An economy that accounts for nature

Conventional thinking tells us that we can run our economy “by the numbers”.

The economy, we are told, is about the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services, and the path to prosperity in this economy is through growth in the number of transactions that occur. It does not matter what those transactions are, and how they contribute to the quality of life, the impacts our current choices have on future possibilities and the equity of sharing within the populations.

Nature gets pushed out of this accounting, as all qualitative considerations get reduced to quantities that can be evaluated by simple comparison: a large number is better than a smaller one. If the number is going up — GDP, share price, market averages —  then all is assumed to be well.

Common sense and common experience tells us this is not always true: More is not always better.  When more production comes at the expense of less nature, for example, then more is not better.

Bank of Nature is challenging conventional thinking, calling out the reductionism of running the economy by the numbers. It’s extractive, elitist, and unsustainable. Bank of Nature calling for a new theory of prosperity that is expansive, interactive and inclusive with nature. We think of nature as a kind of bank which is integral to the operation of a more complete economy and the true costs of society.

This requires measuring prosperity in multiple vectors, including:

  1. Quality of life
  2. Impacts on future possibilities
  3. Humanity’s relationship with Nature
  4. Equity in sharing surpluses throughout the populations and across the generations.

Budgets and reports from traditional government and industry do not adjust the numbers to offset an external byproducts made by the work they commission. Enterprise that depletes nature is incurring a debt to nature that is yet uncounted. The value of environmental services, the closest we get in today’s society in giving nature value in business, is still arms length from a direct investment in nature. Our economy, based on scarcity, gets richer when the resources get poorer. Growth at the expense of the source of that progress, like nature, is at odds with a long-horizon future for humans to be sustained by nature.

An economy that accounts for nature is an economy that includes a proxy for nature as a peer to industry and government. That proxy, like a Bank of Nature, is focussed solely in making an economy that promotes human excellence but only with the concurrent or greater growth of nature. The successes are mutual and interactive. They relationship is two-way and built on security and prosperity in partnership with nature.