The challenge of our time is building an ecological civilization from our manifestly self-destructive global industrial reality. If we could start with a new constitution to get things right, what would that mean? This is more than an academic question.

While the U.S. is still consumed with the aftermath of the 6th January insurrection and Trump mania, the new President of Chile, Gabriel Boric, has come to power with a mandate to draft a new democratic constitution after years of civil unrest. He’s an activist, non-doctrinaire young man of the left.

The lessons informing our current dire and worsening global ecology as greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase is that the conventional wisdom as practiced by both the right and the left has led us to our current and increasingly threatening circumstances. The consequences of unleashing the market are clear both in terms of ecological pillage and the ever increasing concentration of wealth in fewer hands. The communist command model has led to similar bleak consequences.

The time has come for new approaches to be manifested in constitutional provisions that provide a political and legal basis for a comprehensive ecological turn. Constitutional provisions will not magically change everything for the better. Intention meets practice and our future is always contested democratic terrain including legislation, law, market rules and customs, social values and beliefs of what is just and unjust, right or wrong.

A good example is the 8th February 2022 approval by the Italian Parliament of a constitutional law amending Articles 9 and 41 of the Constitution. Articles 1 to 12 are the fundamental provisions of the constitutional charter. Article 9 now states that the Republic “safeguards the environment, biodiversity and ecosystems, also in the interest of future generations.” Under new Article 41, private economic initiatives will not be conducted “in such a way as to damage health and the environment,” adding these to principles in force supporting “security, freedom and human dignity.” This is a first step.

Dynamics of an ecological turn

There are three central dynamics that must be harnessed and balanced by a democracy in successful pursuit of an ecological turn.

First, to channel the pursuit of enterprise toward ecological ends, to make economic growth mean ecological improvement and the regeneration of the ecosphere. A paradigmatic example is global replacement, as quickly as possible, of fossil fuels with renewable energy. Renewables are cheaper, have zero fuel costs, rapidly declining capital costs and increasing efficiency and efficacy. Economically a no brainer. New market rules, laws, regulations and ecological tax systems can be adopted to send sustainable market signals. Sustainable goods and services must be cheaper, gain market share and be more profitable. By making sustainable behavior more profitable, business people will have no problem doing both good and well. For example, an ecological VAT (value added tax) phasing in higher taxes on unsustainable items, combined with severance taxes on extraction of polluting, depleting and ecologically damaging materials.

Second, to make economic growth include the pursuit of social and ecological justice. This means, for example, making the users of renewable energy the owners of these systems. There are two alternative futures for many trillions of dollars to be invested in the renewable energy infrastructure, either increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, who own almost everything, or broad ownership and shared equity by all. Existing tax and finance policies can facilitate such a transformation. For example, a city or town-based cooperative or association of all residents, or the town or city itself, can contract with renewable developers to provide renewable energy with a long term contract for the power with the option to buy some or all of the renewable system when tax equity is exhausted in year six. Finance can be provided by local or state revenue bonds using a fraction of the income from local residents and businesses energy payments.

Third, to value and monetize and broadly share the economic value of the pursuit of sustainability. For example, the economic value of the displacement by renewables of one metric ton of carbon dioxide is valued at $100 dollars by the US National Academy of Sciences. The current 37 billion tons (gigatons) of global carbon dioxide emissions represent a potential $3.7 trillion dollars of annual cash assets from renewable displacement of fossil fuels. This bounty can be monetized on the books of banks as paid in capital and as cash as sustainability credits (SCs) valued on $100 dollars per metric ton of renewable carbon displacement. The funds then invested in more renewables and other sustainable goods and processes. And, given the ordinary magic of investment banks, each dollar of bank capital can result in $10 dollars of productive renewable loans that can mean a potential $37 trillion dollars in yearly productive investment capital in sustainable conduct. The fundamental question is what do we value and how do these values shape the nature of our markets and our lives.

We book as profits the costs of ecological disasters, poisoning and illnesses as part of GNP, as real wealth. Oil and coal and natural gas companies make trillions of dollars through ecological pillage. We have the opportunity to book the real consequences of ecological damage or of ecological healing. Booking SCs as paid-in capital and as cash can be done simply by changing accounting rules. The dollars credited become part of the Federal Reserve or other central bank normal monetary controls. Their investment in further productive and ecological investments is not inflationary.

Provisions or amendments for ecological constitutional change

Ecological conduct, redefinition of economic growth and fiduciary responsibility means economic growth must be planned and undertaken with the goal of resulting in both ecological improvement and advancing social and ecological justice. This is not simply for the short term profit of owners or shareholders. Redefining fiduciary responsibility, by law, makes the pursuit of profit mean plans for ecological improvement in the context of social and ecological justice. Redefining fiduciary responsibility applies not just to corporations, but all businesses and to government, and non-profit organizations.

The following is a draft 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution easily adapted to one or two constitutional provisions for the nation or state of your choice.

Amendment 28 on Ecological Conduct:

Section 1. The rights and responsibilities to protect, sustain and enjoy ecological well being and health shall be a fundamental principle of these United States.

Section 2. Economic growth in these United States shall be guided by principles under law that leads to improvement and regeneration of natural capital and the advancement of social and ecological justice.

Section 3. Fiduciary responsibility under law shall be defined as prudent management of finance capital, the improvement and regeneration of natural capital and the advancement of social and ecological justice.

Ecological consumption assessments can, of course, be approached as ordinary tax policy. I suggest that the basic principles should be given principled constitutional status. An ecological consumption tax constitutional provision, in principle, should call for adoption of ecological taxes that result in making sustainable goods and services cheaper than ecologically destructive goods and services and therefore gain market share, becoming more profitable. This allows for the broadest range of tax instruments, including, but not limited to, an ecological value added tax, taxes on resource extraction, pollution, ecological damage, on all pollution sources and sinks, on the nature of real estate development.


Ecological constitutional provisions can represent the determination to pursue an ecological turn and a guide for future action. Or they can become empty words with little practical meeting. Adopting ecological constitutional provisions sends a clear signal that our basic law calls for and supports an ecological turn. What happens next will always be contested terrain and the heart of the collective expression of democracy and the pursuit of life and liberty.


The National Law Review.
Roy Morrison, Dec. 2021. The pursuit of an ecological future: is there another way?
Roy Morrison, July 2020. A Plan for Ecological and Social Justice. Brattleboro Reformer.
Roy Morrison, March 2022. Building the new green republic.