natural capital greenhouse land use pollution

Make Others Pay for your Waste Then Profit is Easy
production industry

Extractive Industries Truly Profit? Who Says?

Negative externalities are costs that the public pays, imposed by byproducts that harm health and nature -- another way to privatize profits and publicize costs. Let's no longer see Earth as a resource to exploit but as a treasure to share. This 2013 excerpt is from Grist, Apr 17.

By David Roberts

Environmentalists these days love speaking in the language of economics — it makes them sound Serious — but I worry that using a bloodless technical term tends to have a narcotizing effect.

The majority of unpriced natural capital costs are from greenhouse gas emissions (38%), followed by water use (25%), land use (24%), air pollution (7%), land and water pollution (5%), and waste (1%).

The total unpriced natural capital consumed by the more than 1,000 “global primary production and primary processing region-sectors” amounts to $7.3 trillion a year — 13 percent of 2009 global GDP.

A “region-sector” is a particular industry in a particular region — say, wheat farming in East Asia.)

The biggest single environmental cost? Greenhouse gases from coal burning in China. The fifth biggest? Greenhouse gases from coal burning in North America.

Of the top 20 region-sectors ranked by environmental impacts, none would be profitable if environmental costs were fully integrated. Ponder that for a moment: None of the world’s top industrial sectors would be profitable if they were paying their full freight. Zero.

The distance between today’s industrial systems and truly sustainable industrial systems — systems that do not spend down stored natural capital but instead integrate into current energy and material flows — is not one of degree, but one of kind. What’s needed is not just better accounting but a new global industrial system, a new way of providing for human wellbeing, and fast. That means a revolution.

To read more

JJS: Revolution? OK, a revolution of thought, of how to see the world. Not a power struggle but a paradigm shift. A recognition of another economic phenomenon, along with “externalities”, and that is “rents”.

Yes, let’s do make industry -- and everybody -- pay for their emissions and extractions but let’s also charge for locations. What one pays for a site tends to be more than for a resource (and much more than for an ecosystem service since now we don’t usually get charged for using Earth as a dump). That huge stream of value of spending for locations tends to enrich business, so that they can easily afford to influence the political process, and benefit from lax or zero enforcement of environmental rights.

Charging for claiming a location gets society a bigger bang for its collection buck in another way, too. It reduces the urban footprint, which is really the metropolitan tire track. And that reduces demand for and consumption of resources, which cuts emissions.

See, when owners must pay land dues, they use land, and use it efficiently. They quit speculating. They develop vacant lots, abandoned buildings. That in-fills cities. That puts buildings side by side and it shortens trip distances. Less heat leaks out, less fuel gets burned.

So, bigger picture, get rid of taxes and instead institute land dues. Businesses will adapt, become human scale, and you won’t even be able to recognize this Earth.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .

Also see:

End Polluter Welfare & Monopoly Welfare

How to Break Up With Big Oil

Even Without Eco-Rights & Land Rights Enforced

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