Knowing our limits: Re-designing economies for the well-being of people and the planet
In Giorgos Kallis’ book, Limits: Why Malthus Was Wrong and Why Environmentalist Should Care, he writes, ‘the world is limited because our wants are unlimited.’ Sustainable use of our natural capital is dependent on humans being able to understand and know their limits. Firstly, what frameworks exist to help humans better understand the ecological limits with must live within? And how can we balance human and non-human uses of our lands and waters?
In order to address this problem, we propose wider use of a framework that is guided and directed by nature and draws on an ecosystem-based approach to planning. Nature-directed plans and stewardship seek to capture Indigenous values and interests, and honour the kin-centric relationships that underpin socio-ecological systems. The purpose of nature-directed plans is to better understand the character and condition of landscapes so that economic activities and cultural use of natural systems respect the integrity and resilience of natural systems. Respect and reciprocity are achieved through defining and implementing networks of ecological reserves at multiple spatial scales. The approach aims to synthesise Indigenous knowledge with forest and landscape ecology, hydrology, conservation biology and ecological economic principles. The planning process draws on assessment and integration of the social, cultural and economic priorities of Indigenous Nations and/or settler communities across a full range of scales from large subcontinental and regional landscapes to small watersheds and individual patches.
An economy that is designed to prioritize well-being should move beyond GDP and traditional indicators that have created a fixation on the performance of the market and economic growth. As Adrienne Maree Brown says in Emergent Strategy: “what you pay attention to grows.” Communities should be at the centre of determining what matters most to them, and therefore what their institutions and governments pay attention to. Monitoring frameworks should represent their visions and encompass indicators with representation from multiple knowledge and value systems to ensure equity and inclusivity.
To illustrate how these approaches might be used in practice, we will foreground them in stories from projects we are undertaking at the David Suzuki Foundation in collaboration with various communities. The hope is to understand where we are and where we ought to be by applying a land-use planning and monitoring framework that centres well-being and the maintenance of ecological systems that sustain all life.
Format:Presenters will showcase the problem that needs to be addressed: How can we live within our ecological limits, while ensure well-being for both people and the planet when we do not understand what those limits are. In order to effectively design sustainable, community-based, well-being oriented economies, we present an ecosystem-based approach planning that first assesses the ecological limits at regional scales and how to practice adaptive management by monitoring key well-being oriented indicators.
Format: Panel discussion and presentation from 3-4 speakers, following by a fireside chat style discussion