Social Trade

Written by Joshua Mailman

Ecosystem function is actually the most valuable aspect of the land, yet it has been ignored in economic terms.  A recent evaluation of a Swiss forest, for example, found its greatest value, 40%. was from its ecosystem function, its abilities to hold soil, attract and hold moisture, produce oxygen. and provide habitat for diversity.  A mere 5% of its value came from timber, and an additional 15% from recreation.  In fact, as biodiversity prospecting has spread across the Third World by companies seeking valuable genetic materials, the value of biological materials alone is projected to run into the billions of dollars.

Consequently. any producer now attempting to use sustainable methods must absorb the costs of these practices, and then can't compete financially with the artificially low costs afforded to conventional ways of doing business.  No country in the world today has economic incentives for producers who avoid soil erosion or maintain long-term soil fertility.  For those who mine the soil for short-term gain to produce cheap grain compel other producers to do the same or perish in the marketplace.  The real costs are being passed o­n to future generations.

The fact that commodities are dominated by giant companies exacerbates the situation.  In agriculture, for instance, a mere four companies own and control at least 40% of every major commodity--gargantuan oligoplies against which smaller producers have no chance of competing.  Moreover, the traders themselves have absolutely no accountability.

Jason Clay, cited by Kenny Ausubel, The Bioneers, p.173.

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