ecological wisdom

  • "The inherent intelligence of wildness: For almost 4 billion years, our earth has been functioning as an intelligent self-organizing, self-maintaining organism that supports life-sustaining relationships. If left undisturbed, this web of life ultimately creates an ecological balance for life processes. It provides diversity and balance without producing non-degradable waste nor contemporary society’s abusiveness and exploitation of people and places." - Zen Environmental Studies Institute

Ecological wisdom is a common value expressed by Greens.

It is one of the Four Pillars and Six Principles that Greens use to describe their political values. It is often attached to the seven generations time frame against which one must backcast to the present whence one choose steps to reach a desirable future, or range of desirable futures.

This article reflects sympathetic point of view not neutral point of view. That is, it expresses the view of those who use this term, and find it meaningful.


Ecology and evolution

Ecology is the study of dynamic equilibria systems.

Evolution is change in dynamic equilibria systems.

Many different media can sustain ecologies and evolution.

Views of ecology

Ecology proper is the study of natural ecosystems.

Recently, the study of human ecology, e.g. urban ecology, natural capital, has emerged to deal with the increasing - and alarming - impact of humans on nature. The Millenium Ecosystem Assessment and the IPCC are two bodies concerned with this in particular.

A very recent study is that of industrial ecology and the infrastructural capital that treats waste as resources.

Ecological wisdom thus requires one to preserve and enhance ecosystems, and relate human and industrial activity to them without damaging them - sustainable industry.

Four Pillars view

The relationships between the three other pillars and the pillar of ecological wisdom are very deep.

The three other pillars express ecological wisdom in the human context as social justice, nonviolence and participatory democracy - when dealing with the commons any other approach is generally futile:
  • without guarantees of equal benefit, hoarding and looting are inevitable.
  • violent enforcement and response to such activities cannot be maintained uniformly, as there is limited human attention.
  • especially not when those most local and affected by the decision do not participate in it, and do not fully support it.

The three other pillars are thus essential to evolve sustainable trades and whole cultures towards ecological wisdom. This can be seen as their goal, but, also, their foundation.

economic view

Nature's services are the basis of all human wealth.

Human beings evolved as animals inside a natural abundance. Our cognition and perception and even our intelligence are responses to threats and scarcity. It requires constant care not to be overwhelmed by these signals.

Nonetheless, abundance continues. Nature provides human beings with air to breathe, water to drink, and in certain environments also with abundant food, even abundant shelter.

Our ability to live as we would like is absolutely dependent on clean air, water, and the ability to grow or catch good local food and not be forced into dependence on outsiders simply to survive. Respect for the natural capital which generates these services and an ecological yield of goods that humans can use to feed themselves, house themselves (wood), or use for energy, is ultimately respect for what feeds us. In more economic terms this is the idea of sustainability and this depends absolutely on ecological wisdom.


Human ecology and the acceleration of our evolution through choices have created a "real world" that is quite different from this natural world. Its stories, our history, are by most measures a grand conspiracy of violence and dishonesty.

Real human ecology was historically dominated by death, fear of death, and control of the means of dealing death. The gold standard, for instance, seems to have evolved at least in part because gold was easily transportable, easily hidden, easily fungible, and easily used for buying weapons.

By any objective measure, all human cultures were self-selected to become based on the power and information required to rob, and get away with robbery. Even the ways of aboriginal peoples who retained lifeways closer to the Earth, did not long survive colonialism. Social and political systems that dominate our world have evolved as driven by a self-propagating militarism. All human command verbs reflect a history of single command hierarchy, though perhaps less in English than in some other cultures (due to the Magna Carta, parliament and perhaps also Charles I and the Geneva Bible).


Militarism drove the selection for a patriarchy, and selection for a system of fascist plutocracy. That is, a system whereby the most successful robbers and looters were able to reach temporary truces so as to retain their joint position. Real human civilizations are organized by their own biggest and best organized gangs of robbers.
These big gangs of robbers have been able to control most of the social stories told about their robbery.

Sovereignty is fundamentally the power to rob and excuse that. This is what is meant by aristocracy - but not quite what is meant by nobility, if that exists.

While all such systems claim to be a meritocracy, all systems of control were run on violence backed up with dishonesty. Most of human history has had racism and slavery and these continue.


As civilization evolved from power to information,
robbery became fraud. The human ecology includes our political economy by which closure is defined, and the recourse to protest frauds are eliminated.

Our political economy is fundamentally based on a fraudulent accounting system, as established by the long history of violence and dishonesty. No accounting reform alone is sufficient to wholly eliminate this, though there are first steps, e.g. Beyond GAAP that may begin to expose the overall structure and justify monetary reform.


The social stories that are the most promoted are the "well-established bullshit of bullies." After most things worth robbing have already been robbed, we now have social stories about freedom and democracy. These help convince people who were robbed that "the system is fair now" and that they should participate in it, instead of overturning it.

The current global system is a fascist plutocracy run by professional liars and hypocrites holding violent means of control, of which nuclear weapons are the most obvious.

There have been many attempts to change this. However, our political economy is the product of thousands of years of violence, and still now is based on established dishonesty that is backed up with threats of real violence against all who disobey.


There is an increasing social polariztion in our political economy, which is part of our human ecology. As human civilization is destroying the natural world, so too it is destroying the capacity by which human beings can discuss or debate that. Everything is framed as "right" or "left" as if it were only human power structure that mattered.

Since human civilization is controlled by social and political habits from history, none of those are capable of coping with the degree of threat to global ecology that is manifesting more and more now.

Since our economic and financial systems are sophisticated system of slavery, due to the real history of robbery and fraud, any attempts to have our economies make rational sense within our ecology are extremely difficult and dangerous. Most people who attempt this are marginalized.


It is extremely difficult to reconcile the values in ecology with the values in economics.

The phrase "add value" actually means to rob and hide the robbery. Viewed ecologically, the fundamental process of the economy is robbery. Human groups operate within the world as organized robbers. Social stories mostly deny this reality and use words such as "discovered" for instance to refer to territory already occupied by others, as if to justify its being claimed by European invaders.


While it is difficult to reconcile values, it might be easier to reconcile prices:

In 1995, Robert Costanza and a group at the University of Maryland compiled over 100 studies which showed that the overall contribution of just seventeen of nature's services (primary agricultural services like pollination, erosion prevention, etc.) actually exceeded that of human exchanges: US$33 trillion as compared to the US$25 trillion in that year of measurable human trades/exchanges.

negative prices

It is difficult to refute the notion of the human economy based on robbery, when the political economy disposes of so much, and often, pays to dispose of it via dirty subsidy, pollution credit and tax breaks for the most dirty and damaging industries, e.g. oil extraction.

The negative prices put on the most valuable things are a clear sign of corruption. Especially since most of what is priced is, in theory, collectively owned by many people as "Crown land" or "the commons".

prices versus pillars

Ecological degradation, which raises the prices of all ecological goods, itself undermines political economy. Obviously, a society that has no access to nature's services or which is entirely engaged in trying to prop them up by artificial means (irrigation, fertilizers, major earthworks or flood controls) has no excess energy or attention to devote to respect social justice, participatory democracy, or respect for diversity.

It may even find it impossible to respect nonviolence as competition for scarce resources escalates and people grow more desperate, perhaps seize what they need to live. However, even mild ecological scarcity can lead to conflict, as has been seen sometimes in Nova Scotia with respect to fishery disputes. Today, most biologists recognize biodiversity and ecological health as relatively objective ideas that can be used to predict stability of ecosystems and their impact on well-being.

human power

Ecological wisdom acts on the predicament that modern science and technologies have made some human beings billions or trillions of times more powerful than any previously existing. While there is, for instance, a great deal of focus on energy, it is by no means guaranteed that a vast new source of energy like cold fusion would not be used to fuel super-powerful logging vehicles, fish draggers and transport to all the unhunted parts of Earth, or fuel irresponsible mining that pollutes pure rivers.

Without cultural change, new energy sources solve nothing, just as nuclear power sources solved nothing. The natural abundance that we took for granted is more and more being destroyed, ever faster, and yet, we can not resort to any more violence or dishonesty to solve the problems that exist because the world is controlled by those things. It is unlikely that the world could GET any more dishonest.

Human limits

Ecological wisdom seeks to steer and change human culture for the long-term future: a future focus out to at least seven generations. Ecological wisdom requires us to view Earth, not "the world". It is a change of world view. It requires that we reject "rewards" of robbery, fraud, lies, slavery and global debt. This is not what it means to earn.

Human limits are required, and it is humans who must set these limits.

Refer links:en: Sustainable Nova Scotia: ecological wisdom and en: wikipedia: ecological wisdom.