Towards our Ecological Economic Star Line

Our Pacific Voyagers carry a tremendous burden.  They carry the weight of our history and who we are as Pacific Islanders.  They are risk takers who defy western conventions to prove that our traditional knowledge has a place in the world. They are revolutionaries who defy decades of the colonial system that has sought only to diminish our customary knowledge and technologies.  As heroes of the Pacific, they have also become metaphors for struggle, for faith, for diligence and resilience.

As Pacific Islanders, we hold our traditional navigators high because they represent the value of who we most identify with in the world.  Culturally, we move through the world with the regality of ambassadors. When we speak, our voices are heard and our music and dance brings joy.

Yet when it comes to valuing our inherent Pacific assets, why do we suddenly become weak, dependent, our hands wide, arms stretched across the ocean as if we have lost our way home. How do we not know our own value?

Our ecological assets are immense, yet for some reason, we do not believe in the value of our ecological assets. As part of the global economy, we have the ability to interact with the world as equals– with mutual cooperation and exchange.

There is a constellation that our Pacific Navigators have traditionally followed. In Hawaiian it is called Hanaiakamalama (“cared for by the moon” otherwise called the Southern Cross) and its alignment with the navigational starline to Ka Iwikuamo’o was a backbone for our Pacific Voyagers to traverse our Liquid Continent.

Our ecological way forward is in view, and just as our Pacific Voyagers can stand on the shore and look towards the heavens to know when it is time to voyage, it is time for our leaders to move us forward now, rather than hold us back by signing legally binding investment and trade agreements that will further tether us to the post-colonial ambitions of our so-called big brother countries.

The navigational star line is in front of us. Our regional economic well-being is in front of us. There is a rational accounting framework that reflects who we are and measures our engagement in the global economy.

When one considers the wake-up call that is Covid-19; or that the western economy is in shambles; or that Australia’s fear of losing its control over the Pacific to China who is offering the region access and infrastructure; or that there are new data technologies in communication, finance and artificial intelligence that would benefit our regional security; or that there may be an economic incentive to finally liberate us from our struggles against extractive industries, depletion and degradation… it is as if the heavens finally heard the clarion call of Epeli Hauofa and lifted the obstructions and barriers that have kept us tethered to the yoke of colonialism.

And so, if we are so free then why are we still standing on the shore with our hands and arms outstretched? Maybe we have lost our understanding of value, the way that we almost lost our ability to read our navigational star lines. What motivates our liberation in the Pacific must be more than cultural, it also has to be economic, for if it is not, we will not be able to adequately address climate change on our terms, nor will we be able to remain in our homes. But what is the future that we want? Is it to enhance our well being and steward our environment with our own resilient technologies? 

This requires investment and capital that neither Australia nor the US will provide, unless they can own and privatize it.  With a new ecological accounting framework, we can increase our national accounts and provide our own services to meet the needs of our region.

Who is really saying that the Pacific cannot assert an economic-ecological scheme independent of the post-colonial privatization agenda?

For those who say “no,” then they are no different from the early colonizers who set fire to our voyaging canoes, ensuring that they restrict our movements. Whose vision do we really hold when we dream, what language do we speak?  It is evident that the only ones who would seek to inhibit our attempts to advance our ecological-economic ambitions are the very same ones who want to continue exploiting our resources.

A Pacific economy should not simply be a dream or something one hopes for.

But what is the cost of this Just, Fair and Equitable society? Is there a value of the dream?

Ecological Economic Accounts provides a formula for how we can actively protect and restore  our ecological biodiversity. Rather than simply give value to what we extract, we can also account for the cost of environmental damage, revalue our food and water security and our well being?  

Value and costs are tricky because they are terms that can slip in and out from being measured with money. Not everything that one buys is valuable, while what has the most value can often not be monetized no matter how much investment markets try to assign a monetary value on our public and existential goods.

If we approach the world as a commodity, then it is only the few who expend capital that are setting the costs by placing its value in the marketplace.

And if the few who expend capital enforces the commodification of the world, then it is we in the world that has to change what things are worth.

National accounting is supposed to mirror our economy, our society, our interactions. If GDP is the standard by which we measure our economy, it is obvious we have no place in it.  If we do not manufacture, if our populations are too small to have a viable well rounded labor source, if our production capacity is limited to just a few resources like coconuts, shells or fish bones, if the transport of our goods across borders cost too much, if we do not have an aircraft carrier, then clearly we are not looking at ourselves in a mirror. We are not seeing who we are, that we are all Pacific voyagers.

Have a Good Day: Measuring Data Offsets

I hope everyone is having a good day, and that everyone is well. 

Intemerate Accounting addresses a subject that many find to be technically challenging and I can’t say that I have been successful in my attempts to engage people with the fundamental question about national accounting systems—that question, primarily, is why do small economies and developing countries not have the same access to valuing their economies as the large, industrial, advanced economies do?

But I think that maybe I’ve been asking the wrong question all along, what I should be asking is, “Has everyone had a good day? Are you all well?”

If you are not well or if your day was not as good as it usually is, if you feel tired, or anxious because things seem bleak, or if you feel like the work that you are doing is underappreciated, or that your household cannot support itself and you’re having to rely upon your uncles and aunties for help even though you know that they too are struggling, then maybe we have to rethink what is of value to our lives, or our families, or our communities, or our countries, or our region, or our world.

On the other hand if we are hopeful, and motivated and as a whole feel that what we do has purpose and that there is food and clean water and that there is security in our environment and that in mutual aid we can help provide for others, these are the qualities of well being.

An economy is after all, a measurement of all of these things and how they interact with each other, and especially with nature.

Well-being is very important.  When I ask, have you had a good day? It has value.  Our homes have value because we are raising our families. Our houses of worship have value because they are nurturing our communities; our governments have value when they provide for our general welfare.

And if we are fed and provided for, what is the value of giving thanks or helping the household? What we generate has value. Our education, the road we travel, the sights , sounds and fragrances we pass, the litter we pick up from the side of the road and shorelines, our environments and the ecological biodiversity that sustains us, these are our natural, cultural and well being assets and they are important. What we do counts. And that is our economy. And so imagine, that we all have a baseline, or a standard by which we measure our good days and bad.

And so as we look at our lives, we know that some things can be monetized and some things can’t. Can my personal well being or my household be bought and sold on the market? Well, yes, our personal health data can be bought by insurance companies or health services, and of course our homes are put on the market, but not everything can be monetized, nor should it be.

There are some things that are sacrosanct, sacred, pure, intemerate, and should not have a monetized value placed upon it.

One example of this is our ecological biodiversity. Should our environment be valued against the cost of carbon in our atmosphere? Why should the large economies that make trillions of dollars offset their pollution by managing or accounting for our environments that we have stewarded for generations.

The value of our environments are far more valuable than the pollution and waste that they use to produce and consume goods in trade. So why do the people who manage their companies, the CEOS and COOS be more valuable than we who manage our environment, our elders and kupuna who hold deep knowledge over our interactions with our environment. National accounts make no sense in what and how they value, they are irrational.  So what about rational accounts?

This is what this intemerate accounting touches upon, it is about how we transition from a GDP national accounting system to a rational accounting system. We know what has value and how to account for things.  We all have the opportunity to measure, to count, to examine, to protect, to nurture, to analyze, to collect, to describe, to compile, to publish, to monitor and manage our environments.  This is a service, and it should be accounted for in our national economies. 

Whether some things can be monetized or not is a technical question that is valued in marketplaces. While some values are highly personal and cannot be accounted for in markets, other values can. By recognizing that we live in a global economy and that our interactions count does have value.

The intemerate offsets (N) are the data measuring the changes of where we are currently to the baseline. If we are speaking about restoring a particular crab specie on a remote island, that may not have such consequential value compared to another crab specie that is bought and sold in urban or regional markets, but what happens when that data is merged with a regional index, or aggregated in an index of marine life restoration or a remote island restoration index or any other aggregates that can be “packaged” and “traded” in data markets and exchanges? That data has value and those collecting that data are providing a valuable service.

There are so many factors that go into how we account for monetary values, and by no means does that not take value away from that which is not monetized, but what an accounting shift will do is address our access to markets.

So with our resume and qualifications, how is it that our national accounts are so low? Why are we poor?

Why are we classified as developing countries? Is it because we’re remote?

It can’t be, because being remote should be accounted for as an asset.  Is it because our populations are small? They are small, which means that our GDP per capita should be the highest in the world…

As we begin to think about these questions, we should begin to see that our local interactions can impact the global economy, and that is at the heart if this economic justice campaign. We do not need to put a price tag on our water and commodify it to know that it is valuable.

Measuring data offsets CAN be quantified. This is why building our data baseline is so important.  By including the intemerate accounts as an accounting side table to GDP, it will modify how we value extraction, degradation and depletion, as it directly correlates to our well being, stewardship and restoration.

There is a technical aspect to this accounting matrix that I will elaborate upon in another post, but this formula is very much worth exploring. In fact, I would go further and say that we cannot afford to ignore the math.

The Equation

Our Ecological Economic equation calculates how we can actively protect and restore our ecological biodiversity. Rather than simply ascribe value to what we extract, we can also account for the cost of environmental damage, food and water security and well being.

The Intemerate Working Group for Data Statistics and Valuation

In our Intemerate Equation, MEA, or the Monetary Equivalence Assessment (M∑), is the sum of an economy’s Regional Assets (R) and Ecological Assets (V).

The GDP (Z) that comprises the Regional Assets (R) is modulated by a country’s Wellbeing (w).

Ecological Assets (V) are a product of Equalization (Q) and the Impact Factor (K).

Equalization is a scheme that leverages factors like debt, population, investment indices, payment schemes and infrastructure financing, relating developing countries to advanced economies by means of a ratio that more equitably values our ecological data.

The Impact Factor (K) evaluates the Carbon Offsets (C) against the 350 ppm baseline, and is a product of C and the Intemerate Offsets (N). The sum of “N=” is our route to ecological and economic justice.

Intemerate offsets are the measurable factors in the process of restoring our ecological biodiversity.

The Intemerate Equation is a tangible thing. It is something to hold, to plant in the soil, to return to the Eternal, it is something that imbues life with value.

Wellbeing is essential in its modulation of GDP, which is measured industrially.
GDP often excludes natural capital and thus inherent wealth of developing countries, indigenous and “poor” peoples, and impacted communities.
Regional Assets is a product of Wellbeing and GDP
In Cap and Trade schemes, Carbon is shackled to–and held captive by–the cost of Carbon Outputs.
Intemerate Offsets can represent all of the measurable changes of our biosphere: the interactions of flora and fauna, water flows, currents…
Impact Factors reassess the valuation of environmental degradation and resource depletion.
Advanced Economies owe much of their wealth to Developing Countries. Equalization corrects that injustice.
Accounting for our Ecological Assets could reverse nearly two centuries of industrial greed and ongoing neoliberal malfeasance.
In the Intemerate Equation, the MEA = Monetary Equivalence Assessment, modulating GDP with an ecological accounting side table.

We all have the opportunity to measure, count, examine, protect, nurture, analyze, collect, describe, compile, publish, monitor and manage our environments.  This is a traditional and customary service, and it should be accounted for in our national economies.  Whether some activities and resources can be monetized or not is a societal question, and what that monetary value is may be a technical one, but we live in a global economy and what we do has a visceral impact on our future as a civilization.

Intemerate Accounting

Intemerate Accounts provides an ecological accounting methodology that promotes the wellbeing of peoples and cultures in the context of climate change.

While the focus of this paper is on the Pacific, this accounting scheme is scalable to include a grouping of Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific peoples, other developing countries, including impacted First nations regions within the advanced economies. 

Focusing on integrated ecological accounting in the Pacific provides Pacific Island people and communities with access to the development of new, resilient technologies that will allow us to remain in our island homes and restore our shared environmental wellbeing through our collective stewardship as we have for generations.