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This is the kind of thinking that is of paramount importance right now

July 8, 2009

John Michael Greer provides an excellent example of how to explain the ecosystem to economists.

A taste, but you’ll have to read the whole post:

Behind the human activities that produce secondary goods lie nonhuman activities that produce primary goods – the biological cycles that yield soil fertility, crop pollination, and countless other things; the hydrological cycles that put fresh water into reservoirs and taps; the tectonic processes in the crust that put economically useful metals and minerals into veins in the rocks; and, of central importance just now, the extraordinarily complex interplay of biological and geological processes that stored away countless billions of tons of carbon under the earth’s surface in the form of fossil fuels.

Conventional economics assumes that these things get there by some materialist equivalent of divine fiat. This misstates the situation disastrously. Primary goods are produced by an exact analogue of the way that secondary goods are produced: raw materials are transformed, through labor, using existing capital and energy, to produce goods and services of value. The difference is simply that all this takes place in the nonhuman world.

I’ve often been frustrated by the conviction of many people that the only facts relevant to them consist of numbers representing quantities of cash, investments, loans, and credit, and that such trivialities as their own nourishment and waste belong to some unfamiliar academic discipline in which they have no compelling interest. It’s not only economists, but people who have been trained to think of their lives within the strictures of the discipline of conventional economic theory, whether they think about it in those terms or not—and our culture has proven very successful at indoctrinating ordinary people with the limitations of economic thinking. In seeing our daily lives as transactional, we absorb the assumptions of classical economic theory—we operate on a daily basis as if the physical laws to which all life is heir are esoteric furniture in some distant, crumbling temple; valuable to someone, to be sure, but to us just exotic curiosities.

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