This is another one of the series of proposed articles for the updated EOS website. It delves into the subject of Energy Accounting, which can be pretty complex to explain. I have tried to be as concise and clear as possible, given that this subject is unfamiliar to the overwhelming majority of people.
Now when we have established why we don’t appreciate the current monetary system, we would like to offer our alternative. Before we start this segment, we would however like to remind you that we do not aim to dogmatically enforce our views on the world.
EOS is aiming to utilise research, science and testing to allow alternative systems to emerge and evolve in harmony with the needs of the participants and of the environment. We feel that is necessary in order to provide a social environment that would treat it’s participants with respect and dignity. Nowhere do we claim that we know this would work, but we believe that it offers a potential way out of the gridlock which the human species have got stuck into.
We also want you to keep an open mind while reading this article, even if the conclusions can seem radical. We are building our conclusions on how the planet is working, as well as on our values, our views that all forms of life should be treated in such a dignified manner as possible, that we need to balance our needs with the needs of the biosphere, and that all human beings should have the rights to a minimum standard of living.
We mean to form a realistic model of how such a mutually beneficial relationship can be established between humanity and the Earth.
The Earth’s renewal capacity
For the last 65 million years, we all living beings who have had the privilege to enjoy the fresh water and fruits of the Earth have been living under what we could call “The Eocene Biosphere”. It is an ecosystem which is characterised by two features.
One: The dominant form of animal life on most of the continents of the Earth are mammals.
Two: The climate has been characterised by warm periods and ice ages following one another in a cyclical pattern, regulated by humidity and vegetation.
The biosphere is working in a circular system. In the natural world, there is no landfills. Instead, everyone’s waste is someone’s gain. The system is self-renewing and de-centralised, composed of multiple emergent agents that consist of plants, insects, birds, mammals, and the networks that emerge out of their interactions.
This system gradually establishes dynamic equilibriums, where an abundance of plants leads to an explosion of herbivores, which leads to a subsequent growth in the number of carnivores. Often, there are interlinked webs of thousands of different species, making up different ecosystems.
The biosphere is materially consisting of biomass, which consists of all accumulated organic matter on the planet. Under natural circumstances, given that the system is not enduring a geologically volatile period or a period of rapid climate change, the system is generally adding new biomass to itself, thus growing. This new biomass is generally generated in the world of plants, where sunlight, water and minerals together are an important part of the individual nutritional cycle of a plant.
However, for the last decades, this natural order has been upset by the linear growth-oriented economy of the current human civilization. In the year of 2013 for example, we had already consumed up the equivalent of all the biomass the Earth could generate during that year at the 22nd of August.
In general, this rate of global ecological cannibalism is creeping 14 days closer to January every passing year. By that point, we will have surpassed the planet’s ability to regenerate itself with one year.
Thus, EOS has concluded that it might be wise to base the new socio-economic system on the Earth’s renewal capacity. By directly tying our accounting system to the Earth’s renewal capacity, we hope to be able to receive direct information on how to better manage our common resources.
The Energy Survey
We imagine that the society in the future, in order to feed the billions of people on the planet, would still need to be a society with a technological infrastructure, and that technological progress will continue. The reason for this is both realistic and humanitarian. We cannot feed more than one billion people if we would return to an agrarian economy on a global scale, and we can only feed ten million if we moved back to a global hunter-gatherer production system.
However, a technological system has a few benefits when it comes to the rational evaluation of the available resources. It allows us to gather data and information, analyse it and have a more transparent an open evaluation than ever before.
Therefore, we believe that the best way to move forward is to be aware of what we can do, and what effects that would bring to the environments. We must measure and compile data from all ecosystems on a constant basis, as the situation of the Earth is so dire now that we need to survey the status of local eco-systems.
But more than that, and central to this article, we hope to establish a global network that can gather data about the renewal capacity of the Earth on a yearly basis. This process will be called The Energy Survey, and will determine exactly how much we as a species could collect from the planet without depleting the natural foundations for life on Earth.
The new form of currency which we want to test as an option are called “Energy Credits”, and they will represent fractions of the total renewal capacity on Earth translated into the emergy cost – in short what energy it will take to extract resources, produce items, transport them and then recycle them.
That will represent the cost factor of the new socio-economic system, which will mean that all prices will represent the actual environmental costs, at all segments of the product cycle.
Moreover, since the total amount of energy credits should represent the total amount of renewal capacity on the planet for a certain period of time, it would be impossible to utilise the system to overexploit the resource base of the planet.
The line is that the share should be divided as such, that one part will go to maintaining infrastructure, another one (which will be the largest) will be distributed directly to the citizenry, and a third part will be “reinvested” into the biosphere, which will mean a biomass net gain.
This system is called “Energy Accounting”.
It is too early yet to discuss exactly what proportions should be allocated to the three different areas of distribution, and it is most likely that if the system is implemented, the proportions will wary in accordance with the interests of all engaged parties.
What stands clear however, is that a large part of the energy credits distributed to citizens will be consisting of universal basic income for all citizens. It is a core tenet of the values of EOS, that no human being should be homeless, starving, freezing, thirsting, or deprived of healthcare and education.
Human beings have differing backgrounds, talents, interests, personalities and levels of intelligence. Under this current system, people are punished because they are badly adjusted to the needs of the labour market, often through no fault of their own. Even in developed nations, there are many homeless and mentally ill people who are abandoned on the streets.
Nobody deserves to become ill or die due to their social incompetence or physical disability. All human beings deserve to have basic dignity.
People receive their income in accordance with the rules that the citizenry have agreed upon.
Then the question arises, is there any difference in how trade and exchange is supposed to work in comparison to the current world?
Yes, there is a difference.
Under our proposed model, the consumer allocates shares of her energy credits to various goods and services. Instead of each actor paying money to the prior actor in the product cycle, from consumer to raw materials extractor, the consumer allocates energy credits which represent the environmental cost of the entire product cycle for producing and transporting x numbers of a particular product.
This means that the demand – or the will of the citizens – will have a larger influence over the supply side. The consumers will decide, through their allocations, what will be produced, and from which producers they want to purchase their products.
On the other hand, there will be no advertisement in the manner there is today. It would make no sense at all to try to actively encourage consumers to increase their rate of consumption. Moreover, goods will be assembled only when requested by the consumers. We believe that such an organisation of production will serve to decrease the production of for example electronic products, cell phones, fashion clothes, magazines and other products, especially as many products in today’s world are never sold or used.
Reduced labour hours
With the vastly decreased production rate, and the production ceiling, there would be no more needs to try to increase demand and thus the production rate of the good. Moreover, with the system of Energy Accounting, employments would not anymore be founded on the principle of maximising profits, but rather on the principles of maximising social utility. This can be used to reduce unemployment significantly (we will return on that issue in the next article), especially within the sectors of education and healthcare.
If more people are gainfully and meaningfully employed within a sector, the labour hours of all the participants can be reduced. They will be able to spend more quality time with their family and loved ones, and more time in pursuit of their interests and passions. In short, they would have more time to fulfil their human desires.
On the other hand, several sectors will shrink and disappear. This will of course serve to free more labour to be employed in gainfully productive jobs.
The ramifications of this should of course however be left to the local communities to determine, as our proposed alternative to this current system – as you will see in the next article – is characterised by a high degree of de-centralisation and organisational flexibility.
When it comes to barter between individuals, it is best left to the regulation of the local communities as well.
This new form of socio-economic system that emerges through Energy Accounting will probably have slower rates of growth in more than a few sectors. This does not however mean that there will be zero growth.
Rather, the amount of energy credits – or rather the purchasing power of said energy credits – will increase as new technological innovations are arriving, which are making production, transports or resource extraction more ecologically friendly.
Of course, the existence of such a system would stimulate inventions that would save energy and reduce the amount of materials used in production. In short, stimulating more sustainable ways of utilising energy.
Energy Accounting as a design offers several potential benefits, both to the well-being of the biosphere, the harmony of the communities, and the quality of life of human beings. These benefits are the following:
· Real-time awareness of the state of the planet.
· A production ceiling marked by the renewal capacity of the planet, ensuring that the biomass is not degraded and that biological diversity – Life as we know it – would not be harmed.
· The cost of the product in terms of purchasing cost will reflect the environmental stress exerted over the environment.
· Cheaper relative costs for purchasing more environmentally friendly products.
· Total balance between demand and supply, through a demand-driven economy.
· A decreased production rate.
· Stimulate innovations that reduce the energy usage and materials, and increase the sustainability of goods and services.
· A guaranteed basic income for all the participants in the system.
· Guaranteed housing, healthcare and education.
· Reduced labour hours, allowing for more time to be a human being.
· No forced long-term unemployment and social alienation.
A scientific path forward
EOS is aware that this system is untested, and that there are many questions that remain unanswered. For example, we do not know how human incentives would respond to this new socio-economic environment. Will people for example – during the end of an Energy Survey period – consume frantically to not lose their remaining energy credits? Or will people try to avoid work?
We are not a political movement, and do not aim to try to introduce this system tomorrow on a global scale if we had the chance. That would be highly irresponsible and immature. It could lead to unprecedented disasters, and actually to consequences that would damage both the Earth and the human race even more, and bring us farther away from our goals.
Instead, we aim to test Energy Accounting on a limited scale, during different conditions, to be able to judge what parts of the idea that works and what parts should be adjusted or abandoned altogether. Any adverse effects would happen in a limited environment. Our goal is to allow Energy Accounting to evolve and develop itself through the interactions of networks of humans, collaborating with one another in a voluntary and rational manner.
We are also aware, that if Energy Accounting is ever implemented, it will look different – perhaps even alien – to the current design. That does not bother us. We embrace evolution and development.
Energy Accounting does neither, if ever implemented, represent the final step in the evolution of the human civilization. Rather, it would then just be a step towards another, hopefully superior way of managing resources. After all, we would one day stretch beyond the Earth, and throughout the stars.
The important thing is that the new system, during the time it is implemented, should fulfil the two core objectives.
First: That no more should be taken from the Earth than what the Earth can replenish.
Second: That all human beings are given access to basic standard of life.
Hopefully, the 21st century will be the century when we eliminate the triplet evils of poverty, illiteracy and famine. Despite that we are facing an environmental challenge, greater than any before, it remains the hope and conviction of EOS that humanity can unite and overcome Her adversities and help a better human civilization to emerge.
We can do better than we are doing.
And we can become better than we are.
“Or else our light will vanish before it reaches the farthest star.” – Ronan Harris, VNV Nation