Posted by: Annabel Ascher | June 30, 2011

Reclaiming the Commons Part VII-The Logic of Natural Systems

Natural Systems

The Logic of Natural Systems

If the logic of the treadmill is based on profit and growth, then the logic of ecosystems could be said to be based on cycling and dynamic equilibrium. As animals, our bodies are also based on these principles, which helps explain why what harms the earth harms us as well. Every expert I could find in my research all concur on the features of natural systems. They all agree that the natural world is a finite, closed (except to the solar radiation that sustains all life) system that has as its base a complicated web of productive plant interactions. They all agree that humans are expendable to the system while fungi or ants for instance, are not. And they all agree that the activities of the treadmill are putting the whole system at risk. Visionary author Herman Daly states that:

“The bio-physical limits to growth arise from three interrelated conditions: finitude, entropy and ecological interdependence. The economy, in its physical dimensions is an open sub-system of our finite and closed ecosystem, which is both the supplier of its low- entropy raw materials, and the recipient of its high- entropy wastes. The growth of the economic sub-system is limited by the fixed size of the host ecosystem, by its dependence on the ecosystem for low-entropy inputs, and as a sink for high-entropy wastes, and by the complex ecological connections that are more easily disrupted as the scale of the economic sub-system (the throughput) grows relative to the total eco-system.”[i]

Not only do the experts in the field of ecology agree, we all have some basic feeling regarding the impending disaster, and we all face the potential danger in staying the current course, including the risk of poisoning ourselves first. Yet, the treadmill not only continues un-abated, it continues to grow. Why?


[i] Herman Daly, Beyond Growth,  Page 33

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