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Clive L. Spash

Ecological Economics at the Cross-roads

economics approach appearing under the banner of ecological economics.

Others, trying to draw together ecology and neo-classical environmental and resource economics, see no contradiction in being on the governing council of neo-classical associations while assuming the mantle of ecological economics. The potential contradiction is avoided for them because they study ‘ecology & economics’ and in doing so regard each as distinct subject areas with specific types of narrowly defined interactions. For example, Turner, Perrings and Folke (1997) “do not see ecological economics as an alternative paradigm” (p.27), refer to it as being closer to renewable resource economics than environmental economics and reduce all concerns to side constraints on economic activities (convenient for the optimal control modelling favoured by resource economists).

This perception of the movement as ‘ecology & economics’ can be associated with the expression of a particular set of values and concentration upon the science approach to both subjects. An individual trained in mathematics or physics who has switched into economics (not uncommon) and who is concerned about the environment might prefer the greater degree of linkage between natural science and economics emphasised by ecological economics. Similarl , an ecologist might feel their interest in economic interactions with the environment is best served by adopting neo-classical models from environmental economics and assume this is the only aim of ecological economics. These people might also satisfy their core concern, to extend the scientific approach by linking models, through association with environmental economics where a logical positivist methodology is still common and the emphasis is upon technical competence and mathematical model building skills. Technical competence is of course important to avoid misleading use of current economic tools, but extending technical competence across disciplines is a relatively limited (although often challenging) educational goal. Howeve , what such indi- viduals do not require is a new discipline called ecological economics because for them there is only a combined science of ‘ecology & economics’ based upon the two established disciplines.

Ecological economics consists of more than linking economic market models with eco- logical production function analysis and providing ‘robust’ numbers. Otherwise it would indeed merely be environmental economics renamed and could employ the same methods and method- ology. As the history of environmental economics has shown, the emphasis on being a part of the mainstream school of economics has meant pushing to one side problems which fail to


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