Higher dimensional thinking, the end of paradox, and a clearer understanding of reality
October 26, 2014
March 17, 2014
A living whale swimming in the ocean has no economically recognized value to anyone, but harpooned, is worth up to a million dollars as meat. A 2,000 year old redwood tree that produces oxygen, sequesters CO2, cleans toxins from the atmosphere, stabilizes topsoil, prevents flooding, and creates habitat for pollinators and other species that are crucial to the functioning of our biosphere, confers economic advantage to no one. But cutdown, makes $100,000 worth of virgin lumber.
Our value equation is extractionary and commoditizing. Even the phrase “natural resource” assumes the extraction and commodification of what was once a part of a living ecosystem. This is exactly why we have decimated 90% of the large fish populations globally, 80% of the world’s old growth forests, and caused more species extinction than we have been able to account for. This is also why we enslave whole species, at forced populations many times what is natural, in conditions that future historians will catalogue along with concentration camps and slavery ships as tragic examples of human power, pre-civilization.
As long as the other species with which we inhabit this planet are worth more to us dead than alive, more enslaved and commodified than free, and only have assessed value insofar as they can be used to meet an immediate need of ours, not recognizing sovereignty or intrinsic value on the balance sheet...then we will continue rationalizing violence and extracting faster than renewability, eroding the very cliff on which we stand.
Our extrinsic only, commoditizing valuation system applies to other people just as much as it does to other species. This is why the aid of wealthy nations to poor ones is limited by the rationalizable case for ROI. The manufacturing of goods, including of foodstuff, for the industrialized world, depends on cheap labor from the developing world. This system of profit margin is not only predicated upon but also requires the continuance of massive economic disparity.
This is not just self-serving interest, but shortsighted self-serving interest. Beyond a living tree’s value to the rest of life, or to itself, it is producing the oxygen that I breathe. That does something more fundamental for me than anything I can do with the tree. But my cutting this one tree (or forest) down won't ruin the entire atmosphere, so I breathe either way. But me cutting down this one tree does confer immediate and tangible economic advantage to me that I wouldn't have otherwise. It is a whole population thinking this way, because the structure of incentive within the system predisposes that, that has us nearing the end of a savings account we are not equipped to replenish nor yet prepared to live without.
Currency evolved to mediate complex barter where the amount of currency in the system was proportional to the total value of goods and services in the system, with the proportionality ratio for a unit of currency determining its value. The economic concept of interest not only incentivized hoarding, but did so artificially as it made the monetary system expand irrespective of growth of goods and services. Fiat currency and fractional reserve banking took the artificial expansion of the monetary supply further, driving inflation and requiring perpetual growth to even maintain equilibrium. Perpetual economic growth was predicated upon the idea of continual material extraction from the environment, which is clearly not possible on a finite planet. Continued evolution of scientific insights and technological resource efficiencies leading to a continued increase in quality of life is possible sustainably, but requires a closed loop economic model based on an evolving homeostasis rather than continued exponential growth.