From Dominant Species To Participant Species
“One of the world's great paradoxes is that our economies can only grow by getting people to consume beyond their real needs. Here's the problem: by stimulating the economic demand of our expanding population, we overuse the planet’s fixed amount of non-renewable resources without adequately replenishing Earth's renewable resources. Then we rationalize these disparities through free-market ideology. We say that "since humans are an intelligent species with vast scientific insight and technical skills, we would never harm civilization by creating perilous imbalances within society or nature. This is why we use a market economy because it is self-adjusting and avoids any misallocation of resources". Yet these 'intelligent algorithms' that propel our economic systems are not naturally correcting, as evidenced by widespread poverty and ecological degradation.
While biology shows that no population can live beyond its ecosystem, society ignores this natural law. Through free trade, our national economies buy, borrow and steal from other life-support systems, which means we are all drawing from the greater life-support system of Earth. Capitalism was not designed to value resources at their future worth. Instead, it measures resources by their extraction, production and labor costs and the price at which their products sell in the market -- all based on supplying today's demand.
Today, the fundamental algorithms of modern economics, use value and exchange value, are driven more by what people want than what they need. This has created a growing deficit in our preparedness, integration and resilience as a society, which impedes our allocation of resources to those in need while destroying our environment. Nonetheless, these algorithms are essential in expressing the dynamic forces of freedom and equality in human society. Use value generates our engagement with others through the practical utilization of resources, and exchange value generates trust among people in the marketplace. What is vitally missing is the interdependent practice of social cooperation by every individual and the culture of mutual caring and solidarity that this generates.
We also recognize the critical importance of education and technology in supporting cooperative culture. Yet this is not enough to transform the modern economy. Industrial civilization may have learned to increase economic efficiency by lowering the inputs of production and slowing the rate at which we use resources to produce each unit of what we want. But as long as human consumption continues to generate poverty, waste and debt, today's market-driven systems of education and technology will not change human behavior or drive evolutionary change. In the decades ahead, societies must learn to practice ways of life that are more in harmony with nature and can provide our sustenance through technologies that are designed for the rational and sustainable use of resources.
What will solve this baffling equation is a new software of the mind. We need a code that shifts human understanding of ourselves, our behavior and our evolutionary role as a 'dominant species' to that of a 'participant species' in a complex ecosystem. We need to tell the story of where we come from, our purpose for being here and how we shall survive and thrive in this fragile environment. Without this new history of who we are, civilization will slowly collapse. Indeed, we are now in a period of decline, which is why we need a narrative about the self-sufficient use of the resources common to all people. This story is just as vital for the nourishment of the human race as our air, water, food and energy.
Sustainability involves more than our current availability or access to resources. Given our growing economic and ecological deficits, humanity must look far ahead to how people’s future needs will be met. We have barely recognized that our shared commons cannot belong to one generation more than another, or how the mounting costs of our damage to Earth will be paid by those who were not responsible for this destruction. “ (newsletter, https://economicdemocracyadvocates.org/)