An Earthen Ethic

Using the Earth’s Example to Solve Plastic & Power Petro-Capital Transition


“It is said in permaculture that the problem is always the solution. Through my personal plastic journey, I have come to see that our every day plastic is in fact a grand opportunity for awakening.”

Earthen Ethics is based on the latest Paleobilogical research, my five years living among the Igorot people, and my last decade of delving deep into plastic.  The essay proposes that the way the Earth has transformed the planet’s surface into liveable, green, bio-diverse and conscious biosphere is the definition of greening– of what it means to contribute to the enrichment of the biosphere.  And… it is an example worthy of being followed.



We all long for a world where our enterprises and technologies contribute to the greening of the biosphere. However, with our definition of ‘greening’ limited to minimizing harm, our ability to make enriching contributions to the biosphere has been minimal. Plastic as an ancient and modern creation is uniquely poised to assist our transition to authentic green contributions. Created from ancient compacted carbon, our plastic embodies the ways that the Earth greened our once barren planet. Created from the refinement of petroleum, plastic represents our economic dependence on the extraction of these ancient carbon stores. By looking at plastic’s billion year genesis we can observe the Earth’s process of transforming a barren planet to a thriving biosphere. In this process we can see six fundamental principles at play: the indefinite cycling of carbon in the short-term, the compaction and storage of carbon in the long-term, the net-subtraction of carbon into storage, the raising of net consciousness, the raising of net biodiversity and the benefit the biosphere over the biome. These principles are found in all ecologies and organisms to the extent they are contributing to the biosphere. These six principles establish an Earthen Ethics: what follows the Earth’s example is green; what is conflicting with the Earth’s ways is gray. With this vantage we can make sense of our place in the petro-capital economy and to evaluate our current technologies– such as our current means of processing plastic. Using Earthen Ethics we can build new technologies and enterprises from the ground up that we can be sure are ecological contributions– such as the concept of plastic sequestration. By quantifying plastic sequestration and enabling its valuation, we can ignite petrol-capital transition towards a world where individually and collectively we are contributing to a biosphere of unprecedented abundance.

Impact Accounting

See the Impact Assessment Report of the process of publishing this paper which accounts for the CO2 and Plastic impacts of its creation.

Proposing ecological solutions is a big responsibility. Given all our personal as well as collective complicity in the consumption of plastic and burning of carbon, I beleive that Ghandi’s words and emphasis on personal responsibility are more important than ever.

So, inspired I make the distinction between our household impacts and enterprise impacts. I believe that if we cannot manage to make our own households green, then we’ll never be able to manage our enterprises, let alone propose a manageable solution for everyone else.

“Be the change that you want to see in the world.” – Ghandi

Impact Report:  Green Impact Assessment of paper publication (PDF: Draft 500kb)



This philosophy paper represents a decade of deep reflection on plastic that is directly inspired by my time living with the Igorot people of the Norhtern Philippines. As one of the few unconquered indegenous people of south east asia they have long lived in harmony with their ecosystem. Their ancestral wisdom tradition and Ayyew ethos, focused as it is on ecological harmony, has much significance for us today and inspires this paper.


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Coming Soon

The Earthen Ethics book will soon be available on the GoBrik Store.