The Patterns of a Conservation Economy
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Transition Projects contributes to the economic security of Portland's low-income residents, providing shelter and services to 235 persons each night of the year.
Image by Debra Sohm.


As inequities within and between nations increase, new threats to security are emerging.

Security in its broadest sense is a trust that Fundamental Needs are being met in a community free from fear and violence. When basic needs for food, shelter, meaningful work, or cultural identity go unmet, people become insecure and, ultimately, desperate. A Conservation Economy increases everyone's sense of well-being, while also addressing these root causes of violence and alienation.

In a conservation economy, strategies for building Household Economies and Local Assets spread wealth much more broadly throughout society. Long-term enhancement of Social Equity is the most reliable way to guarantee security. Short-term expenditures on additional prisons, conventional "security" measures like guards and surveillance cameras, and home alarm systems actually exacerbate the problems they are designed to solve and divert resources away from addressing their root causes.

Security also depends on a sense of affiliation to a broader Community. This affiliation can be provided by participation in Civic Society, through a Sense of Place, or any of the myriad ways that human beings form strong bonds with each other and the landscapes they depend on. A Conservation Economy honors these bonds of family, friendship, culture, and land.

Finally, security also depends on a reliable stream of Ecosystem Services, including Soil Fertility, climatic stability, and fresh water. As these services deteriorate, severe social dislocation can occur. Conflicts over natural resources are increasing in frequency and intensity all the way from the watershed to the international scale, and pose significant threats to security.

Security can only be maintained by addressing the root causes of violence. This requires that fundamental needs be met, community capital be increased, and ecosystem services be stabilized.

Examples of this pattern in action:

Tahoma Food System
The Tahoma Food System was formed in 1997 when farmers, gardeners, government, food bank staff, and environmentally conscious people came together to ensure the viability of existing community food projects, create new projects, and to develop community awareness of the value of supporting the local food system.

Mercy Corps
Mercy Corps is a not-for-profit organization that exists to alleviate suffering, poverty, and oppression by helping people build secure, productive, and just communities. The agency now operates in more than 25 countries reaching 5 million people worldwide. With headquarters in the United States and Scotland, Mercy Corps is an international family of humanitarian organizations that includes Mercy Corps, Mercy Corps Scotland, Pax World Service in Washington, DC, Proyecto Aldea Global in Honduras, Proyecto Aldea Global Jinotega in Nicaragua, and MerciPhil Development Foundation in the Philippines.

Organizations whose work incorporate this pattern:

Community Food Security Coalition

Reach Community Development, Inc.


Graham, Kennedy, ed. The Planetary Interest: A New Concept for the Global Age. Rutgers University Press. Piscataway, NJ. 1999.

Klare, Michael T. Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict. Metropolitan Books. New York, NY. 2001.

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Pattern Index

A Conservation Economy

Social Capital

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

Natural Capital

Ecological Land-Use

Connected Wildlands

Core Reserves

Wildlife Corridors

Buffer Zones

Productive Rural Areas

Sustainable Agriculture

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Fisheries


Compact Towns And Cities

Human-Scale Neighborhoods

Green Building

Transit Access

Ecological Infrastructure

Urban Growth Boundaries

Ecosystem Services

Watershed Services

Soil Services

Climate Services


Economic Capital

Household Economies

Green Business

Long-Term Profitability

Community Benefit

Green Procurement

Renewable Energy

Sustainable 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