Reliable prosperity
Society | Nature | Capital


Child Playing in Salmon Street Fountain, Portland.
Image by Katy Langstaff.

The value of culture and cultural decisions relative to economic policy and stewardship of nature is poorly understood, loosely measured, and chronically undervalued.

In a world of reliable prosperity, society is enhanced within the means and opportunities of nature. A shift in society and cultural views is the starting point for growing and developing diverse bioregional economies that meet fundamental needs.

Apparent conflicts between society and nature — jobs vs. the environment, loggers vs. spotted owls — result from short-time horizons and the failure to include broader social and ecological costs in decision making. Studies consistently show that U.S. states that have invested most heavily in environmental protection offer a higher quality of life. Thriving ecosystems pay important quality of life dividends in clean air, water, and soil; recreational opportunities; a connection to nature (biophilia); and a decrease in environmentally-induced health impacts including breathing disorders, learning disabilities, and cancers.

"Society" includes education, governance, religious institutions, neighborhood groups and associations, cultural diversity, languages, libraries and other knowledge archives, health-care facilities, community development corporations, legal and police systems, and so forth. Society, like nature, suffers from chronic underinvestment because its stream of benefits, including safety and security, friendship and community, a sense of civic identity, access to knowledge, and many others, is hard to quantify in economic terms.

In a world of reliable prosperity, investments in society are extensive. Green businesses work to provide community benefit. True cost pricing provides incentives for proper accounting of society/culture and its value. Local economies and strategies of local asset ownership ensure that needs are more broadly and fairly met. The community institutions at the core of society are supported.

Although quality of life is partially correlated with income, it is possible for household economies to make decisions that lead to lives of comfortable sufficiency rather than stressful accumulation. Quality of life is highly idiosyncratic, and each household can determine a balance of social, financial, and ecological returns which is most fulfilling. From this perspective, social equity includes universal fulfillment of the most fundamental human needs along with broad access to meaningful work, while respecting the enormous range of life circumstances and personal goals which may drive people to seek different kinds of livelihood.

Invest in the community institutions and green businesses that build social capital. Support ownership strategies that meet needs more broadly and fairly. Seek policies that properly account for social capital. Allow household economies to find a better balance between society and economic capital.

Case Studies
Examples of this pattern in action:

GreenMoney Gallery of Products & Services
They promote the awareness of socially and environmentally responsible business, investing and consumer resources. Their goal is to educate and empower individuals and businesses to make informed financial decisions through aligning their corporate and financial principles.

Organizations whose work incorporate this pattern:

Global Living Project

The New Road Map Foundation

Simple Living

Coalition for a Livable Future


Daly, Herman E and John B. Cobb. For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy Toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future. Beacon Press. Boston, MA. 1989.

Ekins, Paul, ed. The Living Economy: A New Economics in the Making. Routledge. New York, NY. 1990.

Ekins, Paul, ed and Manfred Max-Neef. Real-Life Economics: Understanding Wealth Creation. Routledge. New York, NY. 1992.

Reliable Prosperity


Fundamental Needs

Subsistence Rights

Shelter For All


Access to Knowledge


Social Equity


Cultural Diversity

Cultural Preservation

Sense of Place

Beauty and Play

Just Transitions

Civic Society


Ecological Land-Use

Connected Wildlands

Core Reserves

Wildlife Corridors

Buffer Zones

Productive Rural Areas





Compact Towns and Cities

Human-Scale Neighborhoods

Green Building

Transit Access

Ecological Infrastructure

Urban Growth Boundaries

Ecosystem Services

Watershed Services

Soil Services

Climate Services



Household Economies

Green Business

Long-Term Profitability

Community Benefit

Green Procurement

Renewable Energy

Materials Cycles

Resource Efficiency

Waste as Resource

Product as Service

Local Economies

Value-Added Production

Rural-Urban Linkages

Local Assets

Bioregional Economies

Fair Trade

True Cost Pricing

Product Labeling