Austerity vs abundance

Abundance is the natural state of the world and we can improve the lot of humanity while also allowing the biosphere to thrive, says Matt Mellen

(c) Nimish GogriIs our underlying nature abundant or austere? Most politicians tell us the solution to our economic woes and other challenges is to cut public services while making people and nature work harder in the global economy. But if we look at how ecosystems function we find generalities that suggest abundance is the Earth’s natural state and the key to civilisation’s success is working with it, not cutting it off.

Life on Earth is tenacious and exuberant. Everything is powered by a seemingly endless gift from the cosmos. The sun’s prerogative is to throw out photons with such consistent generosity that a process as slow as life can depend on it, for billions of years. As life has become more complex it has captured more of the energy sailing through space and drawn it down into the seething layer of life on our planet.

At the beginning, the biosphere (the global sum of all ecosystems) was simple, but it has grown steadily more complex as evolution has generated new forms of life. Single-celled creatures clumped together and eventually vertebrates emerged which, after four billion years, grew big brains and invented time, money, and scarcity.

“Less work for purely economic gains would allow us more time to care for our families and communities, grow more food ourselves and give Gaia a break.”

Life creates the conditions that allow life to thrive. The biosphere has created soil, a chemically active atmosphere, fossil fuels and everything our civilisation depends upon. But human consciousness throws up a systemic anomaly in the progress of life on the planet. Unlike other organisms, which innately support the ongoing evolution of life, we have choice. We can cut down the Amazon to mine oil, dump coal in the Great Barrier Reef and extract all the fish from the sea, or we can choose to be compassionate, ecological and live in a way that supports life.

The problem is that the global economy itself is not conscious. In a very real sense it is insane – we trade the living land for dead money and sit clutching our coins waiting for the reaper. If we work in this economy unquestioningly are we insane too? If we choose another way, what options are available to us?

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