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Mindful Economics

“By design or by disaster — Earth's ecological balance will be restored.”

Intensifying ecological stresses are certain to test our civilizational resiliency in the coming years, Lua firmly believed. The number of people, the power of technology, the global spread of ‘middle class’ lifestyles, and the overall size of the global economy have put us all on a collision course with rapidly approaching limits to the supply of key natural resources. Fertile topsoil, freshwater reserves, clean air, ocean fisheries, healthy rainforests, and cheap-to-extract fossil fuels — on which literally billions of lives depend — are all being depleted at an accelerating rate. Many countries are presently in varying states of resource-crisis. These troubling trajectories must be acknowledged and corrected.

Lua believed that in order to achieve more balanced living on our full planet and mindfully adapt sooner by design rather than later by disaster, we would need to do several things:

  • Slow down and stabilize human population growth by meeting unmet demand for family planning and for educating girls

  • Achieve universal gender equality

  • Stop and reverse greenhouse gas emissions

  • More equitably share resources, income, and work

  • Invest in the natural and social capital ‘commons’

  • Reform the financial system to better reflect real assets and liabilities

  • Create better measures of progress than ‘GDP growth’

  • Reform tax systems so that ‘bads,’ like resource depletion and pollution, are taxed rather than ‘goods,’ like value-added labor

  • Develop, promote, and freely share scientific and technical knowledge that advances human and ecosystem well-being rather than GDP growth

  • Establish strong, deep democratic decision-making processes in all organizations

  • Create a strong mainstream ethic and culture of health, resilience, self-reliance, sufficiency, and well-being rather than mindless manic consumerism

 

“It must be remembered, that the human economy is, after all, only a means to an end — and that end is sustainable human well-being, not infinite GDP growth.”

 

Clearly, humans do not have primary needs for the specific products and services of the economy necessarily, Lua noted, but rather for food, shelter, clothing, security, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity, and a sense of freedom. Yet the misguided goal of endless economic growth, consumerism, and loosely regulated global free-market capitalism has fallen short on meeting these primary needs and instead created severe income and wealth inequalities across many societies and growing risks of ecological collapse.

 

There is only one way to create a safe and just space for humanity going forward, she insisted. We must meet the needs of a large, diverse, and growing human population now dominating the planet with a minimum social foundation of food, water, housing, energy, education, health, income and work, peace and justice, social equity, political voice, gender equality, and community while staying within ecological boundaries to prevent environmental systems collapse. But collectively, we are already overshooting many planetary ecological boundaries. And in doing so, we are raising the risks of destabilizing global events that could threaten the fragile stability of human civilization. Climate change, ocean acidification, chemical pollution, nitrogen and phosphorus loading, freshwater withdrawal, land conversion, biodiversity loss, air pollution, and ozone depletion all threaten the delicate balance that must be maintained if we are to continue to live safely, justly, and sustainably on this finely tuned life-rich planet.

In a moment of uncharacteristic somberness and sincerity, Lua asserted,

“Let me be very clear, Mister Rico; by design or by disaster — Earth's ecological balance will be restored.”

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​© 2020 Rich 'Rico' Leon