We must be realists. Building an ecological future is certainly a socially determined choice. It is also a necessity. But it is only one choice among three likely pathways:

  1. The ecological path of economic growth leading to ecological improvement;
  2. Business as usual, and the emerging attempts at mitigation and geo-engineering;
  3. Embracing the path of no growth and economic contraction as the only viable tactic to survive on an ecologically afflicted planet.

In this article, we will consider pathway number one, an ecological growth strategy, and its dynamics, strengths, and challenges. The pursuit of an ecological future can be summarized as:

  • Making the price system send clear signals for sustainability and therefore for business people a guide for investment and production decisions, and for consumers a guide for purchases. What's sustainable will be cheaper, gain market share, and be more profitable.
  • Replacing all taxes on income with ecological consumption taxes, such as an ecological value added tax or a system based on ecological assessments on sources and sinks and ecological impact, to send clear signals for production and consumption.
  • Building continental scale efficient renewable energy grids based on local renewables and necessary high voltage direct current networks (HVDC) that can replace all fossil fuels and nuclear energy that will power our factories, heat and cool our homes and power our vehicles. -Embracing a zero-waste, zero pollution global production system governed by an industrial ecology where all the products of one process become inputs for others. Transforming agriculture to sustainable practices replacing conventional high-energy, toxic chemical, and soil-destroying inputs.
  • Making forestry a sustainable domain of habitat protection and restoration and long-term economic productivity.
  • Developing a coherent global structure to fairly transfer assets and information from rich to poor to help finance and potentiate global ecological transformation through a system of small assessments on sustainable energy production, agriculture, and forestry. -Using sustainable resources can be approached in a manner similar to Norway's Petroleum Fund to be reinvested in further sustainable development as well as ESA “Ecological quality assessment: A framework to report ecosystems quality and their dynamics from reference conditions”.

The deep nature of sustainability

If the pursuit of sustainability is the guide for fundamentally transformative action to build an ecological future, we must consider questions such as the deep nature of sustainability in the ecosphere and what it means for transformative change. Sustainability is more than a fashionable business. Sustainability in the ecosphere acting as a basic co-evolutionary force. Sustainability is the process where life responds to all influences in ways that shape the ecosphere to maximize the prospects for life, and where life evolves in response to these changes in a ceaseless process of coevolution, of cybernetic feedback webs of signal and response. Sustainability is the force that has enabled life to survive periodic mass extinctions and then thrive. It is a force that human consciousness and the movement for an ecological future now becomes a part of the countervailing and healing response to the consequences of human-created mega-pollution on a planetary and geological scale. Will the evolution of the Anthropocene lead to an ecological future or continue down the path of self-destruction? An ecological growth system in response to the existing conditions of mega-pollution.is a manifestation in the 21st century of billions of years of sustainability and co-evolution of ecosphere and life. Sudden and non-linear change resulting from ever increasing pollution leading to negative dire ecological consequences, can alternatively be the path to sudden and dramatic healing social and political change. Healing ecological social change can and, I believe, will happen very quickly and suddenly. This both is intended to help guide an ecological reformation to come.

Historical context

Historically, there are good reasons for optimism in that an ecological turn represents a healing response to industrial excess. An ecological future is a reflection of necessity which is consonant both with the necessity to abstain from self-destruction before it's too late and with historical processes of excess leading to healing change. Such dynamics of healing response to excess often require an increase in scale and complexity as a way to resolve existing intractable problems. A global ecological growth system will follow this path as both a healing response to industrial mega-pollution, and as a great expansion on a global scale of complex webs of ecological market actors expanding trade, relationships, economic activity, self-management, and customized production. Looking backward, we see a European world ruled by absolutism, aristocracy, and church gave rise with dizzying speed to the Enlightenment, industrial and political revolution, democracy, chattel slavery for industrial inputs, mechanization, high technology, mega-pollution, imperialism, globalization, world war, the global corporation and global finance, a new wave of democratization, and global cyberspace. Looking forward, an ecological global growth system is a logical healing step: it means a future not of less and less, but of more, different, and better. Its aspirations include in its success an end to global poverty and replacing of a global war system with a peace system.