Written by Davian Views
In my vocation title of Traditional Industrial Ecologist, I study the Nature of Balance. In eighteen years, I have studied the nature of balance; the gap between my perspective and that of the mainstream in many subjects, has widened, so when you read this, have an open mind.
“Money makes the world go round” is the title of a song, and in human affairs, it rings true. If you are a member of any of the other life forms on this planet, money affects you in a bad way, particularly as you cannot legally own any money. A paper entity, known as a juristic person, such as a company, charity, or council can own money, and they are lifeless entities.
Among the most powerful of these lifeless entities are the central banks, multinational corporations, and governments. What determines their behaviour is the people at the controls, in the same way as the driver of a car determines the behaviour of their car, either safely, fatally, or somewhere in between. The driver of a multinational corporation does not own said company, so in the car driving analogy, the multinational corporation is like a company car, and the temptation to see how many revs you can get out of the engine in first gear, is always there. The same driver will not try this in their own Mondeo! This is one of the primary moral hazards; lack of respect for others’ property, which was nicely demonstrated by some members of parliament not so long ago.
Ownership tends to encourage stewardship, both in individuals and communities; the lack of ownership creates dependency and encourages resentment. The same dynamic applies to money.
This discourse is about the nature of currencies, so I will begin with the original currency on planet Earth, which is not mentioned at all in the hallowed halls of economic academia. This currency is energy, and its attributes allowed life on Earth to exist, develop, and evolve.
I will refer to the natural world in terms of business-speak in order to highlight the parallels between the natural economy and the one we humans have created.
The Sun issues energy that radiates in all directions, the Earth receives a tiny fraction of this energy, and according to the Gaia hypothesis, as life developed the atmosphere formed, and as it did so, life began to create the infrastructure, to allow its development and evolution.
The atmosphere is an insulator that reduces the volatility of temperature; it also distributes air and water all around the planet, allowing vegetation to turn energy and nutrients into form and fuel so that they and animal life can exist.
The main driver of life is the survival of both the individual and the species. The species has a longer lifespan than the individual in normal circumstances and imposes the cost of procreation on the individual so that the individual can enjoy the benefits of being part of the group. This creates a balance, which we humans refer to as enlightened self-interest.
The individual life form will base its decision in a business-like manner, e.g., A tree may ponder; shall I invest the resources required to grow a branch and harvest the light from that space in the woods and make a profit in energy terms, that I can keep in my trunk.
An animal will do the same form of calculation, e.g., A Squirrel will calculate that it is worth visiting a tree that has nuts on it, gather and then burying the nuts for later on when there are no nuts available, Squirrels are a favourite advertising ploy to attract savers to save as their behaviour, is considered prudent and future-oriented. Humans were encouraged to emulate the Squirrel until quite recently.
So does all this activity by the animal and vegetable kingdom create wealth? Yes, it does, over the millions of years, the life on Earth has created the infrastructure to support a diverse range of specialist species that exploit their niche markets in the environment as entrepreneurs do theirs in a marketplace. So, in a nutshell, as the squirrels would say, “Life maintains and improves the common wealth of all life on earth, no life form has overall power, and this lack of power ensures diversity, innovation, and sustainability.”
Every year, baring the problems with climate change and the occasional meteorite, the tonnage of biomass increases, more topsoil is made, oil and coal, and natural gas are formed. The energy harvested from the sun is enough for life to thrive and show a surplus.
Not a bad performance, with no central planning, or interference and most notably no scrappage because in the food chain, someone’s waste is someone else’s dinner.
Scrappage is one of the obvious differences between the natural economy and the human economy. It is the primary reason that we need more resources each year, though it is a little more complex than just not wasting stuff, I will get to that later.
In the natural economy, there is credit. Imagine for a moment that you were born as a small bird, a Sparrow, after you hatched, your parents would feed you and look after you until you could look after yourself, then when you found a mate, you would repay the obligation to your offspring with interest as you could well raise more than two chicks, as others in your flock bought it by serving lunch to the Sparrow Hawk.
In the natural economy, there is limited competition among the same species. Although biologists describe these interactions as a war between plants and animals, closer scrutiny reveals that all life forms are dependent on each other for their own survival and that of their habitat. This was neatly summed up by the Indian chief who said: “Man is part of the web of life, what he does to the web, he does to himself.”
Life forms are both users and creators of the natural infrastructure by their presence. You can also observe that the population density parallels our main three habitat classifications; Urban would be a Rainforest, Suburban would be our own temperate landscape, and rural would be the Arctic or Sahara.
Humans value their habitat in terms of infrastructure in a similar way; good schools, hospitals, shops, restaurants, entertainment, and a functioning just police force as well as nice weather. Each member of a community is, through their work, a separate species creating diversity and structure.
When humans developed money, they altered the balance of everything. Money replaced the barter system with what could be termed “Unifood”, a single commodity that could be exchanged for anything the possessor of money would wish for.
This had another corrosive knock effect, instead of hunting or farming, it was more profitable to hunt or farm money, than the underlying commodities that the money could buy. The easiest way was just to steal what others had, and so the warrior was born.
The choice was irresistible, what was once hunting for prey, became hunting for the wealth of others. Around this dynamic, developed bigger and bigger MICE ( Military, Industrial Complex Etcetera).