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Words to Consider: Our Debts to Natural Capital

August 25, 2011

Christian Schwagerl has a piece over at Yale e360.  In it, he compares our mismanagement of nature to the mismanagement of the banking sector.  A great analogy:

Bad loans are characteristic of how we treat the planet, too. In our global house, our ultimate central bank is the natural environment, with its treasure troves of water, wood, food, and hospitable climate. We’re taking Taking out sound loans would mean paying back interest in the form of sustainable management efforts, so the natural capital can regenerate. For example, it would mean catching only as many fish as can grow back in the ocean, logging only as much rainforest as will regenerate naturally in a certain time, and adjusting consumption of fossil fuels so we stay within safe limits for CO2 levels in the atmosphere. It would also mean investing heavily in green technologies.


But the Ponzi scheme of hyper-consumerism is approaching the equivalent of the Lehman collapse in 2008. Ecologists tell us that humans are consuming natural resources at a scale and speed that 1.3 planet Earths would be needed to sustain it, and that it would take four to five planets if all the Earth’s 7 billion people wanted to live like the West. With more ecological problems building up, it’s time to pay the bills ourselves, rather than fobbing them off on children.

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