Studying the Earth’s ecosystems is fascinating and can show us the way to sustainability if we are willing to act on the evidence before our eyes. When we consciously observe nature – the tides, atmosphere, movement of clouds, river systems, microbial communities, living soils, plants and animals – evolutionary logic is revealed. Nature is always adapting to changing conditions and seeking equilibrium. Everything has a purpose, nothing is lost, nothing is wasted, and nothing is extraneous. We know that the Earth’s naturally functioning ecosystems are the basis of life on Earth, providing air, water, soil fertility, raw materials and energy. It is also clear that the global economy does not recognise that the production and consumption of all goods and services depends entirely on the ongoing functionality of these ecosystems, and, as a result, fails to value it correctly.
Lester R. Brown, founder of the Earth Policy Institute and author of Plan B 4.0, recently said, “We must go beyond lifestyle changes and change the system, or civilisation will end”. In the face of such urgency, many of the assumptions that our civilisation has grown up with are thrown into question. Even the founder of that bastion of capitalist thought, the Davos World Economic Forum, Professor Klaus Schwab, recently declared: “Capitalism, in its current form, no longer fits the world around us”.
In order to survive and become sustainable we need to devise a system where instead of personal gain, the intention of all human effort is aligned with nature. Where is it set in stone that human work must be self-serving? Aren’t the great achievements that humans have made based on our ability to work together?
Functional ecosystems can be shown to be more valuable than production and consumption. A pathway to sustainability appears if, instead of the economy being based on production and consumption of goods and services, it were based on ecosystem function. This would mean a fundamental transformation of human society. This development trajectory can be seen to address all of our most pressing problems. In an economy based on ecological function it would be economically disastrous to pollute. A functional economy would mean that conservation is not considered an expensive luxury, but the way to preserve wealth. It would also mean that restoration of degraded lands would be recognised as a means to increase wealth. Sequestering carbon would be a matter of course rather than an afterthought. A functional ecosystem-based economy would be much more fairly distributed, because those responsible for maintaining that function – currently those who suffer worst from the degradation inflicted by consumer capitalism – would be compensated for restoring and maintaining ecosystem functions.
The path that values ecosystem function as the basis of life and wealth is the one that leads to sustainability, less conflict, and ultimately, survival for the human race.
Via Flora Moon