The new economics of Earth-systems integrity

Whole-Earth Active Value Economics (WEAVE) starts from the recognition that all artificial value — everything we account for in monetary terms — is like foam on the deep ocean of what makes life on Earth feasible. Natural system value is worth far more, and is ultimately the source and the measure of all that we account for.

Our exclusion of natural system value from the calculation of monetary or market value has been so extreme, we must now consciously shift to a recognition of how any particular kind of exchange influences the health and resilience of natural systems. This is not just human-to-nature altruism; the result of solid WEAVE analysis is an overall improvement in sustainable prosperity and quality of life.

Differences in geological situation, watershed positioning, climate patterns and cycles, policy constraints, economic incentives, and market reach, all influence how much resilience-building or entropic effect that activity will have in local, regional, and planetary-scale natural systems. The more information we have about these influences, the higher-resolution our picture of generalized health and resilience.

The whole-Earth active-value economy rewards activities that protect and expand natural system value from the headwaters through entire watersheds and down to the ocean. Photo credit: Joseph Robertson.

There is a vital distinction between market economics and gambling:

  • Gambling is a zero-sum game, in which winners take their winnings from the pool of money lost by others.
  • A healthy (not-rigged) market economy is the functional opposite of a zero-sum game: each of its virtues helps to expand the value, resilience, and availability of each of the others.
  • A regenerative prosperity paradigm requires that we understand how certain activities undermine natural capital and other macrocritical (economy-shaping) influences.

For complex industrial entities, the easiest first step toward a WEAVE-smart way of working would be to comprehensively assess all elements of the wider supply chain. (Where this is unworkable, the simple first step is to move away from actors that make it unworkable. Avoid opaque or generally unsustainable supply-chain participants, and ask others to avoid them as well.)

Next: embrace complexity. While it is tempting to favor one metric or one assessment partner, especially if the assessment in question provides a favorable outcome, it will ultimately result in far more efficient transition planning to cross-reference your supply chain against multiple distinct assessment systems, to gather more refined overall tracking.

Our economy is made of biochemical, cultural, political, and monetary connections, overlaps, interferences, and frequencies. A direct graphing of this landscape of evolving interactive, variably intelligent redefinition of value would produce a kind of 4-dimensional bird’s nest of relational dynamics.

This Global Knowledge Graph was created using the GDELT analysis service, in support of Resilience Intel, and as a way to map the network connections inherent in WEAVE analysis of drivers of future cost and value. Image credit: GDELT, for Resilience Intel.

Whether or not your contribution to that evolving interactive landscape of value enhances or degrades the position of others ultimately provides meaningful assessment of the active value of your activities. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it is not a value lost but a value added to consistently provide more value to the wider economy than you can capture in monetary terms.

As consumers, communities, policy-makers, and the marketplace for new investment, all wake up to the unaffordability of unchecked climate disruption, the question of whether it is yet time to start an aggressive transition away from climate pollution is being solved. Clean energy alone is projected to save the world economy $160 trillion. We can now say with certainty:

If you don’t yet have some vision of your path to 100% climate-smart practice and investment, you are behind the curve.

We are close to the time when major financial institutions will start trimming from their holdings any and all industrial polluters with no plan to avoid climate risk. The cost of failing to get out before the wave hits is too much risk to keep on their books.

Agriculture is also about to face this test. It is no longer viable to say ‘We produce food at scale; therefore, we have value.’ If your methods degrade the overall productive capability, and/or the health and resilience of necessary natural systems, you are not well-suited to the future economy, where ecological integrity is a market imperative.

It is necessary to start eliminating all ecosystem degradation from your operations, and from your wider supply chain, and start learning how to generate, measure, and show your routine ongoing contribution to the whole-Earth active value economy. Markets will need to know this, if they are to transition smoothly from the outdated economy of extraction to the coming economy of regenerative prosperity.

Businesses and institutions that know how to operate in this way are more agile, and better positioned to weather market slowdowns:

  1. Liability: ‘Flexibility’ that is contingent on generating more harm for others to deal with is a liability.
  2. Agility: Not requiring such aggravations to make quick changes to one’s market footing is agility.

90% of people worldwide are breathing polluted air.

Access to a livable future depends on achieving meaningful resilience intelligence and a whole-Earth active-value economy.

The Whole-Earth Active-Value Economics (WEAVE) standard is part of the Resilience Intel initiative — a coalition working to move all finance to climate-smart priorities and practices — and Geoversiv’s Frontier Work effort to find, reveal and deploy ecological economic insights, resources and follow-on opportunities. This work is an outcome of the Acceleration Dialogues and aims to trace ecological value from glaciers and headwaters through watersheds to ocean ecosystems.