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What is Green Economics?by Miriam Kennet January 2009

Green Economics is the green movement's challenge to main stream orthodoxy in economics and it is gaining ground globally and in the corridors of power as the best alternative to solving climate change, the credit crunch, poverty and biodiversity losses.

It is about providing reclaiming the practices and policies of economics, for all people everywhere, nature, other species, the planet and its systems. It is about provisioning for the needs, impacts, effects and responsibilities, for everyone and everything on the planet.

Today, mainstream economics actually argues that " trade offs" occur between the Economy and the Economy and so it argues that if we look after the Ecology- then our Economics will suffer. This is completely insane logic- as there is actually NO economics outside of ecology or the planet at all- so in the Realworld there can be no conflict of interest. Green Economics is about factoring the Real World or Life World, and the forgotten economics Factor "reality" right back into the centre of economics, instead of the mainstream's dangerous pretence that " reality" doesn't exist on the company or national balance sheet.

The word Eco- nomics is based on the Greek word "oikia" or house, and Eco-nomics orginally meant management of the household. It has exactly the same root as the word Eco-logy. However the two have become so separated -and currently are used to mean exactly the opposite, excluding the household and caring, home work from GDP. Mainstream economics has come to refer to profit, growth and price, as expressed by the buying preferences of homo economicus, rational economic man. However, more than half the world is not homo economicus, white, middle class, western educated man.

Green Economics is heavily influenced by feminist theory which urges us to listen and to act on other voices, all voices, the voices of the quiet, older people, younger people, people with disabilities, minorities,the colonised and all the voices of the powerless. We need to challenge people's assumptions about wealth and their assumptions about poverty. Many of the worlds poor are women, many women are poor and many farmers are women!

One fifth of humanity, 1.3 billion people, live in life threatening poverty. Oxfam advises that a further 900 million are entering starvation as a result of the competition between land for food which the poor use for subsistence and land use for bio- fuels which is a cash crop most often produced for multi- nationals companies for profit.

Green Economics is inclusive and thrives on diversity and works for everyone's benefit including the weakest, and the voiceless in society. It is about ensuring everyone and everything flourishes, and that everyone has their say. Green Economics is also especially concerned to prevent- runaway climate change and not to hide behind economics as an excuse for inaction. Mainstream Economics puts price and the economy before climate change prevention and mostly goes for adaption and mitigation of effects. It discounts future generations, arguing that our having money and access to resources today is worth more than money and acess to resources for our descendants in future generations. The selfish assumption being that somehow they will need fewer resources than we do!

Many green economists are also scientists, physicists, and ecologists or archaeologists, and they take a longer term view and view more informed by physical realities than simply the short term balance sheet, or political cycles, and they know that a 5 degree rise in the climate is extremely dangerous and no economics system justifies that risk. Further agriculture wont survive and where and how we know it under these conditions - Green Economists know that there is no economy without the planet, and ecology and so they ensure their solutions work within the resources on offer from nature. They also seek to find solutions so that all people everywhere, the planet and its systems benefit from an economics transaction, rather than being discarded as throwaway inputs to a temporary product or service with greater long term costs from disposal or use( Externalities) which are not usually counted in mainstream economics. These externalities can vary from producing of babies for the next generation, caring for the sick or elderly, health effects from pollution, or wrecking the climate and depleting the land area- and available water through sea level inundation.

We are living the world 6th ever Mass Extinction of species, with ¼ of all mammals on the seriously endangered list for example. This is a little known phenomena but the UN and the TEEB project, is following up the Stern Report on climate change, and is calculating the incredible costs of rapid biodiversity loss, estimated initially at over 7 times as much as catastrophic climate change. For example in the economic powerhouse of China - they are having to hand pollinate the crops as the honey bees are all disapearing. Apart from the impractical aspect of replacing nature by human paid job activity, the cost of replacing nature by human work is a completely ridiculous prospect and an arrogance beyond compare. But this is what main stream economics rely on- that human capital and natural capital are "substitutes" and can be interchanged whenever we like!

We urgently need Green Economics to become " the " mainstream to stop this economics main stream madness. We have to live within the boundaries of nature and the planet,rather than thinking we can steward, manage it, or rip off all its treasures. Most main stream economics is concerned with "use value" - and the market value of goods and services and this includes- commodification and market trading in clean air and water and also trees. But there is value in a tree for itself..intrinsic value, and we need the trees. To go about their tree business, unhindered, .for lots of reasons... as a habitat for other species, for oxygen and as a soil fixer, and water absorber

In 2008, the world woke up to the benefits of Green Economics, and greening the economy is now an initiative of UNEP, and the European Business Summit and even Obamah, Sarkozy and others are using green jobs and green economics as a justification for kick starting the economy. The ILO has a green jobs initiative.

Today, the old gas guzzling car companies are no longer making sense in the new world of green economics. They are desperately seeking support financing as their business becomes more obsolete. It is clear that now, new more efficient smaller vehicles and public transport will replace them. Even Ford Motors, "fordism" the bedrock of main stream 20th century industry and economics, was based on mainstream economics policies of high mass consumption, and commodification and outsourcing. This wasted resources and ignored the needs of most people on earth in favour of homo economicus.

Company itself originally meant- breaking or sharing bread- "com panne" with other people, but it has also come to mean the exact opposite. Often companies have become alienating, faceless and huge with no concern for the human or environmental consequences of its commodities, supply chains or trading.

If we dont share our resources, we dont manage them well, if we dont recognise the consequences of all our own actions, on the one planet earth we live on together, then resources are badly managed and everyone suffers. The Dafur and the Congo conflicts are caused by fighting over supply chain inputs, by larger companies, for western luxury goods such as mobile phones. This is causing child and slave labour and up to 5 million people have been killed. We need to ensure we understand our own role in causing this- as every single one of us, participates in this mainstream madness and even cruelty. It betrays the very core intention of economics, managing of the household - our household our planet Earth and its bounty, caring for and respecting scarce resources and leaving an economics for the next generations with an equal resource bundle to that which we were lucky enough to receive from our own ancestors.

Let us implement our Green Economics and enjoy new more beneficial kinds of economics relationships with nature's fragile abundance, supporting each other, on one big planet. Let us ensure our economics provides for that. There is absolutely no economics anywhere outside of nature and we need to remind people of that very urgently and build a beneficial economics for all people everywhere, and reclaim economics for the benefit, not the rape of nature, the planet, and its systems.

Green Economics actively addresses today's problems, including the Credit Crunch, Climate Change and Poverty. As Greens we need to ensure we are its best ambassadors and engage enthusiastically in this contemporary economics movement for change.

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