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Special Issue "A Research Agenda for Ecological Economics"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2019).

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Josh Farley

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, The University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: ecological economics; ecosystem services; system sustainability; monetary systems; policy; service learning; common assets; steady state economy; economic globalization; economic development; ecological restoration; ecosystem valuation; quality of life
Guest Editor
Dr. Katie Kish

McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
Website | E-Mail
Interests: ecological economics; complex systems; socioecological ideology; cognitive affective mapping; local economic development; environmental sociology; polanyian re-embedding; restrained joyful living

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In response to our biophysical and social predicaments, Ecological Economics (EE) emerged during the 1970s and 1980s as a transdisciplinary paradigm grounding the study and application of economics within the biophysical realities of a complex, finite world and the moral obligations of a just society. Since then, the field of EE has come far, but numerous challenges remain. Most important, economic growth increasingly threatens global life support functions, while failing to meet the basic needs of much of the world’s population.

While EE is fundamentally a problem-driven transdiscipline that adopts whatever tools and theories are required to address critical ecological and social challenges, there is growing dissension within EE over methodological pluralism. Specifically, there is concern over the excessive reliance on conventional market models of the economy and the corresponding emphasis on the monetization and commodification of nature, and on the role of heterodox economic theories, generating internal disputes that undermine our ability to collaborate towards common goals. EE increasingly acknowledges the transformative role of monetary and financial systems, as well as other economic institutions, but there is little agreement over their specific impacts and how they must be transformed to achieve a sustainable and just society. Finally, EE has made little progress toward a coherent theory of change—how to transform our research into the necessary cultural transition. These challenges contribute to methodological incoherence and loss of the moral imperative that once existed in EE.

The goal of this Special Issue is to solicit recommendations for a research agenda from established experts in the field, and perhaps more importantly, from the coming generation of ecological economists who will tasked with its implementation. We now find ourselves at an interesting moment in time—original contributors to the discipline are retiring and new scholars are emerging with desires to contribute to the field in a meaningful way. For your submission, we ask that you:

  1. Consider and remember the roots of EE through Daly and Farley’s “call for a return to the beginnings of economics as a moral philosophy explicitly directed toward raising the quality of life of this and future generations”.
  2. Co-author papers with students, emerging scholars, and those with whom you have significant cross-over. If we receive abstracts with significant cross-over, we may ask the authors to write a collaborative paper.
  3. Clearly identify the debate, discourse, or research agendas that you deem important and valuable for the future of EE.
  4. Consider sketching the outlines of a doctoral thesis built on your proposed agenda, which would potentially increase your article’s usefulness to the next generation of ecological economists and hence its impact.

Please submit your abstract at: cansee.ca/futures

Prof. Dr. Josh Farley
Dr. Katie Kish
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1700 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Ecological economics
  • Research agendas
  • Ecosystem services
  • Economic sociology
  • Ecological economic policy
  • Socioecological systems
  • Emerging debates
  • Just Distribution of Wealth and Resources

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
From the Anthropocene to Mutual Thriving: An Agenda for Higher Education in the Ecozoic
Sustainability 2019, 11(12), 3312; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11123312
Received: 1 May 2019 / Revised: 2 June 2019 / Accepted: 13 June 2019 / Published: 15 June 2019
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Abstract
Higher education in the global North, and exported elsewhere, is complicit in driving the planet’s socio-ecological crises by teaching how to most effectively marginalize and plunder Earth and human communities. As students and activists within the academic system, we take a firm stand [...] Read more.
Higher education in the global North, and exported elsewhere, is complicit in driving the planet’s socio-ecological crises by teaching how to most effectively marginalize and plunder Earth and human communities. As students and activists within the academic system, we take a firm stand to arrest this cycle, and to redirect education toward teaching how to create conditions for all life to thrive. In this paper, we articulate a research and education agenda for co-constructing knowledge and wisdom, and propose shifts in the ‘ologies from the current, destructive modes to intended regenerative counterparts. We offer to shift from an ontology of separation to that of interconnectedness; from an epistemology of domination to that of egalitarian relationship; and from an axiology of development to that of plural values for world- and meaning-making. Such paradigm shifts reflect the foundational aspirations of the consilient transdiscipline of ecological economics. We analyze several introductory university textbooks in economics, law, and natural sciences, to demonstrate how destructive ‘ologies are taught in North American universities, and how such teaching implicitly undermines critical inquiry and effective challenge. Our strategy for change is to provide a new theoretical framework for education: the regenerative ‘ologies of the Ecozoic’, based on biophysicality, embedded relationality, pluralism, and the sustainable well-being of all members in the community of life. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue A Research Agenda for Ecological Economics)
Open AccessArticle
The Case for Studying Non-Market Food Systems
Sustainability 2019, 11(11), 3224; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11113224
Received: 6 May 2019 / Revised: 29 May 2019 / Accepted: 6 June 2019 / Published: 11 June 2019
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Abstract
Markets dominate the world’s food systems. Today’s food systems fail to realize the normative foundations of ecological economics: justice, sustainability, efficiency, and value pluralism. Drawing on empirical and theoretical literature from diverse intellectual traditions, I argue that markets, as an institution for governing [...] Read more.
Markets dominate the world’s food systems. Today’s food systems fail to realize the normative foundations of ecological economics: justice, sustainability, efficiency, and value pluralism. Drawing on empirical and theoretical literature from diverse intellectual traditions, I argue that markets, as an institution for governing food systems, hinder the realization of these objectives. Markets allocate food toward money, not hunger. They encourage shifting costs on others, including nonhuman nature. They rarely signal unsustainability, and in many ways cause it. They do not resemble the efficient markets of economic theory. They organize food systems according to exchange value at the expense of all other social, cultural, spiritual, moral, and environmental values. I argue that food systems can approach the objectives of ecological economics roughly to the degree that they subordinate market mechanisms to social institutions that embody those values. But such “embedding” processes, whether through creating state policy or alternative markets, face steep barriers and can only partially remedy food markets’ inherent shortcomings. Thus, ecological economists should also study, promote, and theorize non-market food systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue A Research Agenda for Ecological Economics)
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Open AccessArticle
Roots, Riots, and Radical Change—A Road Less Travelled for Ecological Economics
Sustainability 2019, 11(7), 2001; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11072001
Received: 28 January 2019 / Revised: 14 March 2019 / Accepted: 27 March 2019 / Published: 4 April 2019
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Abstract
In this paper, we put forward a new research agenda for ecological economics, based on three realisations. We then show how these can be connected through research and used to generate insights with the potential for application in broader, systemic change. The first [...] Read more.
In this paper, we put forward a new research agenda for ecological economics, based on three realisations. We then show how these can be connected through research and used to generate insights with the potential for application in broader, systemic change. The first realisation is that the core ambition of ecological economics, that of addressing the scale of human environmental resource use and associated impacts, often remains an aspirational goal, rather than being applied within research. In understanding intertwined environmental and social challenges, systemic approaches (including system dynamics) should be revitalised to address the full scope of what is possible or desirable. The second realisation is that the focus on biophysical and economic quantification and methods has been at the expense of a comprehensive social understanding of environmental impacts and barriers to change—including the role of power, social class, geographical location, historical change, and achieving human well-being. For instance, by fetishising growth as the core problem, attention is diverted away from underlying social drivers—monetary gains as profits, rent, or interest fuelled by capitalist competition and, ultimately, unequal power relations. The third realisation is that ecological economics situates itself with respect to mainstream (neoclassical) economics, but simultaneously adopts some of its mandate and blind spots, even in its more progressive camps. Pragmatic attempts to adopt mainstream concepts and tools often comfort, rather than challenge, the reproduction of the very power relations that stand in the way of sustainability transitions. We consider these three realisations as impediments for developing ecological economics as an emancipatory critical research paradigm and political project. We will not focus on or detail the failings of ecological economics, but state what we believe they are and reformulate them as research priorities. By describing and bringing these three elements together, we are able to outline an ambitious research agenda for ecological economics, one capable of catalysing real social change. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue A Research Agenda for Ecological Economics)
Open AccessArticle
Transcending the Learned Ignorance of Predatory Ontologies: A Research Agenda for an Ecofeminist-Informed Ecological Economics
Sustainability 2019, 11(5), 1479; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11051479
Received: 6 January 2019 / Revised: 5 March 2019 / Accepted: 6 March 2019 / Published: 11 March 2019
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Abstract
As a necessarily political act, the theorizing, debating and enacting of ecological economies offer pathways to radical socio-economic transformations that emphasize the ecological and prioritize justice. In response to a research agenda call for ecological economics, we propose and employ an ecofeminist frame [...] Read more.
As a necessarily political act, the theorizing, debating and enacting of ecological economies offer pathways to radical socio-economic transformations that emphasize the ecological and prioritize justice. In response to a research agenda call for ecological economics, we propose and employ an ecofeminist frame to demonstrate how the logics of extractivist capitalism, which justify gender biased and anti-ecological power structures inherent in the growth paradigm, also directly inform the theoretical basis of ecological economics and its subsequent post-growth proposals. We offer pathways to reconcile these epistemological limitations through a synthesis of ecofeminist ethics and distributive justice imperatives, proposing leading questions to further the field. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue A Research Agenda for Ecological Economics)
Open AccessArticle
Toward an Ecological Monetary Theory
Sustainability 2019, 11(3), 923; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11030923
Received: 31 December 2018 / Revised: 23 January 2019 / Accepted: 2 February 2019 / Published: 12 February 2019
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (334 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Money is the most ubiquitous institution on the planet and lays the foundation for human civilization. As such it should underlie economic theory. Due to the dualized nature of Western culture, however, mainstream economic theory assumes that money is simply a value relation [...] Read more.
Money is the most ubiquitous institution on the planet and lays the foundation for human civilization. As such it should underlie economic theory. Due to the dualized nature of Western culture, however, mainstream economic theory assumes that money is simply a value relation to make barter efficient. This theory is manifest in orthodox monetary theory and policy. Ecological economics understands the problems attendant to modern money but has heretofore not developed a theory of money of its own. In order to make its economic theory and policy prescriptions viable, this paper argues that ecological economics must develop a theory of money that is simultaneously rooted in an understanding of money’s socio-history, and an ontological reimagining of dualized Western culture. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue A Research Agenda for Ecological Economics)

Review

Jump to: Research

Open AccessReview
Deliberation and the Promise of a Deeply Democratic Sustainability Transition
Sustainability 2019, 11(4), 1023; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11041023
Received: 21 December 2018 / Revised: 7 February 2019 / Accepted: 11 February 2019 / Published: 16 February 2019
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (639 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Ecological economics arose as a normative transdiscipline aiming to generate knowledge and tools to help transition the economy toward a scale which is sustainable within the bounds of the earth system. Yet it remains unclear in practice how to legitimize its explicitly normative [...] Read more.
Ecological economics arose as a normative transdiscipline aiming to generate knowledge and tools to help transition the economy toward a scale which is sustainable within the bounds of the earth system. Yet it remains unclear in practice how to legitimize its explicitly normative agenda. One potential means for legitimation can be found in deliberative social and political theory. We review how deliberative theory has informed ecological economics, pointing to three uses: first, to support valuation of non-market goods and services; second, to inform environmental decision-making more broadly; third, to ground alternative theories of development and wellbeing. We argue that deliberation has been used as problem-solving theory, but that its more radical implications have rarely been embraced. Embracing a deliberative foundation for ecological economics raises questions about the compatibility of deeply democratic practice and the normative discourses arguing for a sustainability transition. We highlight three potential mechanisms by which deliberation may contribute to a sustainability transition: preference formation; normative evaluation; and legitimation. We explore each in turn, demonstrating the theoretical possibility that deliberation may be conducive in and of itself to a sustainability transition. We point to a series of challenges facing the “scaling up” of deliberative systems that demand further empirical and theoretical work. These challenges constitute a research agenda for a deeply democratic sustainability transition and can inform the future development of ecological economics and other normative, critical transdisciplines. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue A Research Agenda for Ecological Economics)
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