Monday, November 28, 2005

Sustainable Accounting

The other night, while having dinner with a friend, I mentioned that I wished that things were not the way they seem.

I wished, that in fact, those few hard core conservatives who still think that climate change is a left wing religion were right.

I wished that the reality of peak oil was in fact not a reality, but just another y2k kind of deal that would go away after a few years, once the promoters had sold their books and the profiters had made their money.

I wished that the corporate hegemony that has overtaken the very soul of the developed nations was just a figment of my rich imagination, and that our lives had not actually been devoured by the love of capital and the philosophy and system that justifies it.

I wished that the rapidly advancing technology around us could be counted on to provide us more freedom and more liberty, instead of becoming an army of oppressive tools for surveillance, tracking, and control.

I told my friend that I wished I was wrong,

That I wished that what we have now, our cars, our homes, our standard of living, our way of living in general, was sustainable.

And then she said,

"But you are not wrong."

There have been many philosophical attempts to describe the folly of running an enonomy or nation system on non-renewable energy sources. There have been attempts try to give shape to the ideas and visions of the visionaries who have seen, and do see, a giant brick wall in our collective future.

Bucky Fuller, in his Utopia or Oblivion, stated that we are currently running the world system on our capital energy not our income energy. Our oil and gas supplies are our collective capital, the money we have in the bank. Whereas, our daily allotment of solar, wind, and other renewable energies is our income energy.

We are like a trust fund baby living on the corpus of the trust with little or no regard for that future day when the trustee gives us the bad news.

The truth is, there is no trustee.

Organizations such as the World Bank, which arguably should act as trustee for the world's finite resources, is actually more like the world's liquidator.

Where any normal accounting system would require a store to make a double entry when an item is sold, the World Bank acts as if the store is so large that accounting for it's inventory is not neccessary.

The result is a world accounting system that does not actually account for the liquidation of finite resources. If Venezuela sells a billion dollars (Euros) of oil, its national capital account is not debited. The additional GNP of Venezuela from the sale of oil should be zero, not a billion euros. Sure, perhaps the reserves should be valued at a base price and the profits should be considered, but that simply belabors the point.

The World does not value its resources.

And until this very simple accounting measure is inacted,

The Capitalists will continue to plunder the earth for its riches, be they oil, silver, gold, or timber, as if they have no value at all, at least until after they have been sold.

Such an accounting revision is a very simple solution to a very serious problem and to moving towards a sustainable world.

If we want clean air, we must value it and capitalize it.

If we want a stable climate, we must place a value on it.

If we want finite resources to be available for our children's children,

we must place a fair value on what we consume today.

If we want communities with vitality and life,

we must place a value on their loss

when big box stores destroy our main streets.

Markets cannot work fairly if the accountants are unfairly counting.

A store that does not buy more inventory with its sales,

is destined for bankruptcy.

A World Monetary System that values natural resources only after they are sold,

Is Rigged.



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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Double entry accounting is way to complicated for the current educational level, and would just produce more administrative costs. Besides, the resources are just reconstituted as other compounds and time on this old world cures all!


9:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oxidyzed hydrocarbons are reconstituted as greenhouse gases. this will cure things, but not in the manner we might like.

11:10 AM  
Blogger Step Back said...

Sort of ironic, is it not, that those who value themselves as being good evaluators (a.k.a. accountants) do not wish to account for their own shortcomings.

GAAP (generally accepted acounting principles) wash away with quick shrug of the shoulder those un-accounted for "externalities" such as what are the present-value "costs" for having depleted away from our future generations, stuff like clean air, viable fish in the oceans, etc. ?

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a beautifully crafted statement of What Is and of the possibilities of what can be.

7:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for continuing to lay out the truth and the possibilities, in such a clear manner - in terms that the Big Boys can understand. The solutions to a sustainable future are readily available if we are willing to change willing to look at the balance sheet.

7:40 AM  

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