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Earth needs new economic model -- Bruce Beck

April 7, 2018 GMT

The March 24 State Journal article “ UN predicts lonelier planet with fewer plants, animals,” offers evidence the earth’s natural ecosystem is becoming dangerously stressed because human society is “getting wealthier and more crowded with people.”

We know our economy is embedded in the earth’s natural ecosystem, not separate from it. This means we depend on nature for the raw materials we use. Moreover, we also depend on nature to absorb our waste and leftovers. We draw wood, clean water, fish and minerals from nature. But then we discharge manure, plastic fragments, greenhouse gases, oil spills and toxic chemicals back into nature. Nearly all the goods and services we produce reflect this cycle of extracting resources followed by discharging leftovers.

The ability of the earth to tolerate this performance was much greater when our economic system was established 300 years ago, and we had fewer than 1 billion people. With global population now projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, we need to adjust our calculations of economic progress.

For example, governments could assess a fee on greenhouse gas emissions -- one of many steps that could incentivize our economy to accommodate to planetary limits, using conservation and helpful substitutions.

Bruce Beck, Madison