Monday 20 August 2018

Lay of the Land: Economics is not environmentally viable

Stock image
Stock image

Fiona O'Connell

'Mad as a March hare" goes the phrase inspired by their bonkers behaviour during the mating season., though loss of habitat and human persecution means numbers have plummeted. So much so that living in the country doesn't guarantee me even a glimpse of these creatures that were here during the Ice Age.

Speaking of ancient times, the Canadian documentary film Surviving Progress says we suffered from the same short-term perspective that leads to loss of species even then. Such as Old Stone Age humans who so perfected hunting tools and techniques - like running a herd of mammoths over a cliff instead of spearing a few for dinner - that they drove their prey into extinction.

Last week's weird weather illustrates how the climate continues to drastically change, yet we have literally stuck to our guns when it comes to our cavalier disregard for the wellbeing of the planet on which we utterly depend. Even EU leaders meeting late last month cited "new priorities, such as stemming illegal migration, improving European security and defence as well as investing more in the Erasmus programme". These issues matter, yet it seems mad not to mention the environment.

Because whatever about roaming refugees, animals are increasingly being hemmed in by a human- dominated landscape, leading to isolation and the threat of extinction. So warns a report by a team of scientists under Dr Adam Kane, of UCC, which stresses how vital the movement of animals is for carrying out essential ecological functions.

As for safety, shouldn't we worry about our waters, especially after news last month that 48 species living in Irish seas are on the verge of vanishing forever?

Let's hope those EU exchange programme students engage with planet Earth rather than fiddling with financial fantasies as Rome burns - or blizzards, as was the case last week.

For geneticist and activist David Suzuki, who features in Surviving Progress, considers conventional economics to be "a form of brain damage... so fundamentally disconnected from the real world, it is destructive". He believes economics is a set of values that "try to use mathematical equations and all that stuff to pretend it's a science. But if you ask the economist, 'in that equation, where do you put the ozone layer? Where do you put the deep underground aquifers of fossil water? Where do you put topsoil or biodiversity?' their answer is: 'Oh, those are externalities.' Well, then you might as well be on Mars. That economy is not based on anything like the real world."

He urges us to invest in "the web of life, that filters water in the hydrologic cycle; its micro-organisms that create the soil that we can grow our food in. Nature performs all kinds of services that are vital to the health of the planet. Economists call these externalities. That's nuts!"

Sadly, not just for now but for all seasons.

Sunday Independent

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