The wealth question in Climate Change
Published 25th November 2010 - 4 comments - 1149 views -
"To make people better off requires no new theories, and needs only common sense. It is based on the simple proposition that ALL capital be valued. While there may be no 'right' way to value a forest, a river, or a child, the wrong way is to give it no value at all."
- Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins
My last two posts were about Indian perspective of Climate Change. I would love to go ‘global’ again, if you like. I would love to elaborate on a fundamental issue that Johan Knoll, the editor-in-chief of this platform raised. Thanks again Johan, considering the difficulty of remaining ‘original’ on Climate Change issue on regular basis, you provided me a thread to ‘rant’ a bit again.
Johan asked me a question that referred, in one part, the concept of ‘wealth’ of a country. I may not be wrong to presume that the term ‘wealth’ here had the connotations of a traditional Capitalist economy. I do not see ‘wealth’ from that perspective at all. In fact, the way I see ‘wealth’, Malaysia may turn out to be wealthier than Germany. In that view, India is by no means a ‘poor’ country. Only 99.99 % of you will disagree with me in that.
I am sure, if you follow my blogs regularly, you know by now that I reject the idea of unlimited material growth as pursued for long in the West. I also believe that we are at the thresholds of a transition of epoch and ultimately our whole life-styles and our interaction with our surroundings will change radically pushed by a deep environmental anxiety. I believe that the security of our collective future lays in that transformation in the face of Climate Change or Global Warming consequences. I believe this strongly but also hold that this not a dogma but a stand I defend with logic and examples. So whenever I face a question that challenges my conviction, I resort to my ‘spoon-theory’. I start to look for people who also see the spoon I am looking at.
I found that at least three people, namely Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins saw the ‘spoon’ before me (at least the ‘wealth’ part of it) in their 1999 book named ‘Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution”. They resonate with me (or vice verse) in the proposal that the traditional ‘Industrial’ Capitalism "does not fully conform to its own accounting principles. It liquidates its capital and calls it income. It neglects to assign any value to the largest stocks of capital it employs- the natural resources and living systems, as well as the social and cultural systems that are the basis of human capital." They also raise fundamental ‘wealth’ questions like: What would our economy look like if it fully valued all forms of capital? What if our economy were organized not around the abstractions of neoclassical economics and accountancy but around the biological realities of nature? What if Generally Accepted Accounting Practice booked natural and human capital not as a free amenity in inexhaustible supply but as a finite and integrally valuable factor of production? What if in the absence of a rigorous way to practice such accounting, companies started to act as if such principles were in force. Read more here. And also here.
I humbly request you to believe me when I say I did not even know of these authors or their work until yesterday. I did not know they were looking at the spoon I am looking at.
About the author
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