Contributed by Joe Montero
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has just released a report called The Nature-Based Economy As the title suggests, the report proposes that an economy in tune with nature is the best way to look after the livelihoods of human beings. This is the message delivered with the releasing of the report in Canberra’s parliament.
Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek spoke at the event and up played the government’s credentials around the aim of making Australia a clean energy superpower and shifting away from fossil fuels. There are those who doubt the sincerity of something that may prove to be no more than a motherhood statement made at last week’s Jobs and Skills Summit. But it is a fact that the debate is now at higher level. Just about everyone agrees. The point is to now lo lift the action to match the words.
The ACF report found that 49 percent of the $900 billion Australian economy has as moderate to high dependency on nature, especially agriculture, fishery, food production, mining real estate, transport, logistics, accommodation, and hospitality. These industries also make up 68.7 percent of Australia’s export earnings.
The report points out that even those industries not directly connected to nature still depend on clean air and water, the health of the community, and the needs of consumers. All of these are connected to the state of the environment.
This means that the destruction of nature also destroys the economy.
The report calls for greater disclosure of the impacts on the environment caused by the activities of business, adequate government laws and funding to meet targets towards restoring ecosystems. No argument with this. If Australia can reach this position, it will be a major step forward.
There are a few holes though. The report considers the connection with nature through a list of mechanical connections and does not consider the deeper and more dynamic underlying symbiotic relationship between humanity and nature. This has far-reaching implications.
an economy is a partnership with nature
The other is an assumption that the nature based economy can come about through reliance on legislation, funding, and corporate self-regulation. It won’t when the bottom line can be raised through doing the opposite.
An economy is best defined as the set of practices where a group of human beings transform what nature provides into what a use need. This means that the association between humanity and nature is not only about how nature is physically treated. It also involves a set of human relations that give rise to power structures. Ignore this and the toxic side of the relationship with nature is not going to be put to an end.
An economy and politics in the hands of the corporate sector lies at the heart of the toxic side of the relationship between society and nature. This must be dealt with to achieve a nature based economy, and it requires appropriate structural change to the economy and politics, as well as legislative changes and projects.
Both self-interest and shared interest require a healthy environment and achieving a nature based economy is therefore in the interest of humanity. Achieving this is much more than clan agriculture and clean mining, and even sustainable energy generation. It means re-kitting the whole economy on a new foundation, based on new compatible technologies and organisation systems providing greater participation and real democratic control.
The answer is not in a transition we are all involved in and not an investor led one.
In no way is it being suggested that the ACF report is worthless. It is useful towards winning greater acceptance of the need for a nature based economy, marking one step along the journey. While pursuing this. We must start considering want the next step must be.