(This rant should only be imagined under the following hypothetical circumstances: my chemical romance plays in the background, it’s an average college party someone decided to get cheeky with the throwbacks, drunk dude is nodding at what you’re saying but not really listening, you’re on your third cigarette and counting)
Recently, I’ve been looking into natural capital, or our ecosystems, and how we can better include them within today’s economy in order for us to assign value to ecosystems and therefore encourage us, as people, to value them more than we do now.
How we perceive value under capitalism is probably one of our greatest problems. What we value and what we see as ‘useful’ and ‘useless’ defines what is given respect and allowed to thrive. When something is ‘useful’ or valuable to us it is seen as something that can be turned into money, which can be turned into food/clothing/shelter/amassing stuff. An example being, my attempt to learn some te reo Māori (Māori language of New Zealand) by some of my white pākehā/European family members has been seen as a useless attempt/a language that will not be useful for me or anyone else going forward as, in their eyes, it’s not valuable (and will not create cash inflow).
In this way, the way that we value culture, societal groups and our environment (even down to little things like certain food crops) is all linked within this ‘useful = something that brings foreseeable book/monetary value to us’ line of thought. Pre-Christianity and pre-industrialisation, indigenous and/or pagan thought valued the earth, community and family. There was an understanding that in order to keep balance and harmony we needed to listen/pay attention to the tangible and intangible things around us (the seasons, our social bonds) to best create a system that benefits these. However now, we’ve started from the other way. We’ve created a system, that purposefully comes across deeply coded and difficult to understand, that informs how we all live and how our earth reacts to it.
So maybe, ‘natural capital’ needs to not be seen within ‘books’ or economic systems. Our ecosystems should be informing us on how to view value, not the other way around. It is obvious that the shift toward a more sustainable economic system needs to come from within ‘developed’/OECD nations (seeing as we are both: the biggest polluters, ones with the most internationally recognised power (soft & hard) and the nations who drive ‘value’ and ‘capital’ in other nations). But how do you break down a system that the most powerful still believes is working? How do you bring a conversation about valuing ‘being eco friendly’ to people who are working well over 40 hour weeks and just trying to get by? Who is going to create a new acceptable system that will work for our booming populations? Does is start with protest? Does it start with small grassroots communities? Or does it have to begin with policy makers and structural change?