Economics is 3/5 ths of Ecology
Economics only deals with:
Materials, Processing & Distribution
Resources, Materials, Processing, Distribution & Waste
Are the concerns of ecology.
Environmental problems come from the economic process overlooking waste
and the base of natural resources.
The entire range of economic activity can be looked at in terms of three
1) Assembly of MATERIALS:
Locating or gathering raw materials like soil and seed, metallic rocks and
energy; or information and images.
2) PROCESSING the assembled materials:
Planting, cultivation and harvesting; extracting metal from the ore and forming
it into useful items; or organizing the information into a coherent, useful
or entertaining format.
3) DISTRIBUTION of the end product:
Getting the produce grown, the goods manufactured, or the report, film or
whatever has been produced, to people and places where they can be used and
In a well developed economy, the raw material for one economic activity is
often the product from one or several other activities. However, the three
steps are basic to them all.
From an ecological viewpoint, these same three steps are present. Plants and
animals collect nutrients, process (digest) them into useful forms and distribute
them to organs and limbs for use in their growth and activity. Sometimes,
creatures even gather materials and form them into "artifacts" for specific
purposes, such as nests and honeycombs.
In both the human economy and the natural world, these steps of assembling
materials, processing and distribution are accompanied by two further considerations:
the natural resource base, and waste. In economics, these concerns have seldom
been accounted for. In the study of ecology, however, the limitations these
impose are often observed and sometimes explained as the "law of the minimum"
and the "law of tolerance".
THE LAW OF THE MINIMUM states that growth will continue drawing on available
materials as needed until one of those materials is exhausted. The first material
to be used up is the limiting factor. Soil degradation, loss of genetic diversity,
and the depletion of fossil fuels, forests, fish stocks and other resources,
are examples of the problems which arise when this 'law' is overlooked.
THE LAW OF TOLERANCE deals with the ability of different organisms to tolerate
changes in their living conditions. Changes in climatic conditions or the
chemical composition of their surroundings can lead to intolerable--and therefore
limiting--situations, as can the arrival of a competing organism or a new
predator. Among the concerns associated with the limits of tolerance are:
the greenhouse effect, ozone depletion, pollution of soil, water and air,
the loss of natural habitat, pesticides and garbage.
Every environmental problem results from either overlooking the resource base
or the waste we create. Some complex problems, such as overpopulation and
militarism, have effects in both areas.
If Mother Nature were to present invoices for resources extracted and wastes
absorbed, conventional economic accounting would be able to keep human activities
in balance with the rest of the natural world. Now that Mother Nature is ailing,
we may have to tally the costs and pay the bills to raise the money so badly
needed to prevent catastrophe.