First off, reading the first two chapters of Jane Jacobs’ The Nature of Economies was slightly off-putting due to the choice of using a dialogue to explain her take on economies. The personal backgrounds and the interaction between the characters was very distracting when trying to comprehend the actual point and concepts that were constantly interrupted by the fictional novel taking place. I really don’t care if one of the characters can sense a book in the making or how many shrugs or grins were produced. I also don’t care for how many times the word “said” was used. I would take a dry textbook or peer reviewed article any day for learning more about an already abstract and complex topic such as economy over a creative writing assignment gone bad. At least they have illustrations and figures that make sense. I understand trying to make a dry subject like economics fun, but I felt this method was poorly executed.
However, I do have an interest in how economies are actually part of nature. I had taken a course last quarter, Economic Geography, and it was drilled into our minds that the concept of an economy is, as one of the characters describes, artificial and abstract. The concept is completely man made and separate from nature. Yet Jacobs explains how we focus so much on the things (the production and consumption of goods and services) that we forget about the process as a whole. Economy is defined as the wealth and resources of a country in terms of production and consumption, however it can also be defined as “careful management of available resources”.
An example of the management definition Jacobs uses is how early ecologists were actually botanists, who studied the interdependence within plant communities and noticed how these communities functioned in a way that closely resembled an economic relationship. This reminds me of polyculture. Some plants are providing “services” such as shade for soil level plants or stalks for vine plants to take hold in return for management of nutrient resources and water. Perhaps this is an avenue environmentalists can use to connect with economists when discussing issues that mix the two fields, such as the problem of consumerism culture. Environmental specialists and economists often do not get along due to greatly differing opinions, however if an environmental specialists are able to use economic terminology with an environmental twist, perhaps economists can take a step back and realize through the plant example that economies are part of nature therefore effects on nature must be considered.