When economists and politicians met in Bretton Woods, Maine, in 1944, they faced a world where war had devastated countrysides, cities, and economies. So they tried to devise solutions. They pegged currency to the American greenback and looked to the (terrible) twins, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, to get economies going again.
The postwar era saw amazing recovery in Europe and Japan, as well as a roaring U.S. economy based on supplying a cornucopia of consumer goods. But the economic system we've created is fundamentally flawed because it is disconnected from the biosphere in which we live. We cannot afford to ignore these flaws any longer.
Beyond its obvious value as the source of raw materials like fish, lumber, and food, nature performs all kinds of 'services' that allow us to survive and flourish.
Nature creates topsoil, the thin skin that supports all agriculture.
Nature removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and returns oxygen.
Nature takes nitrogen from the air and fixes it to enrich soil.
Nature filters water as it percolates through soil.
Nature transforms sunlight into molecules that we need for energy in our bodies.
Nature degrades the carcasses of dead plants and animals and disperses the atoms and molecules back into the biosphere.
Nature pollinates flowering plants.
To compound the problem, economists believe that because there are no limits to human creativity, there need be no limits to the economy.
But the economy depends on having healthy people, and health depends on nature's services, which are ignored in economic calculations.
Our home is the biosphere, the thin layer of air, water, and land where all life exists. And that's it; it can't grow.
We are witnessing the collision of the economic imperative to grow indefinitely with the finite services that nature performs.
It's time to get our perspective and priorities right. Biocentrism is a good place to start.
It's time for a Bretton Woods II.