Ander Lopez Conde | Environmental Scientist
If we look at the curricula of university careers around Economics, Administration or Organization, we often find Sustainability, Environmental Policy or Environment and Climate Change programs. However, it is very rare to find Ecology programs, since it is a much broader concept, and these seek to be more specialized in the general theme of the degree.
However, the environment as a concept and ecology are not the same. On the one hand, environmental management could be defined as: “The actions that the government or other organizations take to care for or protect the environment, as a result of the interaction of economic and social interests, to achieve sustainable development.” Ecology, on the other hand, is “the study, understanding, and experience of the entire ecosystem and how various forms of life relate to each other.” In other words, we are teaching how to protect the environment that surrounds us, without explaining what it consists of or how it interacts.
Both ecology and economics both come from Greek roots. ‘Eco’ or ‘oikos’ in Greek means hearth or hearth. ‘Logy’ or ‘logos’ means knowledge and ‘nomia’ or ‘nomos’ means management. So, ecology is the knowledge of the home, and economics is the management of the home. Therefore, there is an obligatory connection between the economy and ecology. Without ecology there is no economy. This results in managers of the world economy failing to take ecology into account in decision-making. Thus, in the name of economic growth, progress and development, nature has been reduced to a mere resource. Both the study of the economy and its current administration have very little to do with the study of the management of the Earth, but with the management of capital.
Noting that production and consumption are necessary, these should be means to an end. The ultimate goal must be the well-being of people and the integrity of the planet. An economy based on consumerism is a linear economy. We take from nature, use it and then throw it away with the consequence that it ends up in landfills, in rivers and oceans and in the atmosphere. We need to replace this linear economy with a circular economy.
Until now we were in the Age of Economy, but now we are entering the Age of Ecology. And in this age the integration of these two concepts is an urgent imperative of this century. We must gradually integrate ecology with the economy in decision-making, knowing what we are managing and for what, so that environmental and sustainability policies have a real basis. And for this we must return to the roots of these words, promoting the creation of interdisciplinary teams where economists and ecologists work to re-unify the economy and ecology.
*Article based on the paper for the London School of Economics (LSE) and the publication in The Ecologist magazine, both by Satish Kumar.
Photo: Olivia Mobbs
Article available in the Naider winter publication.