean energy, and clean air. They have the experience and passion, and we must trust them to secure our world.”

The sort of redistributive model Smedley presents is explained with such bell-clear, hands-on examples and analogy that it would be hard for anyone to combat such truths except if they’re suffering acute, partisan bias. What Smedley presents in its entirety is something of a sobering portrait, as detailed as it is in what we can do now it intangibly highlights what we could have done then. Such ideas that Smedley presents have a ring of melancholia to them because one can’t help but wonder where we’d be should such concepts have been applied twenty years ago. For every model and directly applicable descriptor Smedley dispenses from her arsenal intellectually, she wisely throws in some sort of footnote or even borderline wisecrack that stings of grim, retrospective qualities.

She doesn’t sugarcoat nor gets overtly emotional in her writing about the necessity of a circular economy, in place of that she merely pours the proverbial salts into the examined wounds. Sometimes the clout shines the brightest in some of the book’s most magnified, simplistic examples, such as Smedley’s commentary on composting. “Less than 2% of cities have made the commitment to reduce food waste through (composting),” she writes. “There is a lot of work to be done to promote healthier bacteria that break down organic matter and reduce the overall waste impact. While this might not address all the hunger problems, it will go a long way to feeding the people who need it the most.”


Smedley’s history as a journalist means she articulates her arguments with an informed, semi-objective eye. But such objectivity is balanced with an undeniable, quiet passion — communicated through at times maddeningly simple, real world analogy that is as damning as it is empowering. I was a firm believer in what Smedley advocated for prior to reading her book, and now I’m stalwart in such beliefs after the fact.

Colin Jordan