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Ecology Versus Economics Feedback on the Book Critiques.

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Presentation on theme: "Ecology Versus Economics Feedback on the Book Critiques."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ecology Versus Economics Feedback on the Book Critiques.

2 Ecology versus Economics ECOLOGY ECONOMICS Supposedly objective and neutral as a science should be Objective? The method is supposedly objective Quantifiable - High probabilityQuantifiable - Lower probability Medium of measurement - energy (primary)Medium of measurement - money (secondary) Stresses limits, balance and stabilityStresses growth, imbalance and dynamic Integrative stressing process (organic/inorganic)Integrative stressing exchange process System based (Ecosystem)System based (exchange system)* Self-regulating (balance, entropy, thermostat concept)Self-regulating ("Hidden hand" concept)* (by natural force)(by human choice) Operates outside value systemRepresents the value system HolisticMastery concept of Judaeo-Christian tradition Natural Resources as CapitalNatural Resources as Income Long termShort term ECOLOGY AND ECONOMICS: SOME COMPARISONS

3 “The Fundamentals” Many of you critiqued Ponting’s book, and I was left feeling that the book had to deal with key fundamental issues about human society, social organization and, maybe, how far we really were from Darwin’s “less evolved” species. Actually, Ponting is dealing, or trying to deal, with things that have bedeviled thinkers for thousands of years. We must always seek the most fundamental layer of explanation. Has he?

4 “The Fundamentals 2” 1.Is man “rational?” And what, exactly does that mean? We have only admired “rationalism” since the Reformation. 2.How do we reconcile “individual” and “collective” rationality (sometimes called the “Tragedy of the Commons” argument.) 3.How has man demonstrated a concern for the future rather than immediate satisfaction? “Greed and Fear.” Primitive societies took what they found when they found it? Or did they? We have to decide whether man consciously works against his own interest: i.e. doing something now that he knows will inhibit his potential to provide for himself and his family in the future. Do you believe this happens? Is it something “new” and did Ponting ascribe the collapse of so many civilizations to this, or to population outrunning capacity to innovate or the capacity of Nature to provide?

5 But wait, there’s more… By the 16 th / 17 th centuries, the argument had resolved into two camps: Thos. Hobbes argued that man still retained much of the animal and would work in his interest against that of his neighbor (very proto-Marxian) Thus, a “Prince” was needed to ensure the greater good of the community against greed. Life is “nasty, brutish and short.”

6 On the other hand… Philosophers like John Locke believed in the essential goodness of Man, which was crushed and exploited by the tyrannical few. Best summarized in Rousseau’s phrase that “Man is born free, but everywhere is in chains.” This School had considerable influence on the formation of the USA. Intellectually pleasing, but is it true?

7 Later… The rise of “economics,” or Adam Smith’s version of it anyway, put forth the idea not of an all- seeing God, but of the “Hidden Hand” of economics (demand, supply, market and price) to take care of everything—including you. For this to work in the environment, you have to have and underlying “value” for the environment, and there is no proof that we do. We have an underlying concern about the short- term price of resources, but that is something totally different.

8 What about Marx? It was argued by many weak-minded, but probably well-meaning Western economists, that Marxism somehow acted as steward and took the environment out of the hands of profit-seeking capitalists. This was of course, rubbish, as the Socialist economies graphically demonstrated after Marxism values only the value turning nature into a resource—i.e. the value of labor.

9 Further Reflection Is modern society, for all its science and accumulated knowledge—though also with its loss of wisdom and scholarship—and “different” and/or “better” than its early ancestors? What do you think? Why exactly is Ponting so gloomy in the second edition? What, exactly, has caused the endless catastrophes? Population pressure, greed? What message would you take away from this book about Policy and Action for the future?

10 Is this the key question? Francis Bacon said “The sign of a true scholar is not that he has all the answers, but that he knows what the questions are.” To me, this seems to be the central question Does Man ever continue with a short- term destructive life- style, knowing of alternatives? If so, Why ? How do you account for this in proposals for change ?


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