What About the People?

people jumpingBy Brahm Ahmadi
Ecological economics is a transdisciplinary field of study that addresses the complex interconnectedness of human systems and natural ecosystems. Unlike neoclassical economics, which is preoccupied with the value-free idea of efficiency, ecological economics focuses on the economy as a subsystem of the ecosystem, and emphasizes the natural limits of our planet in relation to human social and economic systems.

It’s ironic that many of the environmental problems of today have been driven by social norms and cultural values and, yet, these factors are not central tenets of ecological economics.

If humans are a part of ecology, then our social and cultural systems are inadvertently an extension of the ecological system. Yet the “human dimension” is too often placed outside of the ecological framework as a separate silo of factors. This separation can even be seen within the framework of the Presidio Graduate School MBA program, as the human dimension rarely gets the same emphasis and discussion in a course that ecology does.

Perhaps a key shift in our thinking should be that our environmental problems are primarily social and economic in nature, thereby repositioning the great environmental movement within a broader social movement. From this perspective, efforts to advance human rights and social justice would be as “environmentalist” in principle as working to save natural habitats. Social justice activists would be seen as environmentalists. And, conversely, those working to protect endangered species or vulnerable ecosystems would be considered social justice activists as much as environmentalists, advocating for the preservation of nature upon which society depends.

We a need to flip our thinking around and challenge our assumptions about the separateness of humanity and the environment. No one really believes in such separateness, although we participate in perpetuating it. The failure to overcome the illusion of separation between people and planet must not become the basis of our failure to make the changes needed at this time. If we can learn to think of humanity and the environment as a single organism, then the solutions and alliances available to us would be vast.

Brahm Ahmadi is co-founder and Executive Director of People’s Grocery, a community-based nonprofit organization founded in 2003 that has attracted local and national attention for its effort to transform inner city food systems. Brahm utilizes the mediums of entrepreneurship, popular education, economic development, cooperative economics and urban agriculture to build healthy, just and sustainable inner city communities. Brahm is a student at the Presidio Graduate School

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