Posted on 16/01/09 in Economy
Our challenge to mainstream economic orthodoxy is gaining ground globally in the corridors of power for solving today’s and tomorrow’s pressing problems such as climate change, financial downturns, poverty and biodiversity losses.
It is about reclaiming the practices and policies of economics for all people everywhere, nature, other species, the planet and its systems, provisioning for the needs, impacts, effects and responsibilities, for everyone and everything on the planet.
Mainstream economics argues that ‘trade-offs’ or conflicts of interest occur between ecology and the economy, and hides behind economics as an excuse for inaction.
Green economics reminds us that economics only exists as part of ecology and factors this forgotten factor ‘reality’, back into the centre of economics. The root of ‘eco-nomics’ is the word ‘oikia’, which is ancient Greek for ‘house’, exactly the same as ‘eco-logy’. However, the two have become so separated, so opposite, that economics now excludes the household, caring and household work from GDP.
Mainstream economics has come to refer to profit, growth and price, as expressed by the buying preferences of ‘Homo economicus’, rational economic man. It claims to represent therefore less than half of humanity that is those with the power to be able to make consumption choices.
Green economics is heavily influenced by feminist theory, which urges us to listen and to be inclusive, diverse and to act for other voices, all voices, the voices of the quiet, older people, younger people, people with disabilities, minorities, the colonised and all the voices of the weak or powerless, to enable them to flourish and have their say.
Many of the world’s poor are women, many women are poor and many farmers are women. One-fifth of humanity, 1.3 billion people, live in life-threatening poverty and a further 900 million starve as a result of land competition between food for the poor, and land use for company profits from biofuels.
Mainstream economics uses quantitative price and growth in GDP considerations rather than equity, and chooses adaptation and mitigation of effects, instead of prevention of global environmental change and a sustainable economic path for the future. It discounts future generations, who it selfishly assumes need fewer resources than we do.
Many Green economists are also scientists, physicists, ecologists or archaeologists, and they take a longer-term view, more informed by physical realities than simply short-term company balance sheets or political cycles.
They know that a 5 degree rise in the planet’s temperature is extremely dangerous and that agriculture as we know it won’t survive under such conditions.
Green economists, knowing that there is no economy without the planet, ensure their solutions work within the resources on offer from nature. They also seek solutions for all people everywhere, the planet and its systems to benefit from economics transactions.
Mainstream economics discards them as throwaway inputs for a temporary product or service and ignores long-term costs and impacts from disposal or use (externalities).
We are living through the world’s sixth-ever mass extinction of species, with one-quarter of all mammals on the seriously endangered list, for example. The incredible costs of rapid biodiversity loss, are estimated initially at over seven times as much as catastrophic climate change.
In China, expensive hand pollination of crops is necessary, as the honeybees are threatened.
Mainstream economics calculates that human capital and natural capital are ‘substitutes’ and can be interchanged whenever we like.
Greens argue that we have to live within the boundaries of nature and the planet, rather than thinking we can steward it, manage it or rip off all its treasures. Most mainstream economics is concerned with ‘use value’ – market values of goods and services and commodification and markets for clean air, water and also trees.
But there is value in a tree for itself – intrinsic value – and we need the trees to go about their tree business, unhindered for lots of reasons, eg as a habitat for other species, for oxygen and as a soil fixer, and water absorber.
In 2008, the world woke up to the benefits of Green economics, and we launched the Greening the Economy Initiative with UNEP.
The European Business Summit and even Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy, Ban Ki Moon, the ILO and others are using Greening the Economy, Green economics and Green jobs to kick start the economy.
Old gas-guzzling car companies no longer make sense, and are desperately seeking financial support as their businesses become more obsolete, too long ignoring the needs of most people on earth in favour of Homo economicus.
Even Ford Motor’s ‘Fordism,’ was the bedrock of mainstream 20th century industry and economics and based on wasteful mainstream economics policies of high mass consumption, commodification and outsourcing which wrecked the planet, particularly the climate, and squandered resources.
Newer, more efficient, smaller vehicles and public transport will replace them.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, fighting over supply chain inputs, for larger companies, for Western luxury goods such as mobile phones, requires that we reflect on our own role in this, as every single one of us participates in this folly.
We must share our resources, manage them well, recognize the consequences of our own actions. Green economics enables us to practise sustainable economics for all people everywhere, nature, other species, the planet and its systems and to create an abundance of resources for each other and for future generations.