Economics – focusing on “the natural object of it”

«If as a society we decide to place value on ecosystems and charge the users accordingly, we have to be ready to charge the manufacturing company for its impacts AND the fishermen, tourists, etc. for their impacts… and I fear that it will come down to class warfare between big business users, small business users, and private citizen users.» – Quoting Michael Choniski at Linkedin.

I really hope one day we charge all companies for their real impacts; which means of course to charge private citizen users, the ones who ultimately pay; as long as it is not socially unsustainable. Putting a value on nature and not regulating finance will result in higher inflation and higher prices. Ideally the value of biodiversity and ecosystems should be subtracted from product profit margins and not simply added to the cost consumer pays.

Of course, that would mean a civilizational shift towards paying what has a “real” value, that is, a value aligned with the real planet substance and limits (eventually adding some nearby planets we may colonize).

And what are the planet substance and limits made of? Basically, mass and energy. These are the real things or dimensions where we move (at least until we die).

We have equations that relate these two existence pillar dimensions, mass and energy (E=mc2), but maybe our big problem is that we did not integrate yet on the equation the third most important variable that makes the world keep moving: Money!

Since Middle Ages, when money was allowed to “grow” and be accumulated without any association to a real wealth or object (by usury), money became more and more a virtual thing, more and more disconnected from the fluxes of mass and energy that flow around the world and keep its balance – or not.

«The most hated sort, and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of money itself, and not from the natural object of it. For money was intended to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest.» – Aristotle – Politics, Book I, Part X, 4th Century BCE

Instead of focusing on “the natural object of it” we have based our society systems more and more on finance reference and fluxes, a virtual though powerful reality.

Money has been a variable not very logically related to any thing, or at least not following a mathematical model that reasonably connects to the other 2 items, so its quite normal that such “schizophrenia” leads to a planet crisis.

I believe that when we effectively attribute a money value to nature, in a long run that will turn back and a real nature value will be “attributed” to money, just as it happens in an equation. Ex: a person buys 3 houses, which represents a lot of materials and therefore impacts on nature (in Neolithic times each person used less than 10kg of materials/day and now uses more that 100kg/day for a normal living = unsustainable); so if that is appropriately charged, less people will prefer to do such an impact with their money.

Would such a shift be possible? Not sure. Maybe we will perish because we did not manage to organize ourselves collectively, as a species we did not manage to design or run a long term strategy.

About the author

Paula Lopes da Silva Graduated in Biology, with training in Quality and Management. Project coordinator at Quercus ANCN. Civil servant at Moita Municipality. Environment activist, ex-board member in national and european NGOs. Also interested in good governance, transparency and accountability of NPOs. Likes history and historical recreation, drawing, cartooning and performing. Roman Catholic.

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Note: this article was last updated in April 27th, 2011

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