Applied Imagination

We win, nature wins more

What does a two-way, interactive human-nature partnership look like? And, how does it work?

Much of our global overlapping pandemics, like climate, is wrapped up in our estrangement from nature — that humans are separate from nature, or that nature is there for our use, through a birthright, a divine right, or shareholder rights.

Bank of Nature asks: What are nature’s rights?

By establishing a proxy for nature, independent of traditional industry and government, we create a peer whose one job is solving planet-scale crises regardless of growth of value imperatives.

Bank of Nature aspires to be a real world, legal proxy by design. We’re starting with the encompassing idea that we should have mutual, even transactional, relationship with nature.

We say nature is a bank, from which we borrow.

What are the terms, fees, interest due and penalties? From there we start to see the many parts.

We want representation of nature that is relevant in today’s decision making, not as a source of wealth but an investor in our success due the enrichment from that success.

Bank of Nature sees our relationship with nature as two way — using fiduciary money directly into the health of our biogeochemical processes that sustain us. We embrace the human excellence story but only as a path to repairing our environmental and social abuse. We embrace economy only as a guide that accounts for nature.

If Earth is our landlord, what do we owe in rent?

Designing the parts of the whole

Who speaks for nature?

Designing a proxy for nature

A core challenge of the climate crisis and other planet-scale challenges is that nature, the source of our wellbeing, is left out of the lists of stakeholders. Sustainability suggests that both nature and future generations should have a voice in materiality exercises, but that rarely, if ever, happens. In order to begin a partnership, we need a proxy for nature that has the legal standing to negotiate for nature and defend nature. There are examples of legal standing granted to rivers and other aspects of nature, and that’s a model to build on for all of nature. Industry and government have planet scale advocates. Nature needs a planet scale advocate.

Scarcity gives way to suffiency

Designing human-nature interactive economics

A core concept in conventional economic thinking is that we compete on price under conditions of scarcity. Another core conventional concept is that there is always more that we can take from nature, and that the fall out of our taking will be absorbed by nature, without any consequence to us. So we compete under conditions of scarcity in conditions where we think there is no scarcity. That’s the economic guidance for governments and industries. Bank of Nature tells a different story, a story of sufficiency within a human-nature partnership that is interactive, and not extractive; a story of abundance, and also of consequence. In this story, humanity can prosper only if nature prospers alongside us. 

Institutions as stewards

Designing fiduciary finance

Any partnership that succeeds is based on trust. As a society, we have “entrusted” government and industry, as the global entities they are, to work together and separately to address the climate crisis. The result of that has been iterative, less bad industrial improvements that don’t solve the problem and global accords like the Paris Agreement that is locked in a political quagmire. Meanwhile, Fridays for the Future and other advocates are demanding action. That action isn’t going to come from industry and government, that are driven first by growth and value imperatives. That’s a conflict of interest that stalls any planet-scale roll out of solutions. Bank of Nature is a work around. A proxy for nature, a global entity and peer to government and industry, can have one role: Fix the climate threat, without the conflict of growth. Pension funds, our first customers, have minimum return requirements to meet their duties. They also have stewardship missions that align with Bank of Nature. Industry that cause negative environment externalities have not be compelled to pay for — internalize the cost of — those externalities.

Culturally relevant quality of life

Defining dignity that matters

One of Bank of Nature’s core philosophies is that humanity has ceded control to two social constructs, both guided by scarcity economics, another invention not found in nature. Business and government, driven by growth and value imperatives that come at the cost of nature, preserve economy ahead of human health. COVID-19 and the frictions between public health and public wealth is evidence that people are lower on the priority list than a robust economy, which already causes global social strife along with the climate threat. We might debate whether nature is also a construct, but it remains one that is irrelevant to our current global response to crisis. Establishing a proxy for nature, which includes Homo sapiens, gives choice back to people to work for public health within the context of building climate security.

Where are we headed?

Designing endgame sustainability

Sustainability, in theory, is a practice that makes society compatible with our environment. Sustainability, in practice, has only made society less bad for the environment and, we argue, even more marginal improvements for social justice. Modern sustainability doesn’t get us to a place in the future where sustainability means success, or a time when we can relax because the threat is behind us. Bank of Nature is about defining a success outcome: “Endgame sustainability”. We think this means different choices, new relationships and a respectful, mutual relationship with nature through a legal proxy… whose only job is rewriting a dangerous status quo that excludes nature. What does an inclusive economy with nature look like? We think it’s inspiration for endgame sustainability that gives nature, including us human animals, a future with a much longer horizon.

What does a world made sustainable look like?

Designing a new society structure

At Bank of Nature, we argue that there is a missing player in any decision making today. That’s nature. All of our society is guided by social constructs. Bank of Nature wants to be the construct that speaks for nature. As a legal entity added to the way we manage human life on a planet for finite resources to sustain that life, a proxy for nature would mean structural adaptions — enhancing what already works, but providing a backstop to what presently doesn’t. Key components are economic inclusiveness, institutional accountability, social and environmental choices executed at the scale of nature, justice, longtermism, shifted paradigms and priorities and a two-way human-nature partnership.

Join our design initiative

We’re designing a safer alternative path through financial stewardship and away from financial speculation that compromises efforts to address the climate crisis.

The pitch for Bank of Nature:
A voice for nature
A proxy for nature
An act of global co-creation
To create endgame sustainability
Within a two-way human-nature partnership
That is interactive, not extractive.

Bank of Nature is not a bank and offers no banking services. It is a program of Cape Cod Center for Sustainability, a 501c3 nonprofit. 

Thank you to Arizona State University and its Center for Science and the Imagination for the fellowship support.

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