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Moving Toward an Ecology-Based Economy

| 5/21/2014 11:33:00 AM

For anyone who pays attention to even the mainstream news these days, it is becoming painfully clear that our planet’s ability to sustain us, and provide the ecosystem services that we rely on, is becoming severely compromised. From the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report, to the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s new initiative, to our own National Climate Assessment, there is little good news on the future prospects of this planet to sustain life as we know it for our children. The smartest people on the planet are sounding the alarm loud and clear and yet it falls mostly on deaf ears, especially in our own country, which leads the industrial world in greenhouse gas emissions per capita.

Challenges of a Changing World

In addition to the challenges of climate change, we face the rapid depletion of easily extracted fossil fuels, agricultural soils, major aquifers, rare earth metals, mined fertilizers and other important resources on which we have built our economic system. Sometimes it can be hard to fathom our collective inaction to radically change our economy to fit within the ecological footprint of the planet, if that is even possible at this stage of the game.

While the feasibility of supporting 9 billion souls on this planet by 2050 is grounds for endless debate, if we care about our children, and theirs, we have no option but to roll up our sleeves and try. Many possible solutions have been identified, but all are far from being deployed at the necessary speed and scale to avert a crisis.

The European Union’s shift to distributed, clean, renewable energy using smart grid technology, EVs, and hydrogen storage is overwhelmed by the burning of coal in developing nations, all hungry for modern convenience, and the staggering lack of climate action in the US.

The Rodale Institute, the carbon farming movement, agro-ecologists, and permaculturists increasingly demonstrate the ability of organic no-till, intensive rotational grazing, perennial polycultures and other low-input systems to rival or exceed conventional agricultural yields, while sequestering carbon, regenerating worn out soil, and most importantly, providing higher quality nutrition. Yet our industrial food system is mired in a genetically modified, chemical and petroleum cesspool that poisons our air and water (and us), while depleting precious soil and other resources at an alarming pace.

While some places like Portland, Oregon are experiencing a revolution in bicycling and public transport, our overall transportation system favors the gas-guzzling automobile, leaving people afraid to ride or walk the few miles to school, work, or the market that compromise most car trips. Public transport is non-existent in most rural and suburban areas, forcing the working poor into poverty just to own and operate a car.

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