Qualicum Institute: Advocating a science-based understanding of ecological, social and economic survivability

Humanity is a part of—not separate from—Nature

Humanity is subject to physical and ecological laws

The first tenet of the Qualicum Institute is the foundation for all the rest. It sets the stage for sustainability, recognizing that humanity is subject to the physical and ecological laws and principles of Nature that govern the lives of all organisms.

Humanity depends upon the Earth—our only homeIt baffles us that anyone can believe, while looking at an image of the Earth from space, that humanity is separate from Nature, and not dependent on the natural world for all of our needs. Everything we need for our social well-being, economy, indeed our very survival, comes from the ecosystems of the planet with but one significant exception: the energy that rains down on Earth each day from an average star we call the Sun, some 150 million kilometres (93 million miles) away.

And yet, there are those who believe we don’t need ecosystems and the resources they provide. Fisher and Peterson in their book, The Environment in Economics: A Survey1 note that: “Man has probably always worried about his environment because he was once totally dependent on it,” implying we’re no longer totally dependent upon it.

Robert Solow2, Nobel-laureate economist, is famous for his comment suggesting that resources aren’t really finite and that we can get along without them because any limits can be taken care of by capital: “If it is very easy to substitute other factors for natural resources, then… the world can, in effect, get along without natural resources, so exhaustion is just an event, not a catastrophe.” Of course, he neglects to mention that the “other factors” are made from the natural capital—natural resources—of the Earth.

Comments such as these to the contrary, humanity is, indeed, a part of Nature, fully dependent on ecosystems and ecosystem services, including natural resources, and are subject to the natural laws and principles that govern all biodiversity on the planet.3,4,5 As Kathleen Smythe notes, “It is very clear that humans are the environment; it is not simply that we have had complex relationships with it. We are the environment.”6

Next: Humanity is completely dependent on what Nature can provide or Return to Tenets.


Stop ecological overshoot caused by economic growth

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