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Clive L. Spash

Ecological Economics at the Cross-roads

bring about the demolition of the Berlin wall. For those concerned with achieving environmental policy changes, environmental economics therefore often appears to follow the wrong pursuits. This is unproblematic in as far as different disciplines allow specialisation and alternative disci- plines exist for individuals to pursue their interests. However, for economists wishing to study the environment the choice has been absent and the approach in environmental economics often intolerant of open debate. Thus, several factors have led to discontent within environmental economics including the rather poor record of achieving policy change, the sub-disciplinary status and, perhaps most importantly, tensions between conforming to and wishing to change the mainstream economic approach.

Ecological Economics A tradition of thought which can be classified as ecological economics can be traced back at least to the middle of the last century (Martinez-Alier, 1990). However, the current movement is founded upon the concerns of the 1960s and early 1970s for limits to growth (e.g., Boulding, 1966; Meadows et al., 1972) and the study of the flow of energy and materials in the economy based upon the work of Georgescu-Roegen (1971). In addition, the management of environmen- tal externalities as pervasive social costs and the resulting restrictions on the applicability of cost-benefit analysis reflect the studies of Kapp (1950). However, past writers expressing such an ecological critique of economics failed to find a collective institutionalised academic niche which would establish a discipline or new paradigm. The more formal establishment of associa- tions and journals only occurred in the late 1980s.

Ecological economics as an international society was founded around the idea of uniting two groups of academics coming from narrow methodological backgrounds, ecologists trained in natural science falsificationist methodology and neo-classical economists trained in logical positivism. Indeed, in the introduction to the first issue of the journal Ecological Economics, Bob Costanza stated that the subject would extend the overlap between neo-classical environ- mental economics and ecological impact studies and encourage new ways of thinking about linkages between ecological and economic systems. Neo-classical economics was to be included as a subset of the new discipline; something of a surprise for many environmental economists no doubt. However, a more open model of pluralism was probably intended where different ap-


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