Ecology and economy

A few days ago, a report (summary) exploring the economic impact of climate change came out, produced by Sir Nicholas Stern, former chief economist at the World Bank.

General links

The general links between ecology and economy are pretty obvious.

First, no ecology means no economy. Without the services provided by our ecosystems, there would be no humans around, and no resources for our economy either.

Beyond that, we see that the quality and health of our ecosystems are directly linked with the quality and health of our social and economical systems, in myriads of different ways. A healthy economy requires healthy and abundant ecosystems.

The abundance from our ecosystems is what feeds us with everything we need, and what feeds our economy as well.


With climate change, there are also innumerable more specific consequences for our global and local society and economy. Here are just a few obvious ones…

  • Rising sea levels
    Most of the human population live near or at the coast, and this goes for most of the large cities as well. It will cost massive amounts of money to build dikes for protection, to repair damage from rising sea levels and storms, and rebuild further inland.

  • Desertification
    We are likely to see desertification of large areas in the equatorial zones, which means reduced food production there, and large scale migrations. Which in turn is a huge issue, also economically. Where will they go? Who will provide food and health care for them?

  • Acidic oceans
    The oceans absorb CO2 and gradually become more acidic. If this continues, they will become acidic enough to prevent bone formation, which means the end of fish.

  • Extreme weather
    The weather will generally become more extreme, which means a need for stricter building and engineering standards, and also the need for more repairs, both of which are costly.

  • Food production
    Food production is likely to decline, through desertification and extreme weather.

  • Migrations
    There will be mass migrations of people due to rising sea levels and desertification. They will need food, health care, and a place to live, which will be expensive and a source of conflict.

  • Conflict
    Climate related conflicts will most likely take many forms and appear at many scales. Who controls resources? What about those who abuse the commons for their own narrow self-interest? Who will feed and receive climate refugees?

Benefits of turning around

At the same time, there are innumerable benefits of turning around to a more sustainable, thrivable and life-centered way of organizing our society and economy.

For one, developing and producing more sustainable technologies can give a great boost to our economy. And there are many other benefits as well, such as cleaner air, oceans, land and food, an emphasis on local communities and economies, eating locally produced seasonal food, building denser and walkable communities, shifting more to public transportation, and so on.

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