The following are excerpts from a new book due out in August, 1997 entitled "Restoring the Earth: Visionary Solutions from the Bioneers (HJ Kramer, 1997)

The Problem:

*Behind the curtain of most environmental harm lies an economic motive embedded in a blind-side economic mentality that is flawed in its very assumptions.

*Most of the real wealth in the world either comes directly from the earth or relies on the Earth's biological processed in various ways for its existence. One conceptual flaw of current economic thinking is that it fails to account for the steady depletion of the finite wealth of the natural world.

*Currently, companies are actually rewarded for environmentally destructive activity and penalized for sustainable efforts by an inverted system of government subsidies and tax incentives. Oil depletion allowances and massive subsidies to the nuclear industry make renewable energy less competitive. Attractive tax and subsidy incentives for logging, mining, and ranching make deforestation profitable. The U.S. government also siphons precious irrigation water to giant corporate agribusiness customers in the Western desert at a financial loss borne by taxpayers and our precious aquifers.

*Many products cost society far more than customers pay directly. The large companies that principally benefit are the recipients of a "corporate welfare" system where the hidden costs are passed off to society at large or onto shattered ecosystems. The current system of subsidies and incentives propels corporations in a vicious cycle of environmental destruction.

The Solutions:

  • If we are to move to biologically based "eco-nomics," a fundamental recalculation of our very assumptions is in order. Such work is already in advanced stages among farseeing economists, companies, and the public policy makers. These exciting breakthroughs could realign ecology and economics to bring them into phase with the biological truth of the natural world upon which we all depend.

  • According to Worldwatch Institute, a sustainable economy requires "a population that is stable in balance with its natural support systems, an energy system that does not raise the level of the greenhouse gases and disrupt the Earth's climate, and a level of material demand that neither exceeds the sustainable yields of forests, grasslands, or fisheries nor systematically destroys the other species with which we share the planet."

  • Even large corporations today are seriously evaluating how to base their endeavors within the limits of natural systems. They recognize that current economic models are simply not viable. Consequently they are starting to address a relationship of corporate reciprocity between society and the Earth.

  • When "full-cost accounting" which accurately values the natural environment becomes integrated into economic thinking, markets will be able to function with genuine efficiency to make ecologically sane long-term decisions.

  • Adopting full cost-pricing and environmental accounting methods will limit environmental destruction and improve efficiency.

  • Another solution is taxing these destructive practices proportionally to their true social costs, while eliminating poorly conceived subsides. Such "green taxes" include fees on carbon emissions from burning coal, oil, and natural gas with the goal of offsetting global warming and air pollution. Both Europe and Japan are seriously considering a carbon tax on petrochemicals, which would immediately brighten the economic future of solar and renewable energies.

  • Green taxes place disincentives on the use of virgin natural materials to encourage recycling and reuse. They impose penalties on the overuse of groundwater. They make producers of toxic waste pay dearly in order to stimulate waste reduction and a safer industrial product cycle.

Kenny Ausubel is a social entrepreneur and an award-winning journalist and film-maker. He co-founded Seeds of Change, Inc., and authored the book Seeds of Change: The Living Treasure about the company's biodiversity mission. He has served on the Board of Odwalla since 1995.

He has also founded the nonprofit Collective Heritage Institute and Bioneers Conference. He is presently developing social-issue feature films through Inner tan Productions. Contact Mr. Ausubel via E-mail at:

(Reprint, GreenMoney Journal)

Copyright © 1996. The Light Party.

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