Traditional economists ignore reality to justify their thinking, and anyone who studies economics is well aware of this. From the myth of the “rational human” to trickle down economics, to the very idea markets are “natural” all ignore the actual state of the world and people. Due to the mainstream adoptions of these myths (and others), researchers interested in economics are pushing back and trying to revive the field to better reflect reality.
One such effort is found in ecological circles which are trying to get policymakers and thinkers to acknowledge that the planet itself is key to economic practices.
Ecological economics offers an opportunity to make the transition to an economic system that is designed to promote human and planetary health from the outset, rather than one where social and environmental externalities must be constantly corrected after the fact. Important ideas from ecological economics include the use of a multidimensional framework to evaluate economic and social performance, the prioritisation of wellbeing and environmental goals in decision making, policy design and evaluation that take complex relationships into account, and the role of provisioning systems (the physical and social systems that link resource use and social outcomes). We discuss possible interventions at the national scale that could promote public health and that align with the prioritisation of social and ecological objectives, including universal basic income or services and sovereign money creation. Overall, we lay the foundations for additional integration of ecological economics principles and pluralist economic thinking into public and planetary health scholarship and practice.
Amazingly, there are people who think that environmental protection will cause economic calamity (bankers seem to be good at causing economic collapse all on their own). This old way of thinking still impacts policy and other decisions made around the world. In order to put this archaic notion away, the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation’s latest initiative is a year of blogging about how economic and environmental success go hand in hand.
Their first post on the matter is about how the perception of the environment as an asset to economic prosperity.
People often talk about â€œeconomic value,â€ â€œecological value,â€ and â€œsocial valueâ€ as if they were separate things. Nothing could be further from the truth.
As the discussion above makes clear, the â€œvalueâ€ or â€œbenefitâ€ we are talking about here is the contribution to sustainable human well-being. None of these elements (ecological, social/cultural, economic) are mutually exclusive; that is, none can make a contribution to that goal without interacting with the others.
What we can ask is: what is the relative contribution of, for example, natural capital to sustainable human well-being, in combination with other forms of capital (built, human, social), in a particular context?
We have to look at these things in context and as part of an integrated, whole system of humans embedded in cultures, which are, in turn, embedded in the rest of nature.
Drones are popularly associated with American air strikes on civilians and thus have a negative reputation. The technology underlying the drones can be used for good though. One example of a good use of drones is for aerial surveillance of plants and animals in hard to access/expensive areas.
What are our forests really made of? From the air, ecologist Greg Asner uses a spectrometer and high-powered lasers to map nature in meticulous kaleidoscopic 3D detail — what he calls â€œa very high-tech accounting systemâ€ of carbon. In this fascinating talk, Asner gives a clear message: To save our ecosystems, we need more data, gathered in new ways.
Way back in 2008 I blogged on Open Source Ecology (OSE) which is an open source project to create tools and knowledge to build a fully sustainable village. The project has grown since then and they are going even further by designing tools that can be fabricated on site. Recently, they made a good video explaining more about what OSE is all about.
Environmentalism is something that cannot be compartmentalized, at least that’s how I’ve always seen it. For example, I don’t see how someone working for an oil company can even hint at the idea that they are environmentalist, considering that their living comes from a very destructive industry. I’m glad that Curtis White agrees with me in his essay The Ecology of Work– and he says what I’ve been thinking in a much more logical way.
Here’s a choice section of the essay:
Aldous Huxley provided a very different and a very human account of work in The Perennial Philosophy. He called it â€œright livelihoodâ€ (a concept he borrowed from Buddhism). For Huxley, work should serve other people, provide learning experiences that deepen the worker, and do as little harm as possible. (You will note that there is nothing in this description about a competitive compensation and benefits package.) But what percentage of American jobs conforms to this description? Five percent? Even in the new â€œcreativeâ€ information economy where the claim could be made that computer designers and software technicians are constantly learning, is it a learning that deepens? That serves others broadly? And what of the mindless, deadening work of data processors and telemarketersâ€”our modern, miserable Bartlebys and Cratchitsâ€”locked in their cubicles from San Jose to Bangalore? Our cultureâ€™s assumption that there is virtue in work flatters us into thinking that weâ€™re doing something noble (“supporting our families,â€ â€œputting food on the table,â€ â€œmaking sacrifices”) when we are really only allowing ourselves to be treated like automatons. We all have our place, our â€œjob,â€ and it is an ever less human place. We are diligent, disciplined, and responsible, but because of these virtues we are also thoughtless.