Nature is the Foundation of the Economy

​​By: Nora Germain

I don’t like that when we are talking about people who are trying to save this planet that we call them “eco-conscious” or we call them “in favor of green energy” and then everybody else gets to just be normal. Everybody who is fighting for the survival of the planet should be considered normal, and everybody who is not doing that, who is not facing the science and taking the challenge seriously — they should be called “in favor of planetary death” or “in favor of societal collapse.”

That may sound dramatic, but here’s a Tweet by @AaronHM that explains it perfectly.

“It’s actually pretty straightforward. If we don’t align the entire global economy to work within the limits of the biosphere, we will have neither an economy or a biosphere.”


A big part of this problem is that millions and probably billions of us take nature for granted. We think we will always have maple syrup and orange juice and whales and dolphins. We think we will always have clean water coming out of our faucets and showers or that we will always be able to cut down more trees for more paper and furniture. As Steve Jobs said, we have to “think different.” This does not mean that we all have to go live in a cave and eat moss, but we do need to transform the way that we make and do everything, and we have to do it together.

Those of us who understand these facts are way past the point of being eco-conscious or eco-friendly. This is about the survival of our economies and families. Nature is the foundation of the economy and of human life. Very, very few things can be accomplished without the existence of nature, providing air, water, and other resources. This is about the survival of our financial markets, our agriculture (read: how we eat), and of our cities.

As of now, most governments are severely unprepared for the scope of this challenge. They have already failed on many occasions to meet the needs of the moment. As our systems continue to suffer and potentially collapse, we will see an amplification of the ways in which our government could fail to ease the suffering, to keep the power on, to keep the water running and so forth. More people will die because we are not prepared.

There was a huge oil spill off of the coast of Orange County in California recently and already there are reports that this leak may have been going on for much longer than initially was suspected. This is extremely upsetting and shows the huge oversight and/ or dishonesty of the fossil fuel companies.

Now there is fierce debate amongst Californians once again about whether or not offshore oil drilling is viable. We cannot constantly patrol the entire ocean beneath the surface and we cannot patrol the thousands and possibly millions of sites where we drill oil or where there have been abandoned oil projects that are leaking. Therefore we have to stop drilling for oil altogether because it’s impossible for us to monitor these accidents. That’s before you even take into account the devastation of the climate crisis or the astronomical yet underreported toll on human health.

The way that we talk about these systems is extremely important. People have often remarked that for better or worse, Republicans in America create much better marketing slogans and have greater ability to get the public to rally behind a cause than the Democrats can in general. It’s important to come up with the correct phrases and framing so that people understand what is happening without having to read numerous articles each week. Most people are probably not going to do that, sadly.

It’s time for us to stop thinking of the people who are trying to save this planet as eco-warriors or eco-conscious, or an inconvenience to society at large. It’s everyone else who we should worry about, and they are the ones that need to have a name. Let’s think about what that name can be because it’s not fair for them to make decisions that threaten the lives of millions of innocent people and be labeled as normal or just the status quo. If you think that a protest here or there is inconvenient, let’s see what happens when your town has no water.

The climate crisis is not just affecting poor nations anymore, but that should have been enough to wake the whole world up. Rich nations like the United States are already being crippled under the weight of these cataclysmic and unrelenting challenges. These include fires that destroy trees that were alive at the time of Jesus, recurring floods with billion-dollar price tags, and lots more. Many of these Earth systems once broken are impossible (as of yet) to repair. Once the ice melts you can’t plant more, for example. That’s what makes this an emergency.

I am not feeling very optimistic about my future when I think about what the year 2031, 2051 or 2071 will be like. There is a viral song on social media called “Dear 2045” which I recommend everyone listen to that addresses this emotional subject. I do worry about a time when the next generation will only know a tiger from a book and there will not be any more tigers in the real world. I have not seen a tiger with my own eyes in the wild, but I know that they exist and that is an important distinction. The creatures and places that we are destroying in a matter of decades have taken billions of years to evolve. It’s an injustice without words and without comparison. The scale and seriousness cannot be described using language, and yet we still subsidize fossil fuels with $11M per minute. How’s that for a drag on the economy and human potential?

About 60 years ago my grandfather started the noble and important work of protecting natural places in Wisconsin and many of those places are still protected today. I feel grateful to be able to write blogs on this platform that call attention to this global disaster so that I might honor him in some small way, and do my part to educate others. If other people don’t see this as a crisis, we need to make them see it as a crisis. Nature is crucial for our mental health. It’s crucial for our physical health, and it’s crucial for our economies. Now we must save every last inch of it that we can, and simultaneously decarbonize for our lives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *