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Learning from Nature’s Economic Success

January 14, 2010

Why do the problems we face, from economic meltdowns to ecological destruction seem so intractable? Why do so many of measures taken to solve problems seem to be ineffective or even counterproductive? What might work better? Let’s look through a different lens; Ecosystems, from forests to prairies to coral reefs, are not simply beautiful, they are first and foremost economic systems – systems that represent the most successful, enduring economies on earth.

A pound of forest soil contains thousands of bacterial species but also fungi, worms, beetles – gainfully employed, competitive, yet mutually contributing to the forest’s overall health. Ecosystems have no credit card debt, no inflation, and no federal deficits. Nothing is too big to fail and there are no government bailouts. Despite numerous cataclysms – ice ages and asteroid collisions life has evolved, adapted and thrived for 3.8 billion years.

Yet, rather than learning from nature we are assailing it with ferocity; the dominant economies are depleting fisheries, destroying forests, creating dead zones in coastal waters and uprooting traditional societies whose economies are closely aligned with nature. We are changing climate in ways that will create future displacements and economic havoc.

The presentation examines the elements of resilience and health in ecosystems and contrasts them with increasing systemic vulnerability found in the dominant human economies.

What we need is a restructuring of human economies in ways that capitalize on: (a) the resilient and resource efficient organizational arrangements found in nature and (b) mutually beneficial partnerships with natural systems.

The presentation draws on several positive examples – some by MOFFA entrepreneurs. So large a transformation from today’s economics to the economics of resilient health cannot happen overnight; however it is essential that we point our compasses for the right direction.

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