Future Currencies: Carbon? Water? Knowledge?
What will be the fundamental ‘currencies’ of the future? What, if we are serious about global sustainability in all its forms, should these currencies comprise now? It’s likely, if we collectively are ever going to achieve a level of long-term viability for the human race, that we will have to shift the emphasis from money (or the gold standard) to the really basic requirements for life on earth – carbon, water and nitrogen, plus knowledge of all sorts to keep the whole show on the road.
Money is self-evidently important to individuals (how else do you secure the roof over your head and food on the table, in complex modern societies?); and it’s one indicator of collective economic well-being.
But it’s ‘only’ a measure or tool. It’s not a fundamental requirement in its own right for living.
We can, at least hypothetically, survive without money, but we can’t survive without water and – in its many forms – delicately balanced amounts of carbon, and of course nitrogen. In all three instances, it’s a case of not too much, not too little.
Back to basics
Water, carbon and nitrogen are the fundamentals of life.
To my mind we shall all need to understand the significance of these fundamentals much better at every level from the local to the global; and when we’ve grasped this, the next step will be to trade in the universal units – not just as now for some specialist concerns, but as globally recognised everyday currencies.
Climate change and polar ice caps are critically important, but they don’t easily interpret into something which the person on the street feels empowered to do much about.
Making it meaningful
The problems and the indicators have to be far closer to home to be meaningful in terms of action for most people. And ideally there needs to be a recognition in the discourse that we’re all in this together.
Our neighbours are global as well as local when it comes to the future of the human race on the planet. (The planet itself will of course ‘survive’. It’s people and other currently living things which are imperilled by human activity in the twenty-first century.)
So let’s see how we can reconfigure the notion of currency to have wider meaning for survival.
We all share the need for water, carbon and nitrogen, in suitably balanced and sustained ways.
The additional (secondary) critical currency is therefore knowledge; not least knowledge about how to maintain and sustain our planet. This cannot be just scientific and abstract knowledge, but needs to be shared by us all.
And that’s before we even begin to consider knowledge and knowing of very many other sorts also as a basic currency of the twenty-first century.
Knowledge and knowing
Knowledge in its formal sense will, in time, become recognised as the major currency of formal activity; and ‘knowing’ will be the currency in everyday life which keeps us all going.
Knowing is the social glue which can keep communities sustainable and simultaneously open our eyes to new ideas and scenarios. It enables us all together to engage, empower and explore.
Cash won’t be king
We can’t eat cash. We can run out of formal finance and still somehow survive.
But we need the fundamentals of life, and we also desperately need ways to share our common humanity, and our connections too with other living things. This is where the eco-system meets the communalism which must bind us all together.
No return to mediaeval ways of thinking
The difference between this time around and previous eras where the good earth was the known fundamental, is this:
In the twenty-first century we can create new, non-static way of life which incorporate the very basics of life but also lets us explore the vibrant and exciting challenges of science, humanities (in every sense) and our actual selves.
A more holistic view
The time when carbon and water, if not as yet nitrogen, are recognised universal currencies, measured formally as commodities of exchange, may not be long in coming.
As we understand that knowledge and knowing are the fundamentals of our existence in communities, we will also want to emphasise the basic currencies of life.
Posted on May 17, 2009, in Knowledge Ecology And Economy, Regeneration, Renewal And Resilience, Sustainability As If People Mattered and tagged Carbon, Economy, Energy, Environment, Knowledge, Sustainability, Water. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.