Ecological economics

Surfing around the internet looking for more information on ecological economics I came across the Ecological Economics weblog and a podcast by Josh Farley, assistant professor at the University of Vermont. In his podcast Farley talks about the unsustainability of the concept of indefinite economic growth: Beyond economic growth by Josh Farley.

I post this here on AFOE to encourage a debate on developing new economic models to deal with global warming and all its possible consequences. It is about time we, here on AFOE, start addressing something which may very well be THE issue in the coming decades. Where is the middle ground between maintaining our living standards and slowly destroying our world? Can we maybe develop new, sustainable economic models that will allow us to grow in a different way? In other words, are there ways to satisfy both the homo economicus and the homo ecologicus?

7 thoughts on “Ecological economics

  1. There is actually a journal called ‘Ecological Economics’ – it’s an entire discipline. It’s a pretty good journa.

    One thought: if AFOE is going to break this new territory, keep it European.

    And get Willy de Backer to guest post.

  2. Thanks for the heads-up, Nanne. I’ll look into it and contact De Backer as soon as I have a little bit more time. This post was actually inspired by something I saw on Arte. The European angle is definitely the one I’ll be aiming for. It is a vast subject, though, requiring a multidisciplinary approach. The AFOE demographics team, for example, could come in very handy.

  3. I don’t know much about this topic, but I have recently discovered that not everything about global warming is necessarily negative. For instance, it looks like it could considerably increase food production. I say this because I live in Los Angeles, and am still harvesting fresh tomatoes from last summer’s plants. There was a serious heat wave last September which generated a whole new crop of flowers. I wasn’t sure if they would mature, but they did. Taste really good too. Not sure of the implications of this, but thought I’d mention it since so many people seem to think that global warming is all negative, and it sure ain’t. Being able to grow things year round is quite an interesting development.

  4. Hi, Mike. It would indeed be interesting to see global warming also as a challenge instead of simply focussing on all the doom and gloom. Your example shows that there might be shifts in production, for instance. Who will grow what, when and where.

    That said, some of these shifts are bound to be painful for many people. While you may now grow more tomatoes, others won’t be able to grow much at all. Spain and much of Southern Europe could be facing desertification, for instance.

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  7. A good question. I don’t think both the homo economicus and the homo ecologicus can be completely satisfied at the same time. I think it’s very likely that capitalism, unless we adopt a new idea of what it’s supposed to do for us, will irrevocably harm various ecosystems, resulting in a dramatic downward population shift for human beings.

    In defense of the above post, I think socialism will have to play a role in protecting the environment. There is a lingering misconception that U.S. capitalism — or capitalism in general — has nothing to do with socialism, but in reality we heavily subsidize and regulate various industries, mostly in the interest of channeling wealth into the pockets of well-networked capitalists. So it’s socialism for the wealthy, as highlighted by the U.S. response to the recent subprime debacle.

    A subsidy policy like the one we have now for coal and factory farming, dedicated to protecting the environment, would provide us with more than enough funding to make whatever infrastructure changes we needed to make. Of course, this would not involve free market economics, but a slightly more sophisticated analysis of the history of capitalism than that made by Ayn Rand leads one to this inescapable conclusion: perfectly free and competitive, unregulated, unsubsidized markets don’t exist, and can’t exist. In fact, the theory of free market economics runs in direct opposition to human nature, which is equal parts individualistic and tribal / collectivist: wherever a concentration of wealth is found, there is always cronyism and corruption.

    So in terms of the big picture, the nature of capitalism becomes a question of what humanity values. So far, it seems we value bigger mansions, more swimming pools, and shinier cars. Which leads me to believe that we’re well on our way to Idiocracy, Bush legacy or no, for the simple fact that very few people can look at what capitalism does, as opposed to what it theoretically is, minus the propaganda.

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