the greening of economics: as if people and planet matter

green economics

You paid for the water. It's your lawn. So wot's up with Las Vegas enforcing rules about not running sprinklers in the middle of the day?

As one angry homeowner yelled at the water inspector, “You people and all your stupid rules—you’re trying to turn this place into a desert!”

This illustrates "ideas about how the world works that don't accord with reality", says Tom Prugh...and "such ideas can be unhelpful" (via worldwatch). Doh!

Prugh notes that this is "especially true of mainstream economics", and he turns a hopeful eye toward 7 "reforms that would make economics truer, greener and more sustainable".

So, want an economics that is more delightful? Try these ideas:

Scale matters, if only because the global economy resides totally inside the global ecosystem
Stress development over growth, to make the economy better at satisfying human needs, not simply bigger.
Make prices tell the ecological truth, so that somebody pays for dismantling our ecosystems' life support machinery.
Account for nature’s services (like pollination, air and water purification, soil generation, pest control, seed dispersal, and nutrient recycling) which were formerly thought to be free.
Use the precautionary principle to switch from “How much environmental damage will be allowed?” to “How little damage is possible?”
Use commons management regimes to tap the strong human impulse toward cooperation and the common good.
Value women in order to rid economic systems of gender bias that actually suppresses economic activity.

According to Prugh, many of the innovations now driving sustainability can be traced to one or more of these ideas.

"Hopefully, they are on the way to transforming economics", says Prugh.

This much we know: the old ideas that dominate our thinking about economic matters-- such as using using GNP to measure wellbeing-- are unhelpful.

Wish I could get a refund for all the time and money I've spent learning (and unlearning) them.

Published by Ken on February 22nd, 2008 tagged Best Practices, Sustainability Science

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