The journey of an economy to its ecology and back again is by way of the very many methods which create the whole web of a culture.
The more symbiotically an economy is enmeshed in its ecology, so the ecology will yield more to feed that economy.
A cultural economist can journey between a nature which produces mere “eco-system services” to one which holds the biomass of millions of species in common with her own species and with herself. She can (as we’ve explored) take ownership of an eco-system service only by enclosing the ecological common.
My inner journey is from modernist enclosures and back to the common. As we’ve explored, I can own the monetary value of my cabbage, but not the commons of its biomass. That biomass belongs in the common ecology which supplies the common economy.
Of course economy and ecology are ultimately one. Economies measured by physicists and accountants measure the wrong things. Even worse – economies measured by spending (GDP) show figures, which even a physicist or accountant would not accept. Economies are life cycles. They are the effects of human social behaviour in symbiosis and competition with other species. What we eat and the air we breathe are created by the cycles of life. For instance, the cultural metabolism which joins field to town guides the flow of biomass between fungi, bacteria, plants and animals.
So, here’s my picture: methods which maintain social systems are both constrained and enabled by the landscapes we settle. We discover methods of settlement by trial and error. The culture which settles is what we do, not who we are and that culturing process is both revived and thwarted by an always half-seen world. Of course, the thwarted culture discovers a previously-unseen part of its terrain and so is stimulated to change its tools.
The process of being thwarted is carried through eyes, ears, noses and fingertips and so is always carried through individuals.
So my journey is not only from enclosure to common, but also from whom we think we are to what we think we do.
I hope that thought process may be liberating.
It also sits very happily in the Christian cultural tradition of forgiveness of sins. That we have behaved badly does not mean we cannot behave well – nor that we must have accumulated an indelibly bad identity. If we are what we do, then the time we have holds redemption.
Here’s another thought: we are, always have been and always will be ruled by barbarians. They come and go, sometimes by military invasion, sometimes by monetary ones. But cultural methods flow on regardless, through a variety of restraints. They flow through generations, following the constraints and guides of landscape – while inheriting and bequeathing the flows of common good.