Natural Capital and Ecological Economy

Bee Pollenation
The word ‘economy’ comes from the Greek rooted word Oikos (Ecology), Eco and nomy meaning money, the economy was only ever supposed to be within the boundaries of nature’s resources. Eco-nomy is defined by how communities of people choose to use to  manage and harness their local and global environmental resources to meet their chosen living requirements, therefore economy, should have always been based on ecological principles to begin with.  Human life depends on goods and services provided by nature, therefore, it is our duty to manage what we utilise from Earth sustainably, if we want to keep the Earth Bank sustainable, we must invest in its future and its present invisible production of goods and services.  We can explore innovative strategies to transfer an entire economy built on principles within the Earth’s ecological carrying capacity, (within the limitations of the Earth’s natural resources).

When our current economy is based on oil, this can only mean ecological destruction, as it is the only way to gain profit and improve the economy as it is, if we transferred our economy from this destructive pattern, to be based on ecological values in terms of financial capital, we would not only secure life on Earth to prosper but our economy will be sustainable and evolve in unexpected ways.    We have an oil-based economy, most of the world believes that oil comes from fossil fuels and is in limited supply which allows oil prices to soar in the USA, destabilising the economy and there are those that believe oil to come from abiotic sources.  With this dichotomy aside, we still have too many roads and cars and although we have the technology for alternative fuels and energies, the oligarchs will not lessen their grip from oil, which is causing much of the global ecocidal destruction.

The current world economic collapse being experienced in developed countries is a sign that we need to re-evaluate an economy that has been built on short-term gain and with no acknowledgement or regard for nature’s capital, invisible goods, services and production.  This complete disregard to nature’s capital is so engrained in our perception of the world.  We could start exploring new ways of seeing nature as an investment to preserve biodiversity and the natural balance of ecosystems for the future of humanity.

Every living species of plant and animal and ecosystem has a role in nature’s bio-production which has financial value in natural capital. This is a very exciting concept that could revolutionise, reshape and immediately shift a destructive debt ridden oil based economy to an entirely sustainable and wealthy one. However, just like other similar solutions to humanities problems, it may be difficult to implement an economy based on Natural Capital, as it may pose as a threat and may not be adopted by the elite 1 percent, whom wish to maintain their power and control over centralized management of the world’s natural resources and maintaining world debt is a way to do this. The most powerful companies in the oil, chemical and biopharmaceutical industries also would have to pay the largest costs for environmental damage to natural capital, through negligence of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), to the environment and severe damage to ecosystems.  The environment needs to be a larger priority for Corporate Social Responsibility. ‘The Green Economy Initiative’ of the United Nations Environment Programme, (UNEP) and other efforts are now underway to improve the way in which we value and account for nature in our economic decision-making, a new foundation for switching to an ecological economy and putting value on ecosystems and natural capital.  Recent initiatives, such as the global study on

‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity’ (TEEB), has resulted in a better understanding of the economic value of forests and other ecosystems for societies, as an example.   The TEEB study estimates that the world’s national parks and protected areas generate wealth via nature-based goods and services equal to around US $5 trillion per year in terms of biodiversity value. Ecosystems provide us with food, clean air and water, while forests provide protection from soil erosion, recreational services, medicinal products, and climate regulation.

The World Resource Institute (WRI) estimates the value of ecosystem services to be US $33 trillion a year, nearly twice the value of the global gross national product (GNP) of US $18 trillion.

The US is also in debt by 17 trillion dollars, if the US switched to an economy based on natural capital, it would take care of this debt.  In the same way that a banknote is a promissory note against the gold or silver that has been deposited in the bank, ecological economists are seeing how we can start to put the same value onto ecosystems and the role of species in ecosystem production, another example, would be the 80 percent of oxygen produced by algae in the ocean.  Hypothetically, the value of ecosystems that exist could regenerate local economies and increase the wealth and monetary value of nature globally, simply by ensuring its conservation and existence by using initiatives similar to the TEEB.

Nature’s ecological banking system could be a way to revolutionise our world and local economies and transfer wealth from an oil-based economy to an ecology-based economy, this wealth would provide poor countries with enough ecological economy that global debt would become a thing of the past. This starts on a local level worldwide, which would regenerate and allow local communities to have better control over their own natural resources, protecting and managing them from over-exploitation of previously decentralised management of resources, which could be prevented, if corporate social responsibility pays a tax to the natural capital  destroyed and when more is taken out of the ecosystems and Natural Capital, than is put into them,  this crucially needs to be taken into account in order to gain more balance.

This form of converting nature into capital would boost the world economy, as well as local economies on so many levels; it would also provide millions of new jobs and professions for ecological accountants, auditors and bookkeepers. Pavan Sukhdev was involved in setting up the TEEB initiative and he says that “the stuff of life is natural capital”, he proposed putting a value on natural capital in order to ensure its conservation, he says that there is an abundance of unclaimed financial goods in ecosystem services that would breathe life into the poorest communities, they are important benefits of public wealth, and it is usually the poorest people that manage these ecosystems. Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) are agreements whereby a user of an ecosystem service makes a payment to an individual or communities whose practices such as  land use or deforestation directly affects the use of that ecosystem services.

Pavan, points out that when we measure our GDP, we don’t include our biggest assets at the country level at the local level, which would be the Natural Capital of each country.  When we measure Corporate Social Responsibility we do not consider our impacts or costs on nature, or human health or society, and that needs to stop, ‘You cannot manage what you do not measure” – Pavan Sukhdev.

A community at a local geographic level, as well as at a global level, has the power to change the direction of humanity, so perhaps while governments continue to ignore the crisis, we in our local communities can start taking action to change things at this level, and we can start Nature Capital initiatives in local communities and councils.  Sustainability empowers the planet and people; this is the only route for humanity to take if it is to stop species extinction and to have a chance of survival. We have to invest in sustainability by also investing more in conservation and designing an ecological economy, an entirely new economy built on the principles within the Earth’s natural carrying capacity, which means that we make economic decisions according to the limitations of our ecological natural resources.  This would be an investment in both nature and ourselves.   If only governments would invest in conserving natural resources and wildlife conservation as they do in the world banking systems, after all, planet Earth is the bank of life, only when we begin to see this, will things change, when the value of all life on Earth is seen as an ecological asset that helps keep the planet functioning in balance.  While these important ecological values are being ignored, species extinction and ecocide will continue till we have no choices left.

There is still a seed of hope for a shift in human consciousness from a political-economic hierarchical pyramid structure to a more sustainable equal or holographic way of operating politically, socially and economically through improved transparency in governments and financial institutions and an ecologically sustainable economy, where all humans have an equal chance at wealth and quality of life. An ecological economy would allow more people to see and value nature and ecosystems, let alone, how we are interconnected to all life on Earth. There is a great resistance for this to take place at government levels, as the addiction to power drives a great fear of the loss of power, which is also why alternative cleaner energies have been avoided, therefore we are being made to persist in this state of doomed atrophy on all levels of reality.

The seeds of hope are within every one of us.  We are all responsible for this crisis; it takes those of us that are courageous enough to implement these changes.  Putting financial value on Natural Capital is a ‘Commons’ concept which would allow communities to locally maintain and manage natural capital and resources locally would also be a regenerative concept for natural economy. “a dilemma in which multiple individuals acting independently in their own self-interest can ultimately destroy a shared resource even where it is clear that it is not in anyone’s long-term interest for this to happen’’ – 4 Hardin.  1968 on The Tragedy of the Commons.

Excerpt from environmental crisis is a crisis of human consciousness by Carlita Shaw

Further Research

What is Ecological Economics? of Ecological Economics

Ecological economics vs. conventional economics  TEEB Initiative Report available online.

Pavan Sukhdev- Ted Talks Put a Value on Nature

The Invisible Economy  Garrett Hardin (December 13, 1968) The Tragedy of the Commons. Published in Science.  De Young, R (1999) Tragedy of the Commons. In D. E. Alexander & R. W. Fairbridge [Eds] Encyclopaedia of Environmental Science. (Pp. 601-602) Hingham, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Author of the book  The Silent Ecococide-The Environmental Crisis is a Crisis of Human Consciousness.

Available on in Paperback

The Silent Ecocide – Amazon UK

Email Carlita at thesilentecocide at
Follow on twitter @thesilentecocide
The Silent Ecocide on Facebook

Are you an Eco-Solutionary?

Join us at  to connect and communicate for  collaborative change also find us on our Ecosolutionary Facebook group

6 thoughts on “Natural Capital and Ecological Economy

Leave a Reply

Previous post Oilgarchy vs the People and Planet
Next post Loveship is Kinship
%d bloggers like this: