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NATURAL CAPITAL:
THE UTOPIAN DREAM

In early part of the 90's a $200 million dollar experiment occurred inthe dessert of Arizona. Scientists and architects built a glass and steelstructure and proudly named it Bio-sphere Two. Little was said about some obvious and fundamental flaws in the basicdesign and construction of this not quite whole system. But for all that hard work and good intentions it was unable tomaintain life supporting oxygen levels for eight people living inside for even one day. Yet, Bio-Sphere One, a.k.a. PlanetEarth, performs this at no charge , for 6 billion people, 360 days a years.

At the beginning of the industrial revolution, roughly 150 years ago, civilized society inherited approximately 3.8 billion years store ofnatural capital . At present rates of use and degradation, there will bevery little left the by the end of the next century. This is not only amatter of aesthetics and morality, it is of the utmost practical concern tosociety and all people. Despite reams of press about the State of theenvironment and rafts of laws attempting to prevent further loss, the stock of natural capital is being used up fast. This Capitalis what we need and use to live on this miracle we call Earth.

By giving real value to our Natural Capital we begin to recognize thesacred marriage between the production and use of human made capital and maintenance and supply of natural capital. Thetraditional definition of capital is accumulate wealth in the form of investments, factories, andequipment. Actually, an economy needs four types of capital to functionproperly. 1) Human capital, in the form of labor and intelligence, culture,an organization. 2) Financial capital, consisting of cash, investments, andmonetary instruments. 3) Manufacture capital, including infrastructure,machines, tools, and factories. 4) Natural capital, made up of resources,living systems, and ecosystem services.

A profit driven paradigm, eliminate the Concept of waste.

Now imagine for a moment imagine a world where cities have becomepeaceful and serene because cars and buses no longer make sound, vehicles exhaust only water vapor using Hydrogen fuelcells, and parks and green ways have replaced once needed urban freeways. OPEC has ceased to function because theprice of oil has fallen well below $5, but there are few buyers left because of cheaper ways have been developed to producethe same products we used oil for but, for far less. Living standards for all people have dramatically improved, particularlyfor the poor and those in developing countries. Involuntary unemployment no longer exists, and income taxes have largelybeen eliminated. Houses, even low-income housing units, can pay part of their mortgage costs by energy they produced;there are few if any active landfills; World wide forest cover is increasing; dams are being dismantled; atmospheric CO2levels are decreasing for the first time in 200 years; and effluent water leaving factories is cleaner than the water coming intothem. Industrialized countries have reduced the need to use natural resources by 80 percent while improving the quality oflife. Among these technological changes, there are important social changes too. The frayed social fabric of western countrieshave been repaired. With the explosion of family wage jobs, welfare demand has fallen. A progressive and active unionmovement has taken the lead to work with businesses, environmentalists, and government to create just transitions and forworkers as society faces up coal, nuclear energy, and oil. In committees and towns, churches corporations, and labor groupspromote a new leeway each social contract as the least expensive way to assure the growth and preservation of a vital socialcapital. Is this the vision of utopia? In fact, the changes described here could come about in the decades to come as a resultof the economic and technological trends already in place.

I hope this leaves you feeling as good as I did when I first read it. Ihope that you can all see how this idea could benefit all people and livingthings.

For more details read "Natural Capitalism" By Paul Hawkin, Amory &Hunter Lovins

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