Ecological Economics


Our planet is finite but our economic theories and practices assume that our economy can grow forever. The paradoxical pursuit of infinite growth on a finite planet has real-world consequences: from climate change to increasing income inequality to stagnant and declining quality of life for most of us to the ongoing mass extinction of species not deemed economically useful to us, but whose loss simplifies ecosystems to the point of collapse. If these trends continue, we will face very difficult times ecologically and socio-politically. One alternative to infinite-planet economic theory is Ecological Economics, which can be described as economics as if the laws of thermodynamics are true and apply to us. Alone among disciplines with aspiration to analytic rigor, the field of economics has remained unaffected by the thermodynamic revolution that transformed the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, even history in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This failure to take physical law into account is one great source of our society's environmental (and social, and political) problems. Ecological economics thus represents the continuation of the thermodynamic revolution begun in the 1880s. This course is designed to give you an appropriate grounding in the fundamental assumptions, the conceptual novelties, and the distinctive tools of analysis that comprise this emergent school of economic theory, while placing this theorizing in historical and ecological context. We'll pay particular attention to how the precepts and practice of Ecological Economics illuminate the largest challenge facing humans today, the necessity of developing an ecologically sustainable society, one that is sized to the limits of our finite planet.
Course Attributes: EN S; BU BA; AS SSC; FA SSC; AR SSC

Section 01

Ecological Economics
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