LoginSubscribe|Sponsor|Submit|Donate|Sponsors and Partners|About Delicious Facebook Twitter submit to reddit

Volume 3 | Issue 4 | Page 20-24 | Aug 2012
The Trouble of Discounting Tomorrow
Philippe Put (via Flickr)
By placing less importance on distant events than on those nearby, people innately discount the future. Equity across different generations, here sharing time on a bench, depends on how we manage this discount rate.

No challenge facing humanity is broader in scope and importance than achieving a sustainable future. Every dimension of our lives is affected, and every discipline and sector of society must be involved in meeting the challenge. Yet we consistently place less importance on distant events than on those close to us in time (as well as in other dimensions). This so-called discounting of our future makes more difficult our ability to achieve sustainability. Although arguments over the correct “social discount rate” have long occupied a central place in economic thinking,1 too little has been done to confront the issues of equity that discounting implies.

At its core, sustainability is about living our lives in ways that leave the same or better options for future generations as we enjoy today;2 and this implies a need to protect the broader environment on which we all depend. The basic problem is that achieving sustainability involves trade-offs. We all discount our own futures, enjoying today’s certain benefits against the uncertainty of what will happen tomorrow. Societies also discount, and do so hyperbolically,3 which means that they most severely discount the near-term future. From a social-planning point of view, the question of how to discount the future is an open one,1 involving issues of ethics and basic fairness.4-7 Without some form of discounting, we could never use any of a nonrenewable resource, leaving the resource untouched for future generations similarly to leave untouched … obviously a paradox.

Population growth and demographic shifts toward an older population further complicate the issue, increasing future potential demand. China’s population, for example, is aging at a very rapid rate, a result of its one-child policy and lower mortality. Caring for the interests of a large and growing population of seniors will pose great challenges for the Chinese people and will make sustainability even more difficult.

Similar problems exist, if not to the same degree, in other countries. In addition to the responsibility of today’s population for future generations, the social contract in the great majority of nations reverses time’s arrow, making younger generations responsible for older ones through social security schemes. Hungary’s National Sustainable Development Strategy, for example, states that “the decreased willingness to have children and the increased life expectancy at birth may lead to a situation where in 2050 one elderly citizen will be sustained by two workers instead of the current four.”8 Such trends clearly complicate any sustainability strategy and make it essential to find ways to achieve intergenerational compromise.

Discounting is in part a reflection of uncertainty about the future. But what is the right discount rate to use? It would be difficult enough were we contemplating just our own futures, or even those of our children;9 where concern for others and the future structure of societies is involved, there is no obvious right answer.10 Indeed disagreement about the proper discount rate to use is what divides those who accept from those who reject the findings of Britain’s Stern Commission on climate change.11

But dealing with discounting in the context of intergenerational transfers is doable. Countries such as Sweden, Denmark, Germany, and Poland have employed relatively long-term perspectives, on the order of several decades, in developing national strategies for sustainable development. Finland has developed a “Programme for Sustainable Development” that incorporates intergenerational indicators that must be monitored; biodiversity preservation is one target of the scheme.12 This is, at least, a beginning.

Jonathan Kos-Read (via Flickr)
Conventional market mechanisms fail to address the accumulation of individual actions, like driving, into collective social costs, like air pollution and global warming.

With a number of colleagues (including this author), the economist and Nobel Laureate Kenneth Arrow has developed a framework that addresses sustainability by considering an unlimited future, emphasizing ethical considerations that take account of the estimated utilities of future generations—that is, what the future holds for them as measured by things that contribute to their total welfare.10 The framework’s sustainability criterion requires social welfare to not decrease over time. Of course, the discount rate remains key, as does how utility is measured; most crucially, though, the framework explicitly weights the needs of future generations. By this measure, the performance of individual nations can be assessed, and changes that enhance sustainability can be prescribed. Beyond being a contribution to economic theory, Arrow and his colleagues’ approach has received wide attention and could be a basis for policy initiatives going forward.

The central issues in achieving sustainability are thus ones of temporal allocation, of prosociality toward others (that is, concern for the welfare of others), of cooperation, and of the social norms that sustain cooperative behavior. We live in a global commons, in which the collective consequences of individual actions have externalities and social costs, and these are not adequately addressed through conventional market mechanisms. These problems are magnified as the scale of organization is increased, where individual nations are the units of decision making. Garrett Hardin, in addressing the “tragedy of the commons,” argued that the solution lay in “mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon.”13 And indeed, such self-enforcing mutual agreements can work effectively in small communities to achieve sustainability.14 But how do we go beyond small communities to achieve cooperation at the global level?

The theory of cooperation is one of the oldest in evolutionary biology, and understanding the strongest forms of cooperation was a puzzle even to Charles Darwin. Even bacteria achieve cooperation,15,16 and cooperative solutions to problems of public goods and common-pool resources are widespread throughout the biosphere. The emergence of multicellularity itself, one of the major evolutionary transitions, is a story of cooperation. But most examples of cooperation depend on either close genetic relatedness or spatial proximity.17-19 Human groups form to achieve collective benefits, and they maintain those benefits through social norms, sustained through reinforcement and punishment.20-22 As groups become larger and more heterogeneous, social norms become harder to sustain, and formal laws, contracts, and institutions become essential.23

To achieve global sustainability, especially with regard to the most difficult features to monetize—like the services that ecosystems and biodiversity provide to humanity—we must find ways to extend cooperation beyond small groups, like the small fishing societies described by the late Elinor Ostrom. Ostrom24 convincingly argues for a polycentric approach to environmental problems like climate change—that is, for an approach that does not try to do everything at once but instead builds from multiple centers for a more global solution. Trust is central to achieving enforceable agreements, and single global-scale policies are unlikely to engender such trust. Furthermore, because cooperation deteriorates as the size of a society increases, single governmental units are unlikely to succeed in addressing global-scale problems.

John Pastor (via Flickr)
Quarantine facilities, like this old Airstream trailer used to isolate NASA astronauts, suggest a model for policies that sidestep risks of systemic collapse. Modular rather than tightly interconnected policies, argues the author, can adapt to unforeseen challenges and avoid large-scale failure.

The conclusion of such reasoning is that a multi-scale effort is needed, providing the elements both for local experimentation and hierarchical extension to higher levels, with collectives as the bargaining units at the next level. This is, of course, not a new idea—as examples, consider the United States, with the tension between the powers of the federal government and the states; the Canadian Federation of provinces; and the former Soviet Union. Indeed, virtually every large nation has some form of polycentric governance, and super-nations like the European Union or the United Nations are exercises in polycentric governance.

Obviously, these national and international structures differ widely in how the powers are distributed among levels; success is in the details. Still, these are the best models we know for national and global governance; the challenge for sustainability is to encourage nations to cede some of their own immediate priorities for the longer-term collective good. This will require not only advances in the theory of international agreements and the design of effective mechanisms, but also the creation of other layers of cooperation at levels in between individual nations and the global society. When nations are the agents in the search for international cooperation, with all the attendant asymmetries, it remains difficult if not impossible to get agreements on issues like climate change and biodiversity loss. Some new dimensions are needed.

Ultimately, we need new institutions and enforceable agreements that not only work today, but also are robust in a changing environment. Despite the unique challenges, and occasional glitches, international agreements have been effective for more than 60 years in combating nuclear proliferation and the use of nuclear weapons, although the robustness of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is facing severe challenge today. Thus we have examples of successes, but even in these successes we must recognize risks and the need to be adaptive.

One step in this direction is to create a modular structure to meet global challenges, in which parts can be changed as needed without leading to systemic collapse.25 For management, modularity means creating firebreaks to impede the contagious spread of disturbance: for example, many diseases spread rapidly within risk groups, like drug users or particular schools, but can then be contained because of the reduced probability of transmission among groups. Indeed, the first line of defense in dealing with an emerging epidemic, from foot-and-mouth to SARS, is to slow down travel, whether cattle or humans, to reduce the rate of spread. The loss of modularity is widely believed to have been a major factor in the catastrophic financial collapse of 2008—the system was too overconnected.26 Any successful scheme must be adaptive: one can design schemes to deal with today’s threats, but flexibility and adaptability are essential for adjusting to the unforeseen challenges ahead.

European Parliament/Pietro Naj-Olear
Successful policy often starts with local experimentation then moves through hierarchy to higher levels, as embodied in the structure of the EU and its parliament, pictured here. A hierarchical structure can force individuals—whether people or nations—to cede their immediate priorities to the collective good.

Accounting for future generations is perhaps an even greater challenge, because they do not have negotiators at the bargaining table. We in the present must care about future generations, decide how to discount and how to evaluate their utility functions, and develop a framework for protecting their interests. The “Brundtland Report”2 recommends a basis for commitment; what we need now is a way to quantify what the limits on present consumption must be to achieve that goal.

Arrow and colleagues10,27 provide a first proposal in that direction, allowing for corrections for technological growth, population growth, and other confounding factors, though significant ethical and technical challenges remain. Their key argument is that “sustainable development requires sustained well-being,” mandating that “each generation … bequeath to its successor at least as large a productive base, relative to its population, as it had itself inherited.”27 This is the essence of sustainability and the only pathway to the future.

The challenge of sustainability confronts us all. It requires cooperation among individuals and nations in making the sacrifices that are in our enlightened self-interest. Beyond that, however, it also requires cooperation among disciplines and among academic, corporate, governmental, and nongovernmental entities in finding solutions that can be maintained. The prospects are daunting at a time when we are seeing increasing political polarization within and among nations; but there is no acceptable alternative to finding solutions.


I am pleased to acknowledge the helpful comments of Paul Ehrlich, Jack Fairweather, Carole Levin, and Joshua Ramo. This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0955699.


  1. Ramsey, FP. A mathematical theory of saving. Economic Journal 38, 543–559 (1928).
  2. World Commission on Environment and Development. Our Common Future (Oxford University Press, New York, 1987).
  3. Weitzman, ML. Gamma discounting. American Economic Review 91, 260–271 (2001).
  4. Dasgupta, P. Discounting climate change. Review of Environmental Economics and Policy 37, 141-169. (2008).
  5. Levin, SA. Learning to live in a global commons: socioeconomic challenges for a sustainable environment. Ecological Research [online] 21(3), 328–333 (2006). doi:10.1007/S11284-006-0162-1.
  6. Pearce, D, Groom, B, Hepburn, C & Koundouri, P. Valuing the Future. World Economic 4(2), 121–141 (2003).
  7. Portney, PR & Weyant, JP, eds. Discounting and Intergenerational Equity (Resources for the Future, Washington, DC, 1999).
  8. Government of the Hungarian Republic. National Sustainable Development Strategy. [online] (National Development Agency—Ministry of Environment and Water, 2007). www.ff3.hu/upload/NFFS_20070629_en1.doc.
  9. Arrow, KJ & Levin, SA. Intergenerational resource transfers with random offspring numbers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America [online] 106(33), 13702–13706 (2009). doi:10.1073/pnas.0905613106.
  10. Arrow, K et al. Are we consuming too much? Journal of Economic Perspectives 18(3), 147–172 (2004).
  11. Stern, NH. The Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 2007).
  12. OECD. Good Practices in the National Sustainable Development Practices of OECD Countries (OECD Publishing, Paris, 2006).
  13. Hardin, G. The tragedy of the commons. Sciences 162, 1243–1248 (1968).
  14. Ostrom, E. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 1990).
  15. Nadell, CD, Bassler, BL & Levin, SA. Observing bacteria through the lens of social evolution. Journal of Biology [online] 7(7), 27 (2008). doi:10.1186/jbiol87.
  16. Wingreen, NS & Levin, SA. Cooperation among microorganisms. PLoS Biology [online] 4(9), 1486–1488 (2006). doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0040299.
  17. Hamilton, WD. The genetical evolution of social behavior: I and II. Journal of Theoretical Biology 7, 1–52 (1964).
  18. Nowak, MA, Tarnita, CE & Antal, T. Evolutionary dynamics in structured populations. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences [online] 365(1537), 19–30. doi:10.1098/rstb.2009.0215.
  19. Nowak, MA, Tarnita, CE & Wilson, EO. The evolution of eusociality. Nature [online] 466(7310), 1057–1062 (2010). doi:10.1038/nature09205.
  20. Bowles, S, Fehr, E & Gintis, H. Strong reciprocity may evolve with or without group selection. Theoretical Primatology Project Newsletter 1(12 Suppl.) (2003).
  21. Fehr, E & Gächter, S. Altruistic punishment in humans. Nature 415, 137–140 (2002).
  22. Henrich, J et al. In search of Homo economicus: behavioral experiments in 15 small-scale societies. American Economic Review 91(2), 73–78 (2001)
  23. Barrett, S. Why Cooperate: The Incentive to Supply Global Public Goods (Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 2007).
  24. Ostrom, E. A Polycentric Approach for Coping with Climate Change. Policy Research Working Paper 5095 (World Bank, Washington, DC, 2009).
  25. Levin, SA. Fragile Dominion: Complexity and the Commons (Perseus Books, Reading, MA, 1999)
  26. May, RM, Levin, SA & Sugihara, G. Complex systems: ecology for bankers. Nature [online] 451(7181), 893–895. doi:10.1038/451893a.
  27. Arrow, KJ et al. Consumption, investment, and future well-being: reply to Daly et al. Conservation Biology [online] 21(5), 1363–1365. doi:10.1111/J.1523-1739.2007-00783.X.
Login or Register to post comments.
Comments (3)

Discounting energy available at a known future time

I confess that I have not done enough research on this subject to justify a conclusion; nevertheless, I must decide what eMergy should be assigned to energy that will not be available until some known future time in order to compute the net energy associated with the energy technology under investigation. This applies also to objects manufactured by the most efficient methods. As a first step, I would try to discount energy in such a way that the ratio of total energy budget to gross domestic product (E/GDP) is as stable as possible. Thus energy discounting will depend upon monetary discounts. I hope someone will comment on this - perhaps someone who has done serious work on the net energy of alternative energy technologies. The URL http://dematerialism.net/#_Toc172928973 is a portal to the material I have worked on so far.

We know what should be done, how should we do it??

As Levin points out many of the concepts he articulates in his article have been known for some time. The question is HOW to proceed with these processes and approaches. Colleagues and I have been and continue to work at the community level with citizens and willing local governments to explore collaborative approaches for formulating durable and equitable environmental policy and tackling the wicked problem of climate change.

A major problem is that we are unable to obtain funding from the traditional agencies. For example, a year ago we submitted a proposal to NSF to test many of the approaches discussed by Levin. The reviewers thought it not practical, not doable, and too ambitious. I've pasted below the relevant sections that relate specifically to the discussion by Levin.

To put into practice what Levin and others advocate we need to find willing partners on the ground (communities, etc.) to take the risk to experiment and visionary foundations to provide the funding.

From the NSF proposal, Coordinated Research Network for Informing Society in Sustainability (ISIS):

A major unanswered question is how such a shift can be achieved, given the complex social and political dynamics that shape real-world decision processes. Through participatory action research, we will explore practical ways to foster the emergence of institutions and processes that enable flexible and adaptive collaborative governance in the face of change and constantly emerging surprise.

Here is the project summary:

Project Summary
Our proposed interdisciplinary research and practice network will explore the relationship among governance regimes, social processes, and environmental changes using adaptation to changing climate as our focal topic. Adaptation can be usefully framed as a wicked problem— one that cannot be solved by scientific and technological solutions alone, but which requires engagement with social, political, economic and cultural systems. Even after 40+ years of study, wicked problems continue to elude clear characterization and effective decision frameworks for their resolution. A major barrier to developing viable decision frameworks for such problems pertains to the need to alter existing governance processes and institutions. Our premise is that the rapidly changing natural-human system dynamic, accelerated by climate change, calls for effective leadership, change management and risk/vulnerability assessment strategies, tactics and processes, particularly through place-based, collaborative institutions at local levels of governance.
Objective and methods: The network, Informing Society in Sustainability (ISIS), is designed to better understand and develop institutional processes that can provide consistent, transparent, fair, and effective system assessment and change management. The network will bring experts from social and physical sciences together with a representative range of community-level stakeholders to engage a set of case studies concerning the ‘wicked problem’ of climate adaptation. At the case level the network will explore a variety of process approaches to integrating science and planning in collaborative, deliberative democratic decision making. Then, using a comparative case study approach, action research principles and participatory methodologies, we will identify practical and theoretical insights that will advance sustainable responses to the effects of a changing climate. We will practice looped learning, in which we identify theoretical insights, test them in community process, and refine the resulting theory.
Intellectual Merit: Recent climate assessments indicate that the era of a relatively stable climate has ended and that we have entered an era of significant environmental instability, rapid change, and high variability. Our governing institutions, decision processes, laws, regulations, and legal and economic frameworks evolved during the period of relative climate stability. Leading science organizations, such as the National Research Council (NRC), assert that these institutions, processes, and frameworks may not be adequate to deal with the effects of changing climate. Yet, many climate change adaptation plans are predicated on being implemented under current institutions, governance regimes, etc. Will the current institutional arrangements, legal frameworks, regulations, and decision processes be adequate to deal with the surprises brought about in conditions of rapid change within a context of complex, tightly coupled natural and human systems? Elinor Ostrom (2009) has shown how informal coordinating mechanisms support what she refers to as polycentric governance across otherwise apparently fragmented entities. However, such efforts are difficult, especially at large scales involving significant public-private deliberation and scientific uncertainty. Statutes, accompanying rules, budget processes, and inexperience with collaborative decision processes have limited the emergence of polycentric, or “shared” governance. With the type of focused, grounded, and interdisciplinary effort provided by this project, there is the potential to examine and develop the forms of governance, institutional arrangements and decision processes needed to effectively address the impacts of climate change.
Broader Impacts: We will work with several selected communities to develop place-based, participatory, collaborative institutional processes that incorporate cultural norms, economic effects, local knowledge, and scientific assessment of risks to help communities adapt to changing climate testing academic theory about these processes. The overall outcome of this study is the identification of new institutional arrangements, decision processes, and learning networks that effectively connect and coordinate scientists, decision makers, and citizens at different scales to enhance responses to climate effects on communities. We define the projected outcome of this project as providing improved decision processes for sustainability.

Discounting, Interest and Sustainability

Discounting has always been a controversial subject among economists and philosophers yet discounting practice remained part and parcel of any public policy. Both the time preference and the opportunity cost of capital arguments, used for discounting, are in conflict when we take the holistic approach to the environment. When the pure time preference argument is looked at from the holistic viewpoint the question is whose time preference we are talking about – a society living in a developed world or a society living in less developed world or a society yet to come. When the opportunity cost concept is seen from holistic approach we find that there are different opportunity costs for the same project, having same global environmental impacts, done in developed world or in some underdeveloped world and hence there is no agreement on the same discount rate [1].

It is clear from the above that both the time preference and the opportunity cost concepts cannot stand in the way of systems thinking. Both these concepts are also used as tools to support the institution of interest, and the practice of discounting is just one of its manifestations. The practice of treating interest as an item of cost and ascribing it to the productivity of capital is based on the particular institutional setup of the capitalist society. In fact it is the institution of interest that makes it possible for capitalist economists to ascribe a positive return to capital that is its value productivity, and not the other way round. I would like to argue against use of interest using the hierarchical systems approach and emphasize that to attain sustainability the present economic system has to be challenged.

According to systems theory, the systems are not static, but evolve (more specifically economic, ecological and social systems) as a combination of dynamically occurring renewals in their components ‎[2]. The renewal cycle has been observed in many natural and man-made systems. The renewal cycle assumes that a system goes through a series of stages, starting from growth, followed by conservation, then release or collapse and finally renewal. The phase of release does not necessarily mean loss or extinction of all components or species that make the system, but it implies that the systemic function that they perform is modified, at least temporarily. The released components may recombine to perform again as a similar system but the system itself will be different ‎[3]. Examples of release phase can be observed in man-made and natural systems, e.g., bankruptcy of a company, or forest fires. In bankruptcy of a company when employees are laid off, and assets are sold. It is the release phase and is the end of the company. It comes when the business as a socioeconomic system is no longer sustainable, and can no longer extend the conservation stage. The components (human and material resources) may recombine in the form of another company (renewal), but that will be a different system. Similarly forest fires release organic material and nutrients thus ending a system. Forests may grow afterwards in the same place, but these will be different forests: they may have a different spatial and species organization.

Any effort to sustain a system beyond its natural conservation phase, to avoid the release phase, has harmful effects on its next higher hierarchical system of which it is a subsystem. For example, efforts to sustain failing industries and even sectors would prevent capital from being reallocated to other or more dynamic ones in their growth stages. Inefficient enterprises if kept afloat by huge subsidies keeping human and material resources unavailable for recombination decreases the overall adaptive capacity of the socioeconomic system by making it vulnerable to disturbances that lead to its collapse. The Soviet Union is a societal example of accumulated rigidities that became vulnerable to societal discontentment and revolt against it, which ultimately resulted in a sudden collapse. Similarly in studying managed ecosystems it has been observed that any attempt to manage a target variable for sustained production of food and fiber has resulted in less resilient and more vulnerable ecosystems ‎[4]. The collapse in these cases is usually observed at the next higher hierarchical level, i.e., over landscapes.

The economic system itself is a managed sub-ecosystem of the sustaining and continuing global ecosystem ‎[2]. Human society is currently engaged in a global effort to sustain the growth phase of this subsystem. The integral feature of the economic system obsessed with growth and expansion is technological progress in an attempt to increase productivity.

The combined effect of technological and economic growth is that it has created an environment in which life has become physically and mentally unhealthy. Polluted air, irritating noise, traffic congestion, chemical contaminants, radiation hazards, and many other sources of physical and psychological stress have become part of almost everyone’s life. Obsessed with expansion, increasing profits, and raising productivity, the industrialized world has developed societies of competitive consumers who have been induced to buy, use, and throw away ever increasing quantities of products of marginal utility. For example, in this consumption cycle, the total material flow still remaining in products or use 6 months after their sale in North America is just one percent. In other words, 99 percent of the stuff that is harvested, mined, processed, transported and that runs through this system is trashed within 6 months ‎[5]. Excessive consumption and strong emphasis on high technology not only create massive quantities of waste but also require huge amounts of energy. Most of the world energy comes from nonrenewable fossil fuels that are declining with the passage of time resulting in an increase in energy prices. In their attempt to maintain, and even increase, their current levels of production, the world’s industrialized countries have ferociously exploited the available resources of fossil fuels. Some industrialized countries have even used their military might either directly to procure world natural resources or by installing or supporting undemocratic regimes in some countries to dictate policies that suits their own economic and strategic objectives. The repercussions of these actions have created restlessness in the local populations and deep resentment against those industrialized countries involved in exploiting their resources directly or indirectly.

Economic growth conceived in terms of higher production not only ignores the ecological and social costs of development such as pollution and depletion of non renewable resources but also results in stresses and strains on individuals and families. The capitalist concept of development also ignores the fair distribution of wealth. How can the development of human society be conceived of in terms of amassing of wealth only, irrespective of whether this wealth is available to the bulk of its members or not. The enormous expansion of economic output throughout the industrial era has provided material benefits and more comfortable lives for a minority. Yet billions of others have been excluded and exploited in the process. This distributive injustice condemns most of the world population to live in debt. The effect of debt is like a blood transfusion from sick to healthy. Each person born in Latin America owes already $1,600 in foreign debt; each child born in Sub-Saharan Africa carries the burden of a $336 debt interest, for something that their ancestors have long ago paid-off. In 1980 the debt of Southern countries amounted to $567 billion; since then, they have paid $3,450 billion in interests and write-offs, six times the original amount. Despite this, this debt had quadrupled by the year 2000 reaching $2,070 billion ‎[6]. The huge debt in under-developed and disadvantaged countries has made a poverty-trap. For example of $2.9 billion provided by the World Bank’s soft-loan arm, the International Development Association (IDA), to the world’s poorest countries, fully two-thirds ($1.9 billion) was spent on repaying past World Bank loans. A good bit of the remaining third went to the IMF ‎[7]. There is more than abundant evidence that the repayment of loans of these poor countries is achieved at the cost of consumption of natural capital and the degradation of the environment.

Thus the present setup of the economic system is maintained only at the cost of higher hierarchical levels. Simply sustaining the present economic system will certainly threaten the global ecosystems. Collapse of these higher hierarchical levels is something that the human species, and indeed, many, many other species, cannot afford. In order to save the super hierarchical system (humanity as a whole and biosphere as a whole) the capitalist economic system compounded and nurtured by a usury based system of interest which creates greed and gross injustice must undergo the release phase to allow renewal through the emergence of a fair and just economic system so that humanity and global ecosystem may persist.

[1] Malik A (2011) Justice to nature and to the disadvantaged. World Futures 67:106–114
[2] Voinov A, Farley J (2007) Reconciling sustainability, systems theory and discounting. Ecological Economics 63:104-113
[3] Holling C (2001) Understanding the complexity of economic, ecological, and social systems. Ecosystems 4:390-405
[4] Holling C (1996) What barriers? What bridges? In: Gunderson L, Holling C, Light S (eds) Barriers and bridges to the renewal of ecosystems and institutions, Columbia Univ. Press, New York
[5] Leonard A (2010) Story of stuff. available at:www.storyofstuff.com
[6] http://www.henciclopedia.org.uy/autores/Laguiadelmundo/Usury.htm
[7]Njohu N (2003) Debt – killing slowly and surely. Preparatorymeeting for the launching of the workshop on International Regulations within the context of a Solidarity Socio-Economy in an era of
Neo-liberal Globalization. Work Group on a Solidarity Socio-Economy – Alliance 21, Tokyo, October
9–11. Available at: http://infotek.fph.ch/d/f/899/899_ENG.rtf?public=ENG&t=.rtf.