INTERVIEW WITH Ferdinando Boero
(Professor of Zoology and Marine Biology, author of Economia senza natura. La grande truffa - Translation: Economics without nature. The big scam)
The economic and political establishment worldwide points unequivocally and constantly to the growth of the GDP. Ever-more non-governmental associations, ecologists and ecological-economists, oppose this system, arguing that it is destructive for our planet. Ferdinando Boero, ecologist and author of the book Economia senza natura. La grande truffa (Economics without nature. The big scam), explain to us in simple words why the economy created by humans (the economy without nature) generate more damages than benefits and why it robs us of our most important asset, that is, the natural capital. What is the most important threat to the planet ecosystem? Why humans is the species most at risk now? Why the economy created by humans is a scam? What should we expect if we don’t change the current way of making decisions? Ferdinando Boero answered to this and other questions.
Ferdinando BOERO: born in Genova (Italy) in 1951, he has lived in Lecce (Italy) since 1987, where he now works as Professor of Zoology and Marine Biology at the Università del Salento. Boero is an associate at CNR’s Institute of Marine Sciences, and a member of the scientific committees at the followings: Zoological Station in Naples (Italy), ITALY-WWF, Pro Natura, Mare Vivo, Coldiretti. Boero is specialized in the study of marine biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, particularly with regard to jellyfish. He collaborates with some national magazines (La Stampa, Le Scienze,) and other national and local newspapers, doing his best in disseminating the results of his research.
Economia senza natura. La grande truffa: the book focuses on a very simple concept: our economic-based society points strongly to the increase of the economic capital; but it doesn’t take into account the subsequent erosion of the natural capital. Economists tend to show only the benefits (the growth of the economic capital) of such a model, while the real costs (the erosion of nature) are hidden. In other words, they are deceiving us. The paradigm of infinite economic growth, proposed by the mainstream economic thinking is a scam because it hides the costs related to the destruction of the natural capital.
INTERVIEW - (Aprile 2015)
The interview was made in April 2015 and published in May 2015
Subject: Economy and Ecology – the problems behind the Economy without nature
Now the human species is facing a big problem: it has grown so much and its ecological footprint is so high that its existence on this planet is seriously at risk. We are eroding the natural resources our life is based on. We are over-exploiting our planet. The time will come when nature will no longer provide the natural services we need.
The species most at risk of extinction are the most successful ones; ‘success is the premise of failure:’ these species over-consume the resources that sustain their life and, in doing that, they give the start to their inexorable decline.
There is a natural law which says: ‘if something grows, something else de-grows.’ Human-Economy grows at the expense of nature.
Politicians and economists talks only about the benefits of the growth of the economic capital; they don’t talk about the costs deriving from the destruction of the natural capital; they outsource such costs; they consciously hide them. They are deceiving us. This is why I call the Economy without nature a ‘big scam!’
We are fighting nature, but without nature we can’t live. This is a fight against ourselves. And we are doomed to lose.
Question 1: Welcome Professor Boero, you are an expert in the field of Ecology. Before delving into the content of your book, can you tell us what is today the biggest threat to natural ecosystems and to the human existence on this planet?
The biggest threat is ‘humans.’ But they are mainly threatening themselves. Darwin argued that: ‘all species tend to increase, but not all of them can do it; otherwise the world could not contain them.’ Now the human species is facing a big problem: it has grown so much and its ecological footprint is so high that its existence on this planet is seriously at risk. We are eroding the natural resources our life is based on. We are over-exploiting our planet. The time will come when nature will no longer provide the natural services we need. And keep in mind that, without nature, the human species cannot exist: No nature – No humans! If we don’t understand this simple rule, we will be fated to die just as other big species were in the past: namely, the dinosaurs. The species most at risk of extinction are the most successful ones; ‘success is the premise of failure:’ these species over-consume the resources that sustain their life and, in doing that, they give the start to their inexorable decline.
Question 2: Your last book is titled Economics without nature. The big scam. Could you explain to us the difference between ‘Economy of Nature’ and ‘Economy without Nature?’ What do you mean by ‘big scam?’
It’s simple. The economy created by humans has a precise goal: the growth of the economic capital. But it does also exist a natural capital; it is studied by the economy of nature, the term used by Darwin to define the discipline then renamed Ecology by Hackel. There is a natural law which says: ‘if something grows, something else de-grows.’ Human-Economy grows at the expense of nature. History contains abundant examples: several natural populations have been deleted, substituted by cultivated plants and breed animals. Now the same is done with the sea: we are moving from fisheries to aquaculture because we are destroying the natural populations of fishes. We burn fuels, consume oxygen and produce carbon dioxide; we are changing Earth’s climate and making him ever more hostile. Despite all of that, politicians and economists talks only about the benefits of the growth of the economic capital; they don’t talk about the costs deriving from the destruction of the natural capital; they outsource such costs; they consciously hide them. They are deceiving us. This is why I call the Economy without nature a ‘big scam!’
Question 3: In the premise of your book you say: 'If we infringe the laws of nature for the benefits of the economy, then nature will get back at us. Even in economic terms.' Can you give us some concrete examples of the damages caused by our ‘bad behavior?’
Let’s think of climate change. It has caused a lot of damages so far, both in terms of environmental destruction and of human lives; we are spending a lot of money to recover from the disasters climate change has caused so far. Floods, cyclones, heat waves, extreme cold are becoming even-more frequent. All this causes a decrease of the services we can get from nature. The costs are enormous.
Question 4: According to the Global Footprint Network, now Human’s Ecological Footprint far exceeds the biological capacity of the Earth: ‘we should have a Planet as big as 1 and half the Planet Earth to satisfy humans needs.’ Can you explain to us what are (and what are going to be) the consequences of this process?
There is a natural rule very very important: when one species over-use one resource, the amount of this resource decreases, leading, in turn, to a fall in the population of that species. Then the resource recovers and give the species the chance to recover. The Human species, unfortunately, is contravening this rule. We are a technological-based species; this make us in the condition to squeeze every last drop from natural resources. But there are limits. When we have no more resources to squeeze our life cannot exist any longer. In spite of that, we continue to create new systems and technologies as of to exploit even more the nature. We must learn to live in harmony with nature, as symbiotic mutualists and not as predators. Otherwise, the bill will be very high. We are fighting nature, but without nature we can’t live. This is a fight against ourselves. And we are doomed to lose.
Question 5: A famous ecologist in the 1900s, Edward Goldsmith, argued that 'the more complex and diverse is a system, the more resilient it is to external shocks.' Do you think the terrestrial ecosystem is witnessing a decrease in its complexity? In particular, what are the species most at risk?
Prior to Goldsmith such a statement was said by a more authoritative ecologist: Charles Darwin. Let me say again. I’m not worried about the other species. It is our species that is most at risk. Our great success is the begin of our failure.
Question 6: In your book you complain about the absence of ecology in the educational system. You say that it is inconceivable that an economist or an engineer who makes decisions that affect the environment knows little or nothing about ecology. What do you propose to solve this problem?
Well, Pope Benedict XVI said: ‘Ecology should be included among the subjects which are taught at school.’ Ecology is the most important subject for our life. Everyone should study it! From elementary schools to University. It is our survival which is at stake. You can’t respect and defend something you don’t know.
Question 7: Economy and Ecology. Can they co-exist? In which way? What are the sectors (energy, agriculture, manufacturing, tourism etc…) which need a deeper change in order to make our economy more eco-sustainable?
We must change all sectors. A total cultural change is necessary. Our life strongly depends on the thriving of the natural capital. Take care of it and you will get only benefit from that. Destroy it and you will get only losses from that. But the current decisional system, the way which leads our decisions, is wrong; it makes us to insensitive to the damages to the natural capital. That is the most stupid way to act…But we are doing it….