Ecological Econornic.s. 1 (1989) 1-7 1
Elsevier Sejence Publishers B.V.. Amsterdam - Princed in The Nethertands
WHAT IS ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS?
Coastal and Environmental policy Program, Center for Environmental and Estuarine Studies.
University of Maryland. Solornons, MD 20688*0038 (U.S.A.)
Ecological Economics addresses therelationships between ecosystems and economic systems in the broadest sense. These relationships are the locus of many of our most pressing current problems (i.e. sustainability. acid ram, global warming, species extinction, wealth distribution) but they are not well covered by any existing discipline. Environmental and resource economics, as it is currently practiced, covers only the application ofneoclassical economics to environmental and resource problems. Ecology, as it is currently practiced, sometimes deals with human impacts on ecosystems, but the more common tendency is to stick to "natural" systems. Ecological Economics aims to extend these modest areas of overlap. it will include neoclassical environmental economics and ecological impact studies as subsets, but will alsoencourage new ways of thinking about the linkages between ecological and econornic systems.
We have chosen the name Ecological Economics for this area of study because it implies a broad, ecological. interdisciplinary, and holistic view of the problem of studying and managing our world. The "earth from space" cover of the journal reflects this global. holistic perspective. We did not intend to implywith the ordering of the two words in the title that the journal is mainly an econornicsjoumal: it is intended tobe a new approach to both ecology and economics that recognizes the need to make economics more cognizant of ecological impacts and dependencies; the need to make ecology more sensitive to economic forces, incentives, and constraints; and the need to treat integrated econornic-ecologicsystems with a cornmon (but diverse) set of conceptual and analytical tools.
There was rnuch discussion of other possible names, such as "Economic Ecology" or "Ecology and Economics" or sorne conjoining of the two words that to me end up being confusing tongue twisters like "Ecolnornics" or "Econology." But Ecological Economics seemed to get closest to the meaning we desired while still beingevocative to the uninitiated.
Ecological Economics will, in the end, be what Ecological Economist do.
A fair amount of space in the journal (especially in the first few years) will be devoted to introspective discussions of what the field is or should be, its historical roots, and where it is going or should be going (see Paul Ehrlich's and John Proops' contributions in this issue).
In studying therelationships between ecosystems and economic systems a large measure of "conceptual pluralism" is warranted (Richard Norgaard's article in this issue is art eloquent description of this idea). There is probably not one right approach or paradigm, because, like the blind men and the elephant, the subject is too big and complex to touch it all with one limited set of perceptual tools. The Journalwill therefore pursue a strategy of pluralism.
Rather than reiterate the detailed list of issues that concern Ecological Economics (this list can be found in the journal's aims and scope statement and in more detail in Proops' article), l'd like to briefly discuss what I see as a fundamental question that underlies the need for an Ecological Economics and on which these other issues depend.TECHNOLOGICAL OPTIMISM VS. PRUDENT PESSIMSM
Current economic paradigms (capitalist, socialist, and the various mixtures) are all based on the underlying assumption of continuing and unlimited economic growth. This assumption allows problems of intergenerational, intragenerational, and interspecies equity and sustainability to be ignored (or at least postponed), since they are seen to be most...
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