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A Synergy of Ecology and Economy
Berlin Future Forum
2016: From Multicultural Conflict to Transcultural Coherence
A Synergy of Ecology and Economy
What a wonderful feeling it is to be in nature, surrounded by its beauty and magic. Every element seems to be in the right place, contributing to its wholeness. As we are also nature, we are part of this process of enhancing its wholeness. That's the process when you are in nature and connected to it - one of the most pleasant feelings.
What happened, though, that instead of playing in the Garden of Eden, we are rapidly destroying it?
Today, after little more than 200 years since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the impacts on the life-supporting environmental systems of the planet are so huge that some experts consider that we have started a new geological era, the Anthropocene, a proposed epoch that begins when human activities started to have a significant global impact on Earth's geology and ecosystems.
Somehow, Johann Gottlieb Fichte's vision (along with many other thinkers) predominated since then and contributed for the present situation: “nature is to become ever more transparent to us until we can see into its most secret core, and human power, enlightened and armed by its discoveries, shall control it without effort, and peacefully maintain any conquest once it is made”. This process has, somehow, contributed to the separation between nature and our mostly urban society today.
There is also a psychological process involved called cathexis by consumer researcher Russ Belk: “a process of attachment that leads us to think of (and even feel) material possessions as part of the 'extended self' ”.
The consequence is a widespread consumerism in our society that kept our economy going for the last decades, without respecting ecological limits.
The economy gradually adapted to satisfy these mindsets. We excelled in the way to maximize production and in how to use and transform natural resources at our disposal. A metric to evaluate our economic success was created, the GDP, representing the monetary value of goods and services produced. The economic mantra of nations today is obsessed with enhancing its GDP. The problem, though, is that it fails to include the environmental or social impacts in its calculation, as these impacts are external to the market (and so considered externalities). If a factory is built near a river and pollutes it, the environment and the communities affected are not negatively impacting the GDP (the social and environmental consequences actually increase it, as the communities affected will need to pay for healthcare and the river will eventually need to be cleaned-up).
So, a disconnected relationship predominates between Economy and Ecology.
With the escalation of the environmental and social consequences, new metrics were created, like the Human Development Index and the Carbon footprint. But essentially, nothing has changed in maintaining the ecology as a mere subset of the economy. This imbalance is threatening our life supporting systems on earth, as the ever-growing (present concept of the) economy is not respecting the integrity, resilience and beauty of nature.
What then is needed for us to have a synergetic relationship between the economy and ecology?
Both words come from the same root, Eco – from the Greek oecos – meaning house. Economy is related to managing the resources and Ecology related to the study of the interdependence of life communities.
Thus, a synergy between the economy and ecology is a natural process, derived from a caring and loving relationship to our “house” – what we can call “Ecophilia”. Nothing is considered “external”. There are natural limits and no waste. The life sustaining processes are respected and maintained. Wealth and our fulfillment are related to our contribution to the emergence of wholeness in our “house” - as beautifully exposed by the American architect Christopher Alexander in his book “The Nature of Order”.
When considering the Future of the Environment, the synergy between ecology and economy will be naturally given and some basic questions will be made:
- In which way is an action, a project, a technological innovation, etc. contributing to the flourishing
of society and the environment (and individuals as well)?
- Are environmental limits respected?
- Is there any waste produced? If yes, how is it cared for?
In the “Biodiversity Experience Center”, the upcoming BFF initiative, we'll have the challenge to practice eco-synergy – a synergetic interaction between ecology and economy – right from the beginning and some basic questions will have to be faced:
1 – How do we design a place, where people can best learn, interact with each other and creatively unfold
their innovative ideas?
2 – How to best use the water from our own water source so that it is abundant and clean for our use/re-use
and for the use/re-use of nearby communities?
3 – How to we best design our own energy production so that it is also abundant for our use and for the use
of the communities around?
4 – How to we best use permaculture techniques for the part of the food production at the place?
5 – How will a transition to a no-waste scenario be?
6 – How to best use new technologies and tools in the Information Age, like the Internet, social media,
artificial intelligence, etc for the fulfillment of our new vision?
With all that in mind, we invite people to engage in the process of creating such a world in which creativity integrates both environmental and social challenges in order for nature and every one of us to flourish.
Here are some quotes of a book that can contribute to our dialogs:
Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy
by Peter G. Brown, Geoff Garver, Keith Helmuth, Robert Howell
"A whole earth economy takes no more than it needs and uses no more than it must. Building a whole earth economy means moving from endless production and concentration of wealth to providing only as much wealth as is needed for dignified, secure living. It means moving from the burnout of unlimited growth to the resilience of continuously renewed abundance. A whole earth economy is keyed to the resources of local and regional ecosystems, and to the shared abundance of the earth's ecosystems as a whole. This vision of a whole earth economy does not see a dangerous or restrictive depression of economic activity, but, on the contrary, an intensification and a flourishing of all the productive, provisioning, service, and trading activities that create and support the integrity, resilience, and beauty of life's commonwealth. This, surely, is the purpose of the economy."
"Communion with the purpose of all life is an experience that helps people enlarge their underlying beliefs and refine whatever ethical code currently guides them. In this experience, and in this work, people can gain a sense of co-creation—of playing out, along with the whole community of life, a significant engagement in the unfolding of the earth's story as part of the unfolding universe."
"Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the transition from the “Old Story” to the “New Story” is the way the new one transcends the ancient conflict between science and religion. Science is creating a narrative of relationship with regard to the earth and its living environment that is touching the human spirit and enlarging the human sense of morality and ethics. Religion in the West, though previously dominated by a human-centered cosmology and a map of divine intention, is becoming more open to new understandings and to inclusion of scientific discoveries that make literal interpretations of the “Old Story” unbelievable. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Catholic priest and paleontologist, is a key figure in this rapprochement of religion and science. With the publication of The Phenomenon of Man (1955), he set the stage for the next generation of religious thinkers and scientists to see the work of science as “revelatory” of a “new story” that encompasses cosmic, earth, and human narratives."
✺ CONTRIBUTION FROM WALTER BEHR
“Vivemos tempos de transição, onde velhos modelos
estão se desintegrando: uma oportunidade para
vivenciar um novo sonho que permita o
florescimento de todas as formas de vida da nossa
rica biodiversidade, à que pertencemos.”
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