A central part of the rise in environmental awareness over the past few decades has been a growing awareness of the linear model to our existing economy. Indeed, today this linear model is probably the most often identified - and criticized - structural feature to our existing industrial economy driving unsustainable results. This linear economic model is captured in the popular description of the economy as a process of "take, make and dispose."
With the arrival of the modern era, the primary focus of economic activity shifted from local subsistence agriculture to an industrial economy that was designed for the provisioning of basic physical requirements for the mass of society through the market. The modern era saw an explosion in population and urbanization with the development of a set of socioeconomic and technology systems required to support this new form of mass society.
The central function of an economy during its industrial stage of development is to support a process whereby a rural subsistence population is transformed into a large urban population provided for through the market which is in turn regulated by the state. This process was the central challenge of the industrial age that dominated until quite recently. We achieved this process of industrialization through centralization, batch processing and economies of scale. The emphasis in an industrial economy is on throughput. How much resources can be obtained, processed and pushed out to the mass of people is the primary objective and metric of success, as captured in the famous metric of gross domestic product which is a measure of the gross throughput of resources in the economy, it simply captures the sheer quantity of economic activity.
But as the economy has grown and reached planetary limits, inputs are appearing more limited and outputs have become increasingly detrimental to ecosystems. As limits are increasingly met the emphasis is shifting from gross throughput of material and energy to the internal organization through which those resources are utilized.