- Saving the Planet: it’s all about Markets
Solving the world environment crisis using Nature’s ecosystems as a blueprint as explained in part 2 of this summary means treating market economies as what they are: “economic ecosystems”. The objective is to achieve natural balance within economic ecosystems so that little or nothing is wasted, and to ensure that no more pollution escapes into the environment than can be comfortably absorbed and neutralised by natural processes. Because it is a holistic approach, this “ecosystem economics” applies to every interaction involving economics and ecosystems – to pollution in air, water and land, to greenhouse gas release, wilderness destruction, species decline, over-population, poor agricultural practices, and so on. These interactions happen almost entirely within markets. Look around your home – everything you see, from the clothes you’re wearing, to your fridge and the food in it, to your furniture, the paint on your wall, even the house itself, has got to you via markets, sometimes involving many components and crossing many different regions of the world, coming together in one object. However, up to now all too many markets have been living in a misty Neverland in which profits are made with little or no regard to environmental impact, as if this were an efficient economic model. In fact, it’s highly inefficient because it is so wasteful of valuable, diminishing resources. It is only by bringing reality to these markets that we can have any real hope of rescuing the world from its spiral of environmental decline.
The most effective way to bring wasteful, inefficient, environmentally oblivious markets to genuine efficiency is to slap their balance sheets with costs that they currently don’t have to bear – environmental costs, at which point they will be forced either to adapt or die. It sounds harsh, but it was always going to have to happen somewhere along the line if the we are to create a viable working relationship with the planet for the long term. It’s the natural way. It is how species survive or die in the wild – those that degrade their own environments decline or go extinct; and so it is the reality that such economic “species” must now be made to face, or we are all in deep trouble.
So how do we begin to go about this?
I don’t hold ex-Republican representative, Randy Neugebauer’s views in any particular esteem, but he did once make an astute observation: “The thing about markets,” he said, “and I think the thing people don't understand about that, is markets are not kind, but they're very efficient. So when the marketplace determines an inefficiency in the system, it corrects that, and a market system that's left alone will reward good behaviour and punish bad behaviour.” Some economists will take issue with that because they know inefficiencies can creep in for a number of reasons, not least incompetence, ignorance or mismanagement – the machine is only as good as those that operate it, after all. But applied to the current context the point is well made because once you define “inefficiencies” as environmental degradation, and make them into a financial cost, then the economic system itself will reward good environmental behaviour and punish bad. We won’t need to guide and regulate it every step of the way. We will have the super-powerful force of economics on Nature’s side instead of against it.
With regard to pollution, for example, this means taking action in two main ways: adjusting the economics to drive them to evolve clean systems internally, or to invest in “end of pipe”. services from others that can do it for them. This is the Polluter Pays Principle (PPP). The concept has been around for decades, but it has never been adopted to any serious degree. It’s now high time it went supernova. Essentially, it’s about fast-tracking the evolution of cleaner technology by the “Robin Hood” method – taking from the dirty to support the clean. These “clean” actors may be competitors, who need boosting to take over the market, or else symbiotic services that clean up after a dirty beast – like Carbon Capture and Storage systems (CCS), for example.
There are many pollution scenarios, each crying out for their own tailored solutions with Nature’s ecosystem principles at their heart. You might say this has been tried already. But the “offsetting”, or debiting of dirty behaviour, such as carbon emissions, against the carbon assets of poor countries by buying “credits” from them, for example, has relied on a carbon trading market that has so far failed miserably to hold, let alone reduce worldwide carbon emission levels. The market principles that underlay the original concept, and were meant to conserve wilderness and reduce emissions, have fallen to recession and the dagger of political lobbyists working for big industry. Natural ecosystem principles need to be urgently applied to the equation. Until the carbon trading system is subjected to the rigours of a disciplined, clean-environment-orientated financial regime, it will surely remain in the doldrums and open to being undermined. Junglenomics would either rejuvenate it, or replace it.
The principle of rewarding good behaviour and punishing bad, having served Nature in such good stead for so many millions of years, underlies most other areas of environmental conflict too. If by market intervention, rainforests were made to be worth more standing than felled, for example, or conservation and organic farming more profitable than conventional, high chemical-use farming, the economic landscape would change, to the lasting benefit of the environment and wild species. The same applies to the fishing industry and aquaculture, where the benefits will be the same – with land-based, sealed-water systems, for example, evolving as a new economic “species” that is targeted for support, deployment and rapid proliferation. For all of these economic arenas, Nature’s ecosystem principles must become the guiding light.
At no time in the past has international co-operation to turn the tide of decline been so important as now. The sharing of new ideas, approaches, results of experiments, and especially new technology, in a dedicated public arena – a World Environment Organisation – is the best way to help fast-track internationally the reforms we so urgently need to rescue our planet from the fate that currently awaits it. Many people all over the world have sent a clear message that they want urgent change. But of one thing I am certain: all our individual efforts at dietary changes, recycling and offsetting, good though these may be in spirit, are sadly not going to be enough to turn the tide nearly fast enough to save the natural world. They cannot possibly gather enough momentum in time to overcome the profound and powerful gene-inspired forces at work in world economics. It is a pipedream to believe it will (and probably ever could) because it is a minority effort that mostly relies on people who can afford to pay more for greener things. It may even be counterproductive because it can so easily lead to complacency. Greener things should be cheaper. Period.
Yet very many people feel anxious and helpless, and understandably want to know what they themselves can do to help. And they can. Because the answer to this crisis, I passionately believe, lies within the pages of Junglenomics, they can do something immense: they can ensure, by lobbying their political representatives, that the Junglenomics message reaches the top echelons in their governments – the message that radical economic change is needed in all areas at once – in a new holistic economics that properly values the planet and all its inhabitants in its equations. For if we don’t do enough now in the right way - Nature’s way - on a huge worldwide scale, I see future for our grandchildren that I do not wish to contemplate.
What can you do to help? Go to Junglenomics (www.junglenomics.com) and sign up. Become part of a new movement demanding a revolution in economics to change the old economics order. Together, we can change the world.
On a personal note, for anyone who might be interested in my reasons for writing Junglenomics, it was not because I wanted to ‘be a writer’ (it is not an end in itself – and it wouldn’t have taken 20 years anyway!); not because at 68 I want a new career (most sensible people have retired by now); not because I had a sudden yen for fame (I don’t do public stuff if I can possibly help it); not because I want or need to make money (it’s a loss-making venture). It is simply because I never knew how not to! If I didn’t do my absolute utmost to get the Junglenomics message to as many people as possible, and with help and luck ultimately maybe in some good way influence the policies of those that govern, I couldn’t sleep at night. It is also because I can’t stand the idea that, when one day I get to the final curtain, I might have abjectly failed to try to share a message, the truth and importance of which I passionately believe in.
So I very much hope you will support Junglenomics by buying it in print or as an ebook on Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, or whatever other platform suits you best, reviewing it supportively, and then writing to your political representative to ask them to read it and back its principles. (In due course I hope to raise a petition).