Ekos (the ancient Greek was oikos) roughly translated means home and earth. Ekos is the common root for ecology and economics. It is worth remembering that the first economies, e.g. hunting and gathering, were fully embedded within natural systems. Ecosystems have survived for millions of years because they are highly resilient; they absorb shocks and are flexible enough to adjust to changes in the environment (e.g. droughts, flooding). All of this is spurred by the evolutionary forces which hone the abilities of species to compete and to gain via cooperation. Ecosystems are full employment, highly diverse economies run entirely on renewable energy, recycle and use resources efficiently. No debt, no deficits, no betting against the system, no too-big-to fails. Their resilience contributes to their lasting success. The need for economic transformation becomes more apparent by the day. We might learn a great deal from the organizational attributes of ecosystems which allow them to be resilient rather than vulnerable.
Issues of the Day: Now it may seem that recent posts have strayed from this theme. I want to explain. I find it hard not to respond to the events of the day — especially where economic and environmental justice are at stake. For example, the very high unemployment rate means that polluters will use the jobs issue to win support for their environmental abuses, e.g. mountain top removal for coal. By proposing an alternative energy source for mountain tops — i.e. wind, we address the jobs issue head on.
Our view of ecosystems as thriving economies also gives us perspective on why our economy is in so much trouble. For example, big finance is dominated by a handful of mega-banks — this is parallel to the monocultures which nature abhors. The trend coupled with very weak regulation of the financial sector has led to systemic risk and the too-big-to-fail syndrome rather than resilience.
On the hopeful side, people are beginning to wake up and see that a system that leads to growing inequity is inherently unstable. Many communities and local enterprises are taking action to initiate farm markets, renewable energy projects, and other creative ventures which build rather than sap communities.
About the Ekos-Squared Letterhead/Logo: The long shadows of late spring afternoon are those of my daughter Rachael Cole (an art director at Random House) and me, the sun behind us when I snapped the picture. It wasn’t until I started the blog that I realized the wonderful symbolism of the photo. The tall grass landscape is a lush green representing the vibrancy and resilience of life. The two intertwined shadows represent the quest for humanity’s harmony with natural world.
The phrase, “economics as if families, communities and a healthy environment mattered,” is a modification of E.F. Schumacher’s “Economics as if people mattered.” Schumacher has been a steady influence on my thinking about economics and the environment.
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Henry S. Cole and Associates, Inc. founded in 1993 is an environmental consulting firm that provides scientific and strategic support to community organizations, local governments, CDC, environmental groups, and businesses. All the firm’s clients are working to improve environmental health and sustainability.