Economics for the future – Beyond the superorganism

| July 23, 2021 | Leave a Comment

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Media Type: Article - Foundational

Date of Publication: November 20

Year of Publication: 2019

Publication City: Amsterdam, NL

Publisher: Elsevier

Author(s): N.J. Hagens

Journal: Ecological Economics

Volume: 169 -106520

Categories: , ,


Our environment and economy are at a crossroads. This paper attempts a cohesive narrative on how human evolved behavior, money, energy, economy and the environment fit together. Humans strive for the same emotional state of our successful ancestors. In a resource rich environment, we coordinate in groups, corporations, and nations, to maximize financial surplus, tethered to energy, tethered to carbon.

At global scales, the emergent result of this combination is a mindless, energy-hungry, CO2 emitting Superorganism. Under this dynamic, we are now behaviorally ‘growth constrained’ and will use any means possible to avoid facing this reality. The farther we kick the can, the larger the disconnect between our financial and physical reality becomes. The moment of this recalibration will be a watershed time for our culture, but could also be the birth of a new ‘systems economics’. and resultant different ways of living. The next 30 years are the time to apply all we’ve learned during the past 30 years. We’ve arrived at a species-level conversation.


  1. We lack a cohesive map on how behavior, economy, and the environment interconnect.
  2. Global human society is functioning as an energy dissipating superorganism.
  3. Climate change is but one of many symptoms emergent from this growth dynamic.
  4. Culturally, this “Superorganism” doesn’t need to be the destiny of Homo sapiens.
  5. A systems economics can inform the ‘reconstruction’ after financial recalibration.

Read the full paper here or download it from the link above.


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