Since Adam Smith made the creation of human wealth the sole purpose of economy, humanity has been extremely successful in modify the flows, seemingly to our advantage. On the way, we reduced many other species in great numbers, eliminated whole species at accelerating rates, and modified the basic functioning and physiology of the ELSS. We have obtained the position of being the operators of the ELSS. Being the only species that ever achieved this position in the ELSS, we have a new enormous responsibility. If we make mistakes, these mistakes will have enormous consequences.
As a consequence of our unparalleled but unsustainable success, there is a need to reconceptualize the purpose of economy. Considering that at any time the flows between human and non-human components of the ELSS take place in the context of the prevailing economic model, we postulate that “a sustainable economy is one that safeguards the Earth's life support system while satisfying the needs of the present and ensuring the well-being of human communities.” This definition implies that economy can only be sustainable if it takes responsibility for the health of the ELSS and makes safeguarding the health of ELSS and ensuring the well-being of human communities a dual purpose of economy. Aligned to the definition of sustainable development given in Griggs et al. (2013) we define a sustainable community as one that satisfies the needs of the present while safeguarding the ELSS on which the welfare of current and future generations depends.