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Bio_Economy

Given that our current economic and political systems have been developed exclusively in response to human social needs a systematic reorientation to take human continuity with the ecosystem into account will seem to be a radical departure from the norm. In this case the norm is the problem because it has not adapted to the reality of our situation. In our public discourse about the issue one of the dominant themes is the absence of widespread serious discussion about changing our economic system. Herman Daly, the environmental economist, is considered far outside the mainstream of modern economic thought because he asserts that the economy functions within the environment while traditional economic thought sees the environment as a throughput of the economy. When I look at the assumptions of capitalist market economics, as it relates to the use of industrial power and the human effect on the habitat to which we are biologically adapted, I see a fundamental flaw. Markets are human social valuation systems, biology and habitat are not human social systems but are instead the socially silent foundation of human existence and consciousness, and they are not adequately valued from an exclusively human social point of view. Translating economics into a biological point of view, and regarding our entire ecosystem as an organism, unlimited growth of industrially based economic activity is equivalent to the logic of cancer cell growth. Cancer cells don?t function like normal cells, they grow as rapidly as they can and do not stop. Eventually they crowd out and destroy the organism of which they are a part. The finite boundary of the human body is similar to the finite boundary of the natural world. The human body maintains its internal environmental chemistry within a survivable range through various mechanisms that continually balance anything that is tending to move out of a healthy range. We need to structure our economic system in a way that is similar to the homeostatic regulatory mechanisms that maintain healthy functioning of the body but applied to the functioning of the power of industrial technology and the health of the living environment in which we exist. Purpose The economic system that would function both as a mechanism to maintain the biological health of the entire biological system and also human social needs would need to be conceived of as having a larger purpose than the current economic system, capitalism, facilitating the expansion of economic activity. Adding biosphere health promotion or maintenance to the purpose of maximizing private accumulation of financial and productive capital could be an interim step in transformation of the economic system but still would not create a purpose sufficiently broad to match the scope of extra-biological power. A better match on purpose would be to add expansion of biosphere health and the expansion of human individual and collective consciousness. Energy The amount of energy a biological system can be exposed to with beneficial effect is not well described by a linear growth model where more energy equals more growth. This is very different than the linear machine and economic growth model where more energy does equal more growth of output. The relationship of energy input to the development of biological systems from the development of chemical complexity into simple and then complex living forms is described by the retired physicist who is the author of http://universe-review.ca as follows. "When energy (such as in a photon) is pumped into a chemical system, the energy partitions into thermal and electronic components. The thermal component makes the molecules move faster, and the electronic component increases the number of "high-energy" electronic states. Both energy components will foster molecular organization: the faster the molecules vibrate, rotate, and translate, and the more of them that are in electronic states above ground level, the higher is the probability that the molecules will interact and the more work can be done in organizing them. However, there is a limit to that. At very high energy levels all chemical bonds become inherently unstable, the molecular structures eventually fall to pieces. It draws the line to the energy input; it is impossible to make a macro- molecule in one run from scratch. It has to be made by supplying the required energy little by little. The aggregates (such as DNA or protein) are created by joining the units one at a time. This way each step of molecular synthesis could be driven by a separate and tolerable energy input." This is where the energy used in our industrial economy collides with the nature of the chemistry of life. We exist within the biosphere and when we use energy to accelerate our industrial development that energy goes into our biological chemical environment. Too much too fast from us breaks the bonds of our chemical foundation. We are seeing the effects of that overdose of energy in our climate and will see the effects of that on all life that exists now because life is adapted to this climate. Our burning of fossil fuels to power our industrial economy has been like a slow motion killer asteroid impact, too much energy, too fast, breaking the chemical bonds of our living world and causing the extinction and reduction in numbers of many species of living thing. Organic Economics As industrial power is applied to the achievement of human biological and social objectives there are two questions that need to be answered. First, how much does the use of a given technology exceed the normal human biological sphere of influence? This is the degree to which the given technology can be considered degree public and in need of homeostatic regulation, or private and rationally suited for unregulated management in an exclusively socially determined market economy. The second question is what conditions should be applied to the use of any particular technology that will keep it within a range of effect on the living world that is tolerable to the life forms that currently compose our ecosystem? If we were to develop a political and economic system that acted as a homeostatic regulator on industrial power that crossed significant environmental boundaries with negative affect what would it look like? It would be impractical to allocate representation to the producing ecological base and the non-human consuming members of our ecological system based on biomass, or another metric of proportional contribution to our living world. A better alternative would be to have science head the process of industrialization, as opposed to corporations and markets, and act as a mechanism for homeostatic regulation. Science, through the agency of government, could be empowered to set the homeostatic boundaries for the public aspect of industrial process. Government could manage the funding, implementation, and maintenance of the systems that cross the greatest number of boundaries with the greatest negative effects and are thus most public in the way they function. Power generation is the most obvious area in need of homeostatic regulation due to the use of greenhouse gas emitting technologies currently generating the bulk of the power used to animate our industrial society. Here science would act like the part of homeostasis that continually monitors key aspects of the bodily system and government would act as the means of balancing what has been detected to be out of balance. Once this change is proposed the issue of how to translate homeostatic constraints into the economic system must be addressed. The current approach of framing the climatic costs of industrial activity, economic externalities in economic terms, which has been undertaken in the Stern report, uses dollars as the quantifying metric. This approach starts from a false premise that environmental damage can be adequately captured in the terms of the economic system. I think this approach fundamentally distorts the issue by an assumed equivalency between ?The Economy?, and ?The Environment?. When financial figures are used there is an illusion created that the living world functions like money. The problem is that it doesn?t. Money is an arbitrary social construct that derives its meaning, function, and power from human consensus. The ecosystem is a living reality where events occur that are beyond human social influence. Life, the living habitat of which humans are a part, can be viewed as an accumulation of biological value over time. Generally life accumulates in its quantity, diversity, and quality, so that the natural world becomes richer over time. I propose that a new conceptual framework for the valuation of the aspects of our economic activity that need homeostatic regulation be based on biological time. How much biological time would be required to replace the natural resources used? Does subtraction of those resources affect other parts of the ecosystem in a ways that subtract additional biological time from our living system of biological value? The primary advantage of developing a non-social method of valuation is that the method is directly related to the area of effect being evaluated. Additionally, current ideas in our economic system can be used to ground the discussion of how biological time works as a metric. Using the life-bank metaphor, taking loans from the biological bank that rapidly exceed the capacity to repay them will result in collapse of the biological banking system. Investment in biological time produces benefit similar to capital investment in infrastructure. The same investment also applies ones own biological infrastructure like establishing healthy patterns of diet and exercise, which make this idea easily and broadly understandable. Our current economic system is well designed to maximize the growth in accumulation of monetized assets at the expense of biological time through the accelerating mechanism of industrial activity. We desperately need alternative ideas about how economic systems should function.

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