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.