Equation video

Explaining the Intemerate Equation

This video was done in the summer of 2019. While the variables and the equation are the same, many of the details within this equation have evolved and streamlined, especially due to the COVID-19 global economy. For example, we have expanded certain aspects of the Equalization Factor to have broader more international reach with potentially greater cooperation over how this would function within both the OECD and the Global South. While the story has evolved, the basic equation has not.

Another video will be produced soon.

Addressing COVID-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has tested the strengths and weaknesses of our global interconnectedness and its implications for our environmental, economic, and social well being.  In particular, as the outbreak has spread we have witnessed in real time the limits of the global economy. While some economies were not only able to address their national needs, but simultaneously provide assistance to other countries, many western governments looked to private markets as the only route for addressing the needs of the people.  The fact that some countries even weaponized the virus by withholding aid while maintaining sanction power can only be seen as an immoral affront to humanity. There is something very wrong with an economic system that places capital markets and the pursuit of profits in front of the global needs of human and environmental well being. Time and time again, neoliberalism has failed communities in need, and this includes large countries with immense multi-trillion dollar public debts that can never be repaid. Covid-19 may have triggered a financial collapse, but by no means was it the cause. Therefore Covid-19 is a wake-up call for regions to embrace another system if it is to coherently prepare for future stresses.  The combination of western economic decline, environmental distress, the rise of the multipolar system, new 21st-century technologies, and now Covid-19 has created an unprecedented opportunity for global political and economic transformation for the wellbeing of our planet.

 Indeed, we should see Covid-19 as a test for the inevitable global environmental catastrophe to come. From this perspective we can only conclude that relying on a failed paradigm is not the route to choose.  In the Pacific, indicators of our vulnerability and dependencies are defined and measured against the priorities of the advanced economies that have historically ignored our Pacific identity and value. Typically, these economies emphasise our remoteness, our relatively small population and land area as liabilities for our developmental.  Therefore, that fact that we have never participated in the global economy as equals has not been because of our lack of value or regional self-determination, rather the conditions for recognizing our value in the global economy has been overshadowed by commercial and industrial needs of the wealthy. 

Unlike the advanced economies, who rely upon large militaries or industrial capacities, or western conceived notions of production and consumption as economic indicators, we in the Pacific have a long history of voyaging and customary stewardship that highlights the strengths of our vast liquid continent that are unaccounted for. Our shared rights for reciprocity and ecological well being should motivate how we account for the economy.  If we believe that such alternatives are possible, then we should recall that GDP (the dominant way in which national economies are measured today) reflects nothing more than a choice over which indicators we want to prioritize. Currently the GDP system prioritizes production, consumption, trade and research, which remain heavily weighted in favour of advanced economies. But alternatives are not only possible, but necessary. For example, in Soviet-era Russia their MPS prioritised labour and transport to account for the interconnectedness of remote areas. The current global climate is ripe for a new paradigm shift”
 

There is an opportunity for the Pacific to prioritise its shared ecological value as an alternative measure of a regional economy. Through the United Nations Statistical Division, work is already underway to effectively value ecological indicators through the System of Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA).  However, this is no automatic win for the Pacific, and indeed the SEEA has been compromised by competing national and corporate private interests.

At the global level, the objectives of the large institutions and big-brother economies are to privatise value and remove barriers to property rights over our ecological biodiversity. Furthermore, what started out as an international mandate to include environmental degradation and resource depletion into national accounting systems ended up as an industry-specific guideline that measures environmental resources (such as water) as a commodity valued under patterns of production and consumption.  Within the region, UNESCAP has already attempted to introduce an ecological accounting framework in a manner limited to national water and waste accounts. These kinds of conservation and sustainable-use methodologies are designed to favor corporate investments and privatization regimes allowing the open-access paradigm that resorts to short-term exploitation on a first-come, first-serve basis. Except for the task of accounting for our ecological data, these kinds of environmental accounting mechanisms do not benefit the Pacific.

Rather, we have the opportunity to account for our shared ecological value—our literal Pacific Ocean of Data— is a tremendous resource. Just as OPEC was created to protect and regulate petroleum resources by setting the price of its oil, the Pacific too, with its ocean of ecological data can ensure that the value of our biodiversity is measured and accounted for in a way that is fair and commensurate with the size of our area, our population and our identity. This will require the political determination to confront upcoming challenges collectively, as one Pacific continent, through ecological integration.

Recalibrating Pacific wellbeing through regional ecological integration will finally shake off the colonial/post-colonial yoke that continues to undervalue the region. The value of Pacific ecological integration can be maximised through what I term a Pacific-led Intemerate accounting framework.  This framework will ensure that it is the Pacific that owns the data and that the value of that data is equitably measured for the protection and sustainability of its ecological resources. This will enable us to raise the economy of the Pacific towards a much higher per capita standard, measured to be on par with, for example, those OPEC countries.  While the entire world has an ecological base that can be measured for sustainability (e.g., the 1987 baseline of 350ppm CO2), a regional ecologically integrated Pacific has the vast quantity and the ability – particularly if it were to be a first mover – to set the value of that data by negotiating an international market for ecological and social well being.

Immaculate inspiration

The spirit for establishing an intemerate accounting scheme was inspired from a discussion that took place in Los Angeles, California with Reverend Francois Pihaatae, the General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC). Meeting on the sidelines of the U.S. premiere of their film “The RE-Birth—the Call of our Mother to Renewal,” we discussed how Pacific Regionalism gives legitimate meaning to the notion of self-determination. The Five Points contributing to PCC’s “Rethinking Oceania” project included: 1) Governance and Leadership; 2) Development in Oceania, 3) Peace and Security; 4) Climate Change and Resettlement of Populations; and 5) Cultural and Social Cohesion.

Addressing these five points, for our sea of islands to truly be chartered by our people, there needed to be a regulatory ecological framework that accounted for our integrated regional equity in the global economy and that the UN System of National Accounts (SNA) had proposed early drafts of a System of Environmental Economic Accounts (SEEA), that could aggregate data for environmental degradation and resource depletion as deficits to national accounting systems.

Further, in a rather profane attempt to address economic valuation, I drew upon themes addressed in “Rethinking the Household of God in the Pacific,” and cautiously proposed an accounting scheme that was not dissimilar to how we might “value” the mystery of Immaculate Conception.

Just as the economy of the Catholic church is to some degree predicated on the mystery of Immaculate Conception, an intemerate account assumes that what is sacred has another kind of value that resists monetization while simultaneously providing value equity that can be leveraged for economic sustainability. In seeking to describe an accounting pathway, we have to acknowledge that the mystery of Immaculate Conception assumes that Mary’s virginity is sacrosanct. Monetizing that virginity would be to deviate from an economy based on the miracle and mystery of Immaculate Conception into one of common prostitution. This does not, however, constitute a paradox, as it is not her virginity that is monetized, rather, the belief of Immaculate Conception.

Unlike how we normatively measure goods and services, there are other processes that measures our interactions in an economy. What is immaculate, for example, has unlimited potential value, but it is our interaction with our faith that provides for the economic sustainability of one of our longest held institutions.

Allegorically, if we apply this to environmental accounts and consider that our ecological biodiversity is sacrosanct to how we rethink the Household of God, then we should consider that the value of our ecological biodiversity also resists monetization in natural accounting schemes, because by doing so, we are figuratively monetizing Mary’s virginity.

How this can be approached, however, is to establish a baseline for accounting the value of our ecological biodiversity by leaving it “inviolate, pure, and undefiled” and equalize that value against the assets of industries and economies that benefit most from environmental degradation and resource depletion.