Thursday, May 25, 2017

Transformative Ecological Economics

Fritjof Capra writes the Foreword to this new book. An excerpt of that Foreward:

"The basic pattern of organization of a living system is the network. Ecosystems are understood in terms of food webs, i.e. networks of organisms; organisms are networks of cells, and cells are networks of molecules. More precisely, a living system is a self-generating network. Each component of the network helps to transform and replace other components, and thus the entire network continually creates, or recreates, itself.

"According to this systemic conception of life, neither the economy nor society can be understood as collections of objects, but only in terms of relationships between subjects. They cannot survive in an atomized state any more than an organism can survive in fragments. Moreover, the fact that the basic pattern of organization of all living systems is the network implies that an economy will be truly alive — flexible and capable of creative adaptations to changing circumstances — only if it is organized as a network, composed of smaller living networks and integrated into larger social and ecological networks. Indeed, Jakobsen argues that a new ecological economy might be best developed from a network of decentralized and globally interconnected ecovillages.

"A living system is materially and energetically open and always operates far from equilibrium. There is a continual flow of energy and matter through the system. All living systems need energy and food to sustain themselves, and all living systems produce waste. But in nature, organisms form communities, the ecosystems, in which the waste of one species is food for the next, so that matter cycles continually through the ecosystem.

"For a living economy this means that all economic processes need to be circular. Circular value chains make it possible to reduce both the consumption of virgin natural resources and the amount of waste that goes back to nature. To establish efficient material cycles in practice, as Jakobsen emphasizes, collaboration between governments, manufacturers, distributors, and consumers is essential. To build such a circular economy, our technologies and industrial systems need to be fundamentally redesigned, mimicking the natural ecological cycles.

"In living systems, the metabolic flows of energy and matter are necessary for the continual regeneration and recycling of organic components, as well as for growth and development. However, there is a significant difference between the concepts of growth from a mechanistic and from a systemic perspective. Growth in nature is not linear, nor unlimited. While certain parts of organisms, or ecosystems, grow, others decline, releasing and recycling their components which become resources for new growth. This kind of balanced, multi-faceted growth is well known to biologists and ecologists, and it is in stark contrast to the concept of unlimited quantitative growth used by virtually all of today’s economists.

"Unlimited economic growth on a finite planet is, of course, logically impossible. The objective of boundless quantitative growth is thus a dangerous misconception, which can be seen as the ultimate dilemma underlying most of our global problems. In his vision of ecological economics, Jakobsen advocates a fundamental shift from quantitative growth to qualitative development. Such qualitative development involves growth that enhances the quality of life through generation and regeneration. In living organisms, ecosystems and societies, qualitative development includes an increase of complexity, sophistication, and maturity.

"The aim is to change the economy in a direction where it is possible to create a high quality of life without material growth."

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