This document was delivered to the leadership of the US Society of Ecological Economists.
It is only the beginning of what needs to be said to everyone!
Position Statement to the Biophysical and Ecological Economics membership:
By Alan C. Page, Ph.D., Research Forester, Green Diamond Systems, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We all recognize that we live in a constrained world. This understanding is what sets biophysical and ecological economists apart from almost everyone else. Yet there is a facet of the classical economics that has not been addressed by either of these groups. The normal financial planning model used by all facets of society including economists is an exponential function, [FV=PV*(1+interest rate)exp n]. This formula suggests that any successful business should use unconstrained growth as the basis for financial planning. There is no natural system other than a cancer that does not conform to some form of growth constraints. The ubiquity of unfortunate outcomes from choices by people in power over the past decades make it clear that we need to form a new paradigm for discussing how to evaluate success. Connections to ecology require awareness of climatic stress. The increasing Arctic temperatures will destabilize weather patterns and release unpredictable climatic tipping points. There is no other group with the social connections and ability to understand the urgency for slowing or stopping this process. It is not appropriate to allow the membership to plan as if this were not happening.
A few notes:
0) Infinity is unknowable by definition
1) In a finite world when someone attempts to have infinite wealth everyone else can have nothing!
2) In a finite world if even one person attempts to obtain infinite wealth at some point, as measured in doublings of their asset base, they will have acquired more asset holdings than can be contained within the volume of the earth. This point of obscene greed is somewhere well below 64 doublings. We now have many large entities that have been in existence for enough time to have experienced more than 20 doublings of their asset holdings.
3) There may be an infinite component to humanity, but it cannot be fully expressed on our finite earth. Those who try to realize any physical component of the infinite as an earth resident are going to take unfair advantage of the finite resources on the earth and will deny essential experiences of earthly existence to all other humans and all species who also dwell on earth.
4) There is no obvious facet of human individuality that clearly designates why or how some individual should be more entitled to significantly more of the earth's resources than any other. The only way this condition has been sorted out in the past involves some form of merit or position of power. Recognition of why one should be given more resources comes from demonstrations of capability. This capability comes from the combination of intrinsic gifts and experience.
5) Experience is developed by testing knowledge. When one is at the edge of what they know they only learn by taking steps beyond where answers are sure - they must make mistakes. If mistakes are not occasionally made the boundaries of knowledge are unclear - they many have been incredibly lucky and guessed correctly, but there is no guarantee that the next guess is going to be correct. So making projections and observing the outcomes and honestly reporting the differences between the prediction and the observed result are all part of learning. Testing requires proactivity and the ability to recover from failure. The economic constraints imposed today by the global currency controls have severely limited proactivity.
6) The current situation of humanity on earth has many components that limit the willingness of ourselves and others to continue testing where we are:
a) We like (to some degree) where we have been or are now and may not wish to contemplate the changes that may be before us.
b) Those who have been lucky, ruthless or astute enough to get to the position of having doubled their assets more than 15 times are even more reluctant to lose the privilege they now enjoy.
c) It appears that there may be situations developing that we cannot model well enough to make accurate time based predictions about future outcomes. So we are living within an experiment for which there is no precedent or control. The only possible analog may be found by looking for past geologic periods where similar conditions prevailed. The outcomes from such analyses are difficult to understand and hard to communicate to a disinterested or unmotivated public.
7) Expectations drive Practice! If we are concerned with the conditions described above it is essential that we bring expectations of leaders and youth to a position that reflects the potential of our finite world. The place to start is the basis for acceptable practice. Much of this will be place dependent at the small scale. Large scale endeavors must be constrained so that they cannot have affects beyond the region of origin.
8) Environmental and climatic conditions now require very local solutions everywhere. Those who are close to problems are likely to be better able to understand what is working and appraise outcomes. It is important to enable local proactivity.