Measuring

Conventionally, wealth has been measured by GDP, but this index is grossly inaccurate and inadequate as the metrics do not include externalities; assets and activities in the non-monetary and informal economies are ignored.1 Nobel economists, Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, have called on world leaders to move away from a purely economic concept of gross domestic product to include well-being and sustainability.2 Australia, Britain, Canada and France have been exploring this. Bhutan has incorporated a Gross National Happiness Index into its constitution.3 A number of alternative measurements, such as the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare, and Genuine Progress Indicator, have been devised to address the imbalance. China has been testing an internal credit rating system to explore measures of social control.4 Each program attempts to capture some significant aspect of human well-being so a logical next step would be to combine features of all in one grand index we call the Planetary Index (PI), the sum total of values.

Unlike other indices which are policy instruments to guide and shape public and private sector planning, Net Planetary Value would become the fountainhead, structure and process of a new world economy. It would eventually do away with the need for money, an entirely radical approach. PI, while signifying a revolutionary New Planetary Vision, can be applied incrementally and organically, leaving political, governmental and social structures intact until they recognize the benefits both to their self-interest and to the greater good. They will opt to integrate themselves into the system. 100% compliance would be optimal but not essential for the system to work. Managed well, the transition could prove seamless and minimally disruptive.

NPVbalance
Fig. 6.  NPV balance

The Basics

We must learn that nature includes an intrinsic value-system in which the currency is energy and the inventory is matter and its cycles — the oceans and the hydrologic cycle, life forms and their roles, the cooperative mechanism which life has developed, and, not least, their genetic potential. The measure of success in this process, in terms of the biosphere, is the accumulation of negentropy in physical systems and ecosystems, the evolution of apperception or consciousness, and the extension of symbioses. – Ian McHarg (1995)

Taken as a whole system, the earth represents our total fixed assets (Fig. 6). This is what we have to work with. It is a relatively closed system, with incoming solar radiation as the energy that drives it, lunar gravitational pull, some heat loss and incidental meteorite intrusion. Plant life is the mechanism which converts solar energy into usable form for the rest of the biome. The entire food chain depends on plants which as well regulate atmospheric gases, provide habitat, and are a source of raw materials, most notably the fossil fuels which have made modern life possible and ironically have precipitated the current crisis. Absent human disruption, plant cycles are infinitely renewable. Chloroplast-bearing organisms therefore must hold primary value across all indexes, and producers of plant-based food likewise.5

 

Evolutionary economy

Figure 7. Evolutionary economy/planetary metabolism.

The first cells that assembled and metabolized under the most difficult circumstances deep in the ocean nearly 40 million years ago are in our bodies now, and we are… determined, as they were then, to save the only life we can. Life can occur only in a cell, and a cell is where disease starts, as well… This quivering, gelatinous sensate mote is the core of everything we cherish, and places us in direct relation to every other form of life. That primordial connection, so incomprehensible to some yet so manifest and sacred and incontestable to others, links us inseparably to our common fate. Paul Hawken (2000)

As with ecological economics, the value-based system that PI is, recognizes that the economy is a subsidiary of the environment and not the other way around as is commonly assumed (Nelson, 2002).6 In actuality, the economy is nothing less than the metabolism of the planet (Fig. 7). The metabolic function and process is common to all living systems at different scales (Fig. 14). The sum total of metabolic activity of all holons makes up the metabolism of the holarchy.

romanesco-broccoli

Figure 8. Fractal structure of Romanesco broccoli

This pattern of relationships and process is fractal, repeated at different scales on each level. It is an evolutionary systems approach that is not imposed, but allows self-organizing structures and functions to emerge. This model avoids reductionist binaries, encompasses hierarchy and subsidiarity, divergence and convergence, autonomy and cooperation, by allowing self-interest to align with that of the whole. A fractal design incorporates chaos theory and the process of dissipative structures. This approach provides a global management framework within which nation-states determine their own governance path, as they will regardless, but within constraints that do not jeopardize the whole.

The more complicated and modular the technology, the deeper the hierarchy … Each assembly or sub-assembly or part has a task to perform. If it did not it would not be there. Each therefore is a means to a purpose. Each therefore, by my earlier definition, is a technology. This means that the assemblies, subassemblies, and individual parts are all executables—are all technologies. It follows that technologies are building blocks that are technologies, which consist of further building blocks that are technologies, which consist of yet further building blocks that are technologies, with the pattern repeating all the way down to the fundamental level of elemental components. Technologies, in other words, have a recursive structure. They consist of technologies within technologies all the way down to the elemental parts. – W. Brian Arthur (2009: 38)

 world-map-ecoregions

Figure 9. World ecoregions.7

In our realm all is part rising from part and nothing can be more than partial; but There each being is an eternal product of a whole and is at once a whole and an individual manifesting as part but, to the keen vision There, known for the whole it is. – Plotinus8

This structural relationship pertains at all levels, at all scales, each unit considered a holon embedded within a holarchy. The position of a holon relative to other holons and holarchies is indexed by a number which changes in response to events and activities. This number could be said to represent value to the system at a given point. The number may increase or decrease in real-time, reflecting value as it is increased or reduced. Because of the fractal nature of the system or holarchy, any change occurring anywhere affects everything else.8 The resulting index as a whole may be referred to as the Planetary Index (PI) consisting of ever-changing Net Planetary Values (NPV).

What we call a part is merely a pattern in an inseparable web of relationships. Therefore a shift from the parts to the whole can also be seen as a shift from objects to relationships.— Fritjof Capra (2008)

Taking the earth as a holarchy, its natural divisions or ecoregions (Fig. 8) are holons, as are national sovereignties and that of indigenous peoples from an accounting perspective. Boundaries will overlap and sovereign entities may be contained within or extend beyond political borders. The Amazon Basin and Native American tribes that straddle multiple borders are examples of sovereign entities that transcend political boundaries. Stateless groups such as Palestinians, Kurds and the Rohingya, are accorded sovereignty for PI purposes. This establishes our first principle:

Everyone counts. Everything is counted.

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. – Chief Sealth

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. – John Muir9


1 In the event the system is hacked, the effect of interference would ripple throughout the system to render the positions of holons relative to each other virtually unchanged, hence accountity NPVs would remain more or less the same. Since NPV is never static, it is difficult to grasp, like the description of Maria in “The Sound of Music”: How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?… How do you keep a wave upon the sand?… How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand? (Rodgers and Hammerstein, 1965)

1 http://hazelhenderson.com/2008/04/30/whats-wrong-with-market-economics-and-gdp-april-2008/

4 http://www.wsj.com/articles/chinas-new-tool-for-social-control-a-credit-rating-for-everything-1480351590

5 This applies not only to farmers but to organisms that contribute to the process by means of protein and compound aggregation, pollination, seed dispersal and soil fertility.

6 Also attributed to Herman Daly.

7 http://www.ecoworld.com/maps/world-ecoregions.html

8 In the event the system is hacked, the effect of interference would ripple throughout the system to render the positions of holons relative to each other virtually unchanged, hence accountity NPVs would remain more or less the same. Since NPV is never static, it is difficult to grasp, like the description of Maria in “The Sound of Music”: How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?… How do you keep a wave upon the sand?… How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand? (Rodgers and Hammerstein, 1965)

8 The Enneads, S. McKenna, tr. 1956

9 My First Summer in the Sierra, 1911

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