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Building a Green Economy

Building a Green Economy: Perspectives from Ecological Economics

Edited by Robert B. Richardson
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 316
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  • Book Info
    Building a Green Economy
    Book Description:

    The first decade of the twenty-first century has been characterized by a growing global awareness of the tremendous strains that human economic activity place on natural resources and the environment. As the world's population increases, so does the demand for energy, food, and other resources, which adds to existing stresses on ecosystems, with potentially disastrous consequences. Humanity is at a crossroads in our pathway to future prosperity, and our next steps will impact our long-term sustainability immensely. In this timely volume, leading ecological economics scholars offer a variety of perspectives on building a green economy. Grounded in a critique of conventional thinking about unrestrained economic expansion and the costs of environmental degradation, this book presents a roadmap for an economy that prioritizes human welfare over consumerism and growth. As the authors represented here demonstrate, the objective of ecological economics is to address contemporary problems and achieve long-term socioeconomic well-being without undermining the capacity of the ecosphere. The volume is organized around three sections: "Perspectives on a Green Economy," "Historical and Theoretical Perspectives," and "Applications and Practice." A rich resource in its own right,Building a Green Economycontains the most innovative thinking in ecological economics at a critical time in the reexamination of the human relationship with the natural world.

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-393-7
    Subjects: Business, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)

    • Building a Green Economy: The Case for an Economic Paint Job
      (pp. 3-18)

      Humans in the twenty-first century are confronted with a new generation of environmental and economic problems of an unprecedented scale and scope. The dual demographic forces of population growth and wealth accumulation have led to a global economy that has, by most accounts, exceeded the natural limits of the biosphere in several ways (Global Footprint Network, 2010; Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). Evidence can be found in studies of the effects of climate change, biodiversity loss, tropical deforestation, and desertification, all of which threaten the long-term viability of economies and livelihoods. Rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions imply an escalating threat...

    • Taking Ecological Economics Seriously: It’s the Biosphere, Stupid
      (pp. 19-30)

      We each come to ecological economics from our own distinctive experience and perspective. We view the world through different lenses and thereby see different truths. Being interdisciplinary is part of what makes ecological economics interesting and potentially powerful. I come from a business school background with a focus on the design of complex cultural and institutional systems. I am primarily concerned with how the interplay of cultural values and institutional structures shapes individual and collective behavior. I also worked for thirty years in international development. I lived twenty-one of those years in Africa, Latin America, and Asia working to make...

    • Beyond the Ivory Tower: Why Progress Needs More Ecological Economists to Actively Engage
      (pp. 31-36)

      For many, the choice of economics as a career reflects a desire to understand the system of production and consumption, explain the inner logic of economic institutions, and above all to improve economic outcomes. But those who come to economics seeking to improve the world often end up disappointed. They enter a shadowy realm of ever-escalating abstraction from which emerges, again and again, a conservative antireform agenda. Today’s challenges demand new economic thinking; conventional economics falls short of envisioning a way through current crises. Useful new economic theory, however, will only arise as economists engage with practical, real-world problems. Ecological...

    • Ruin and Recovery: The Economics of Michigan’s Natural Resources
      (pp. 37-42)

      If ever there was a place whose history illustrates the danger of exploiting natural resources to the point of economic ruin, that place is Michigan. Located at the heart of the Great Lakes, the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem and the source of nearly one-fifth of available global surface water, Michigan has risen and fallen with the conservation and exploitation of that liquid resource, as well as timber, fish, wildlife, and land. The conservation and environmental movements helped dig the state out of previous economic collapses by fashioning policies with long-term economic benefits from sustainable forest, fish, and game management, clean...


    • Noble Savages or Consummate Consumers: The Behavioral Ecology of Building a Green Conservation Future
      (pp. 45-68)
      BOBBI S. LOW

      Scholars in many fields know the litany of ecological problems we face today: a changing climate, increasingly severe floods and droughts, the extirpation of many species. Today we are more numerous and consume more per capita than ever before. One prominent “explanation” is that we are so isolated from ecological forces that we have no idea of our impacts. If we were to return to our “Noble Savage” state, consuming less, all would be well. This old romantic notion of “noble” indigenous peoples, consuming little (with an implied concern for future resources) dates at least back to John Dryden’sConquest...

    • Green Keynesianism: Beyond Standard Growth Paradigms
      (pp. 69-82)

      In the wake of the global financial crisis, Keynesianism has had something of a revival. In practice, governments have turned to Keynesian policy measures to avert economic collapse. In the theoretical area, mainstream economists have started to give grudging attention to Keynesian perspectives previously dismissed in favor of New Classical theories. This theoretical and practical shift is taking place at the same time that environmental issues, in particular global climate change, are compelling attention to alternative development paths. Significant potential now exists for “green Keynesianism,” combining Keynesian fiscal policies with environmental goals.

      But there are also tensions between the two...

    • The Economics of Information in a Green Economy
      (pp. 83-100)

      Building a green economy confronts two critical and conflicting scale issues. To avoid environmental catastrophes, we must dramatically reduce throughput—carbon emissions alone must fall by over 80 percent. However, modern economies are so dependent on fossil fuels and other forms of throughput that far more modest reductions could result in economic catastrophe. New technologies can help bridge the gap between these two conflicting thresholds, but must be developed and disseminated as rapidly as possible. Current efforts to speed up technological innovation rely on strengthening intellectual property rights. However, scientists competing for property rights are unlikely to share information, slowing...

    • The Evolution of Ego’n’Empathy: Progress in Forming the Centerpiece for Ecological Economic Theory
      (pp. 101-118)

      This chapter explores the evolution of Hayes and Lynne’s (2004) Ego’n’Empathy(EnE) hypothesis working to move beyond neoclassical economics (NCE) and nudge toward a centerpiece for ecological economics (EE). Results are encouraging, transdisciplinary support is good, new directions are considered, and there is new and common ground for EE and NCE. Empathy is in that ground, a key force in the adoption of conservation technologies, choices in recycling, and overall better potential for achieving a sustainable way of life that recognizes the thermodynamic realities that undergird EE. It is the key force in tempering-shifting the pivotal principle in mainstream economics, self-interest...

    • Civic Empowerment in an Age of Corporate Excess
      (pp. 119-134)

      While innumerable historic examples exist of abuse of individual power and excessive self-interest, recent financial crises illustrate that today such abuses can impact large numbers of people and communities around the globe. Individual excess transitioned into fundamental societal problem when its pathologies are magnified in corporations no longer properly controlled by either civic processes or cultural norms. As the early twenty-first-century financial crises unfolded, a common error of analysis focused on relatively recent changes in law or policy that encouraged imprudent behavior, such as the repeal of bank regulations or public finance modifications (Grumet, 2009). The problems that became evident...

    • Environmental Justice Challenges for Ecosystem Service Valuation
      (pp. 135-148)

      In pursuing improved ecosystem services management, there is also an opportunity to work toward environmental justice. The practice of environmental valuation can assist with both goals, but as typically employed obscures distributional analysis. Furthermore, valuation techniques may provide misleading or flawed information for weighing outcomes across groups. Pitfalls, solutions, and research needs are summarized at the nexus of valuation and environmental justice.

      Improving environmental management for the benefit of humanity requires a better understanding of the value of nature. The discipline of ecosystem services seeks this understanding and has become a popular research paradigm. Daily (1997) provides one of the...


    • Assessing the Trade-Offs for an Urban Green Economy
      (pp. 151-170)

      Advocates of green fuels, green infrastructure, and green jobs propose implementation of various nature-based technologies to revitalize the economies of cities. Some, such as tree planting, provide ecosystem services such as reduction of urban air pollutants, temperatures, and storm water runoff. Others, such as solar energy capture technologies, are intended to reduce dependence on fossil fuel and home energy costs. Yet others, such as community gardens and urban agricultural production, are a means to enhance nutrition and reduce food costs in urban neighborhoods where access to fresh food is often limited. Some technologies (e.g., green roofs, naturally draining bio-retention basins,...

    • Green Jobs: Who Benefits? Demographic Forecasting of Job Creation in U.S. Green Jobs Studies
      (pp. 171-210)

      More than twenty studies have attempted to assess net job creation through the growth in green jobs (Kammen, Kapadia, and Fripp, 2004; Center for Energy Economics, 2008). None have considered what the demographics of these jobholders might be. Using 2000–9 gender and race percentages from the Current Population Survey for detailed occupation and industry categories, a variety of periods of lagged linear regressions provide forecasts of the race, gender, and Latino and Hispanic ethnicity of these jobs through 2017. Many forecasts show poor statistical quality due to limited observations, especially with multiperiod lags. Despite this, most come close to...

    • Great Lakes, Great Debates: Facilitating Public Engagement on Offshore Wind Energy Using the Delphi Inquiry Approach
      (pp. 211-222)

      Land-based wind energy is a mature, established electricity-generating technology. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that in 2009, wind turbines generated 10,886 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity, enough to power 6.7 million homes (Energy Information Administration, 2011a, 2011b). Offshore locations, including the Great Lakes, offer exceptional wind resources with the potential to produce 50 gigawatts (GW) of electricity-generating capacity (U.S. Department of Energy, 2008). One wind development firm has already proposed an offshore wind farm off Michigan’s Lake Michigan coast (Scandia Wind Offshore, 2010). However, there is considerable debate over whether offshore wind energy development is appropriate and acceptable in coastal...

    • Endogenous Environmental Discounting and Climate-Economy Modeling
      (pp. 223-244)

      The debate over how to discount public (environmental) versus private (capital) investments in dynamic climate-economy models is well documented: Conventional private discounting does not explain the divide between the near-term costs of reducing emissions and the associated far-term reductions in climate damages. We propose an endogenization of discount rates that hinges on the following assumption of human behavior: We tend to react quickly to imminent dangers but slowly, or not at all, to fardistant ones. Specifically, the current period’s environmental discount rate is modeled so that it is directly related to the difference between contemporaneous temperature and a “catastrophic” temperature...

    • A Genuine Metric for Assessing Business Sustainability
      (pp. 245-268)

      Sustainability measurement by firms has steadily increased over the last decade, driven by an expansion of issues addressed in sustainability reports and a broadening of the relevant stakeholders. As a voluntary process, this process is conducted using a diverse collection of metrics and methodologies, stemming from the unique needs and requirements of individual firms and their operating environments. The resulting heterogeneity in sustainability reporting makes verification, interpretation, and use of the reported information to assess progress difficult if not impossible. A necessary next step in the field of enterprise-level sustainability is the development of a standard methodology for measuring and...

    • The Case for “Improvement” in Corporate Sustainability Indicators
      (pp. 269-294)

      Building a green economy is, at least in part, predicated on open and honest dialogue with stakeholders about organizations’ progress with respect to sustainability. In the private sector, this progress is currently communicated through corporate sustainability reports, which supplement existing government-mandated reports. These reports were the subject of this research study, which content-analyzed 330 corporate sustainability reports from all multiple-reporting (reporting more than once) U.S. corporations during the first ten years (1999–2009) of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), now the world’s largest sustainability reporting framework. The data reveal some improvement among core sustainability indicators, yet the current philosophy underlying...

    • Evolutions in Methods and Technology for Research in Pro-environmental Behavior
      (pp. 295-312)

      Motivating pro-environmental behavior is fundamental to the transition to a green economy and demands an understanding of the determinants of human behavior generally. Most examinations of the factors that influence behavior rely upon stated-preference surveys, and survey research has long been associated with several types of error or bias, including reactivity, satisficing, recall error, and social desirability bias. Similarly, revealed-preference methods also have shortcomings that limit their usefulness in understanding the determinants of behavior. The experience sampling method has been used to collect information about the context and content of the daily life of individuals, and the method has potential...

  7. Contributors
    (pp. 313-316)