Energy and the Ecological Economics of Sustainability

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This requires knowing what is to be sustained and at which time scale. It is up to society to choose the change to be made: a moral choice. Keywords: Sustainability, Optimum scale of the economy, Ecological limits, Extraction-production-discarding model. Herman Daly, , p. Growth and Unsustainability. There is a widespread notion that to meet the basic needs of the population requires accelerated economic growth.

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On the matter, for example, the prudent and respected British newspaper The Economist states in its Bagehot column , p. That would be tragic. What growth rate is acceptable in an economy? Well, this is of course assuming that one is talking about a situation in which the economy economic activity is seen as a subsystem of the ecosystem.


  • Seduction of an Infidel: The Ultimate Jihad.
  • Ecological Economics - Journal - Elsevier;
  • Les succursales du ciel (Littérature Française) (French Edition).
  • Britain, Ireland and Northern Ireland since 1980: The Totality of Relationships (Routledge Advances in European Politics).
  • Village of Answers?
  • World Atlas 2011;
  • Ecological Economics - Sustainability in Practice | Stanislav E. Shmelev | Springer.

Or, in other words, to think about the size of the footprint left on nature by human activities in the light of the potential use offered by the latter. At the same time, the notion of sustainability seems to have become a kind of mantra of the present days. It is repeated almost to exhaustion in all types of discourses related to economic development and growth.

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Worse: it is associated with an economic model that aims exclusively to achieve unlimited material progress, assuming - often due to an oversimplification of reasoning Solow, , p. Hence the universal adherence to the discourse or rhetoric of sustainable development obviously, nobody advocates unsustainable development. This change begins with a different vision of reality. Because if it is unsustainable, it will end.

Energy Analysis and Sustainable Development

It is not therefore development, but something like a spasm of society. Sustainable development is that which lasts. It is supported first of all by nature, the ecosystem on which we depend for everything. Thus, to sustain itself, it has to take into account the rules and limits of nature, without neglecting human well-being, cultural values, the full realization of citizenship. Will we one day have a society shaped like that? Which experiences could point us in that direction? In fact, civilization is 5, years old, and growth started only in the last years.

It never has been. Growth necessarily means depletion of resources, destruction of something in the environment. There is not a single example of a developed society that is ecologically sustainable, simply because developed societies Great Britain, United States, Germany, Japan, etc. Sustainable, we could say, were the indigenous societies in Brazil that had been around for 12, years when the Portuguese arrived here. Or Chinese society, for that matter? Now, 12,? From the economic-ecological perspective, the answer is no. The more people on Earth, the more economic production; the more goods produced, the less nature.

Development, the economy and nature. What can actually happen is an environmentally sustainable development. The issue is that development which means change , evolution , progress is not growth which is understood as increase or expansion. The topic is very appropriately addressed by Daly , to whom growth is a quantitative increase in the physical scale, while development is a qualitative improvement or unfolding of potentialities.

The same can be said of Celso Furtado , p. This possibility is simply not part of the natural processes. In fact, in the ecosystem continuous growth processes - which are always exponential - inevitably end in disaster. They stop, wreaking havoc. Like the steam that accumulated in the reactors of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, in Japan, and tragically caused them to explod in March Or like in the classical example offered by engineer Carlos Gabaglia Penna , a professor of the Pontifical Catholic University in Rio who died in Imagine a lake that contains a species of algae that, by covering the entire surface of the water body will choke the life out of it.

The algae community doubles in size every day. Say that in 30 days the algae will have taken the entire lake. On day 21 the algae cover only 0. Develop sustainably, on the contrary, is possible. This is what happens to human beings and all living organisms: they grow; they stop growing; and they never cease to develop sustainably until the inevitable end. Sen and Furtado , with their reasoning, enable admitting the condition of sustainability - although they were not addressing it when they wrote their books.

The reality of development evinces an almost unsolvable clash between aggressive economic promotion and defenseless natural heritage. If ecology was taken really seriously as an instrument for the lasting well-being of society, many actions in the economic sphere would be in full danger.

Sustainable development: an ecological economics perspective

It just happens that nature provides the scale of what society can do. Meanwhile, in the economic model that governs the formulation of economic policies and development actions around the world, the resources of the ecosystem are not addressed as a constraint; they simply do not show up in the calculations. It is the relationship between the quantities of productive factors capital, K , and labor, L - the only ones that are actually included in the economic calculus used in carrying out the economic activity and the corresponding amount of product obtained Y.

This function can be understood as a recipe. And it applies to the economy as a whole, to sectors of activities, to groups of firms. It excludes altogether the nature input or natural resources, N. This function can be expressed mathematically as follows:. This is macroeconomics and microeconomics An extremely simplified view of the real world.

What it means is that with x capital units and y labor units, one can obtain z product units. It is independent of nature; nothing constrains it. Assuming that the economy does not have the condition of an isolated system where would electricity come from? The other systems are either closed like the Earth, which exchanges energy but not matter with the outside system or open like the human body, a forest or a river in whicht here is exchange both of matter and energy with an outside system.

Thinking of the economy as an isolated system is the same as imagining a body with just the circulatory system in which what will be circulating is money, i. In it, there would not be the digestive tract - which, by processing the resources the ingredients of the cake , is what gives sustenance to the body. Or to consider the latter as an externality. Yes, the environment exists; but it is on another plane galaxy, planet.

If anything, one thinks of the ecosystem as a kind of trinket or bauble, the bells and whistles of the economy; as a pantry or a storeroom from where one takes whatever one wants and also where one disposes of waste Cavalcanti, That is why in the prevailing economic model there is no concern for the environment, natural resources, pollution and depletion.

Thus, the ecosystem cannot be thought of as an externality. Its condition is that of the greater whole to which the economy must inevitably report. A new car is pre-scrap. The supposed wealth contained in Y that it represents is but a transition between the gifts of nature and the final waste that seeps into nature. Extraction, production, discarding. The economy in its physical dimensions - those that account for food, clothing, housing etc. This understanding has environmental and economic implications such as those arising, for example, from the principle of mass and energy balance that prevails in nature: the quantity of matter and energy in and out of a process is exactly the same.

Or those relating to the importance of energy in the structure and dynamics of the co-evolution of ecological and economic systems. Or those arising from the application to the economy of the foundations of far-from-equilibrium living systems Prigogine, and White, Thus, with economic growth the extraction of environmental resources necessarily increases simultaneously with the amount of waste deposited in the lithosphere: more negative externalities are always being generated. The process digs a hole and gathers degraded matter. That is, it produces an entropic metabolic flow Daly, , p.

This greatly simplifies reality. But it clearly exposes the character of the process that takes place in the modern economic system. A linear process, of the extract-produce-discard type. In it, recycling is minimal zero, in fact, in the case of non-renewable resources such as oil and iron ore. It is understood as what Georgescu-Roegen , p.

Figure 1 shows that what the modern economy ultimately does is to dig a perennial hole that becomes deeper and deeper extraction of low entropy matter and energy. Come join me in a top rated department according to the National Research Council at least in a top 20 public university according to US News at least in the Best Opportunity City in the U. Rather than my normal rambling unstructured style of presentation, I decided to give a speech--which means actually writing a speech. So here is the speech I gave speech I read is probably a better way of putting it to a audience of representatives of ag and non ag sectors.

I'm told there will be video at some point. I will let you know if video emerges--provided it doesn't make me look like a complete bungling idiot.

(hindi) Environment and sustainable development - Part 1 of 2 - Environment

Some of you may be wondering, what is an environmental economist? An environmental economist is an economist who applies the science of economics to environmental issues. I am not an environmentalist. But I am realistic about the role that incentives, trade-offs, and profits play in finding solutions to environmental issues that lead to sustainable human well-being. I recognize the reality that the economy and the natural environment are inextricably linked and attempting to separate the study of each creates a situation in which neither is sustainable.

Economic, social and environmental sustainability requires the realization that no single solution exists. So what then, from my perspective as an environmental economist, is the fundamental issue surrounding harmful algal blooms? Excess nutrient loads into Lake Erie are the result of misalignment of incentives.

The profit incentives of the on-farm sector fail to fully capture the costs of nutrient application decisions to the non-agricultural sectors. The cost-savings incentives of industrial and municipal sources of run-off fail to fully capture the downstream costs of urban run-off. None of these statements are judgments on the intent of individual farmers, or municipal decision makers or society today in making decisions that impose excess costs on others.

In fact, in my experience, most people want to do the right thing. Farmers care about environmental issues. Municipalities care about water quality. Yet when consumption and production decisions are made, reality differs from intent. For example, when I drove here this morning, I gave no thought to the cost my car exhaust imposes on others. I know that my exhaust contributes to increased atmospheric pollution. I know that by driving I increase the likelihood of health issues for those with breathing issues. I know that my driving contributes to long-term climate change.

Yet, other than being a genuinely nice person, I have no incentive to incorporate those external costs into my driving decisions. The price of driving does not fully reflect the external costs. It is prices that drive economic decisions. Prices provide signals. In political and social discussions we hear a lot of talk about the need for less government regulation, the need for free markets.

In general I agree with free market advocates. Otherwise a market is not truly a free market. In the case of the environment, we can think of the problem as one of the failure of markets to properly price the services the environment supplies. In effect, the environment is treated as a free input in production and consumption. It is only natural that if something is free we will use more than we would if it were priced at its true value. If gas were free, I would use a lot more of it.

Because the cost of environmental degradation is not captured in markets, we use more of it than we would otherwise. It might be tempting then to conclude that markets are the problem. I agree to a certain extent. Markets are failing to properly account for costs and benefits. But markets are also the solution. To solve the harmful algal bloom problem, we need to find ways to better capture the external costs of using nitrogen and phosphorous in the markets in which they are used—and then allow the resulting incentives to work to solve the problem.

To do so, we can focus on the quantity of phosphorous, or we can focus on the price.

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Quantity restrictions are effective if monitored effectively, but effective monitoring is difficult. Effective quantity restrictions will reflect in market prices. However, ill-designed quantity restrictions can result in regulatory costs that are higher than needed. Tell us how you used this resource Suggest a green growth resource Connect to a green growth expert.

October Related Resources February Green Industrial Policy in Emerging Countries. Read more. June The Industrial Development Report IDR has shown that technology should be closely linked with innovation to ensure a sustainable development.



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