A Carbon Dream

Steve Hinton
2 min readFeb 7, 2020


Image compliments of Commission for Environmental Cooperation

What would happen to our society if commerce was to adhere to ecological principles? A world in which the cost basis of each transaction was based on something common and measurable such as carbon demand?

Dreams and aspirations have been haunted by this question. Could this means for social organization be achieved? Could the worlds political economy ever be shifted to align with ecological principles?

Is it not evident that humans depend on the ecosystem in which we live? All of our local adaptations, demands and supplies inherently having to be derived from the place in which we live. If not, and we demand more, does it not make sense that we consider the costs to import and export resources in a way the accounts for the demands placed on our local ecosystems? At least if we care to have our societies sustain themselves?

Allow this narrative to assume the altruist view. Where do we start? Many, many deep thinkers of our time (American leaders such as Jefferson, Oglethorpe, Powell among others) have pointed to a common theme- Watersheds as a means of political and economic demarcation. This makes perfect ecological sense. Even to American founders who, in many states utilized watershed boundaries to demarcate local jurisdictions such as Counties. Or we could even point to the shires of old England.

First, lets assume we embrace the watershed as our economic demarcation. How might we think differently about everyday commerce? Consider something simple such as an apple. In a watershed economy we should expect an apple to cost the consumer a modest, but reasonable sum while in season.

In a carbon accounting world the price of that apple would climb, relative to a base price, for every day it sat in cold storage. Even if it was stored in the same watershed as it was grown and harvested. Now take that apple and start to move it across the globe. How do you account for the carbon required for this transport and handling? Ideally in the price of the apple. So now an apple would be more expensive, but yet available according to demand.

If the accounting system was based on watersheds and charged a carbon tariff based on 1) mode of transport, and 2) watersheds (or regions) traveled, then how would that change our daily lives? This assuming that any tariff would find its way back to the watersheds impacted (or traveled). Could we accomplish that in a way that supports communities? Can we take this type of approach and actually reduce tax burdens on localities?

Could this approach be a means to address the climate change situation we face?

Your insight and wisdom is welcome and appreciated.



Steve Hinton

Advocate for the environment and sustainability. Pacific Northwest prodigy seeking strength in diversity and local community.