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Culture of Ecology

Culture of Ecology: Reconciling Economics and Environment

Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 272
  • Book Info
    Culture of Ecology
    Book Description:

    There is a fundamental contradiction between economics and ecology. Activities that increase well-being by economic criteria often erode ecosystem vitality, and what preserves and enhances environmental well-being is often deemed 'inefficient' to economic demands. Regrettably, in our culture, we usually accord much greater importance to economic concerns than to ecology. However, given many indicators of continued environmental degradation - escalating rates of species extinctions, global warming, the profusion of toxins in our air, water, and soil - it is increasingly urgent that economics be infused with ecological principles.

    InCulture of Ecology, Robert Babe proposes a move towards more ecologically-sound waysof thinking, communicating, and acting, including those usually termed 'economic.' His vision for a sustainable future entails recognizing and compensating for the inherent bias of all modes of communicating, reducing the centrality of money as a medium of communication, re-establishing systems of valuation outside the bounds of commodity exchange, and heightening equality to ease flows of information more in keeping with ecological realities.Culture of Ecologymarks the beginning in a struggle to prove that, given the right approach, economy and ecosystem need not be mutually exclusive.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7366-3
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. 1 Sustainable Development vs Sustainable Ecosystem
    (pp. 3-29)

    Opening the 1947 Bretton Woods Conference, which set the world on a trajectory of globalization and ‘free trade,’¹ the then U.S. secretary of the treasury Henry Morgenthau envisioned ‘the creation of a dynamic world economy in which the peoples of every nation will be able to realize their potentialities in peace and enjoy the fruits of material progress on an earth infinitely blessed with natural riches.’ Morgenthau called on all present to accept the ‘elementary axiom ... that prosperity has no limits. It is not a substance to be diminished by division.’²

    Morgenthau’s declaration was followed up early in 1949...

  6. 2 Economics and Ecology as Discourses
    (pp. 30-70)

    Economics and ecology arediscourses, that is, verbal structures or literatures. Both bear some relation, albeit problematic, to the objects of their inquiry, respectively, economies and ecosystems. In making this point, we are opening up a huge area of speculation, namely, the relationship between the world out there and our verbal depictions and understandings of it. This is not an issue that can be pursued thoroughly here, but a few essential points can be made.

    First, every discourse opens up some aspects of its subject matter while obscuring others. In the case of ecology, the arcadian, pastoral, or romantic view...

  7. 3 Ancient Syntheses
    (pp. 71-89)

    As I have argued in chapter 2, mainstream or neoclassical economics and many of our economic practices are incompatible with biospheric vitality. Neoclassical economics and the ecosystem concept in ecology today are also largely antithetical. This chapter and the next look at the roots of this problem. Acquaintance with this discursive history may prove valuable in forging a new synthesis between economics and environmentalism.

    Some have argued, however, that a synthesis never existed. They blame the current spate of environmental crises on the foundational texts of Western culture. Historian Lynn White Jr, for example, in an oftreprinted article that first...

  8. 4 Shattering the Synthesis: Hobbes, Smith, and Neoclassicism
    (pp. 90-108)

    To locate the origins of modern economics’ anti-environmentalism we need look no further than the writings of two exemplars of the Enlightenment: Thomas Hobbes and Adam Smith. These acclaimed authorities helped inaugurate an economics discourse in tune with ‘the spirit of capitalism,’ as described by Weber, but bereft of the mitigating ethos of benevolence that, according to Wesley, is so essential. This chapter reviews anti-environmental elements in the writings of these two authors and connects them to today’s neoclassical economics. As Peter Dickens remarks, to this day ‘ the Enlightenment is casting a shadow.’¹

    Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) was the...

  9. 5 Environmental vs Ecological Economics
    (pp. 109-140)

    From its beginning at the turn of the twentieth century, neoclassicism has grown into a mighty force, challenged only at the fringes by such heterodoxies as institutional and evolutionary economics, marxian economics, and ecological economics.

    To be sure, over the century ‘fissures’ in the mainstream doctrine became evident, but these invariably spawned new subdisciplines to address the problems within the bounds of the neoclassical paradigm.¹ For example, the basic neoclassical model presumes ‘perfect competition,’ whereas the real economy is characterized in certain sectors by monopoly and oligopoly;public utility economics, however, proposes that even in the face of monopoly, competitive...

  10. 6 Information, Entropy, and Infinite Earth
    (pp. 141-152)

    In this brief chapter, I will take two ideas – the notion of an ‘information economy/network society’ and Boulding’s proposal that information constitutes a component of a new triad of factors of production – and relate them to the contention that through information, knowledge, and technology the earth becomes essentially an infinite resource, meaning that over the long term there are no ‘limits to growth.’ Brundtland, the World Bank, Royal Dutch Shell, and others, it will be recalled from chapter 1, interpret ‘sustainable development’ as ‘sustaining economic growth.’ This must mean that they view human ingenuity as being capable, over the long...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 153-158)

    A culture of ecology is a culture that is in tune with its ecosystem. Culture is made up of the world of symbols (stories, discourses, rituals) and the world of activity (institutions, technologies, markets, production). There is an interdependence between these two worlds, and the flow of influence is not one way. Certainly our thoughts, beliefs, theories, knowledge, superstitions, and habits of mind help determine our actions, but our actions have consequences for our surroundings, and changes to our physical environs affect our discursive lives. How we ‘read’ the material world affects our actions upon it. Different readings, or decodings,...

  12. Glossary
    (pp. 159-166)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 167-202)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-218)
  15. Index
    (pp. 219-231)