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Economics that accounts for the Earth

Ecology and economy are two sides of the one coin. If we are to prioritise one over the other, then is must be the ecology. The economy must play third fiddle after the ecology and the human society to which it needs to be in service.

A new story is required if we are to extricate ourselves from the domineering mindset that is driving the destructive ways of living the western lifestyle.

Many people are of the belief and have therefore placed a lot of faith in technological fixes whenever issues with an ecological downside are encountered. This begs the question: why was there an ecological downside? Surely if the human action was in tune with nature there would no or minimal ecological consequences? Which means the original human desire was out of wack with natures underlying rules of engagement – take no more than catchments can replenish within a reasonable time frame and ensure that by-products can be reabsorbed as nature intended.

In other words, behave as earthlings – as guests – in ways consistent with: we belong to the earth, the earth does not belong to us. 

Sadly technological fixes alone will not be sufficient, since this way of thinking places far too much emphasis on human ingenuity.  For decades this has been seen as having untold advantages but always comes with unforeseen consequences.  Not that they are truly unforeseen, rather so much confidence and hubris is invested in the human models that the ‘unintended’ consequences are downplayed and externatlised from the ecological, social and financial balance sheets.

And so the rampant domestication of the earth by one species continues with great store placed in one word that has come to be synonomous with all the tech fixes – smart.

Sitting behind much of what we are calling smart is a reality we don’t want to acknowledge – colonisation. In its various manifestations colonisation (and domestication) of the land is depleting the earth of her finite resources. 

Species extinction is but one consequence of human expansion that is still being practised on a scale that the earth cannot tolerate. Population and economic growth are unsustainable. 

The belief is we can buy our way out this decline if we only convert to renewable energy or move away from industrial agriculture or wear ethically made clothes.  All these goals are essential as we transition away from fossil fuels to a low carbon system, but without a wholesale change that will bring the economy into line with the ecology, it is fiddling at the margins when it needs to be dealt with at the core.

“I am because we are”, needs to replace the ‘me-at-others-expense’ approach. “Life exists only in community” – economic models need to reflect this nature based principle.

The following story from Yes magazine helps re-calibrate the compass.