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1994 Symposium

This symposium was presented at the 1994 Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America, held in Knoxville, Tennessee.


Organized by: Robert Costanza, Center for Environmental and Estuarine Studies, University of Maryland, Solomons, MD 20688-0038. (410) 326-7263; and Robert V. O’Neill, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN 37831. (615) 574-7846.

THURSDAY 11 AUGUST, 1994, 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.


1:00 Costanza Ecological economics: integrating the study of humans and nature

1:30 Ehrlich Ecological economics and the carrying capacity of Earth

2:00 Daly Natural capital as limiting factor in production and consumption: concepts, evidence, implications

2:30 Goodland The concept of environmental sustainability

3:00 BREAK

3:15 Folke Biological diversity and its sustainable use: an ecological economics synthesis

3:45 Russell Regional studies as an approach to integrating ecology and economics

4:15 Lubchenco The sustainable biosphere project

4:45 O’Neill Closing remarks

Abstracts of the Presentations:

1. Costanza, Robert. University of Maryland, Solomons, MD, 20688. ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS: INTEGRATING THE STUDY OF HUMANS AND NATURE.

Ecological economics is a transdisciplinary effort to link the natural and social sciences broadly, and especially ecology and economics. The goal is to develop a deeper understanding of the complex linkages between ecological and economic systems, and to use that understanding to develop effective policies that will lead to a world which is ecologically sustainable, has a fair distribution of resources (both between groups and generations of humans and between humans and other species), and efficiently allocates resources including “natural capital”. This will require a new approach to science that is comprehensive, integrative, multiscale, pluralistic, and acknowledges the huge uncertainties involved. Examples of integrated assessment and modeling studies at local, regional, and global scales are discussed as cases that both require and force the integration of ecology and economics and help to build common understanding of linked ecological economic systems.

2. Ehrlich, Paul R. and Gretchen C. Daily. Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 94305 and University of California, Berkeley, CA, 94720. ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS AND THE CARRYING CAPACITY OF EARTH.

We discuss critical biophysical and socioeconomic factors that influence the relationship of human population size to Earth’s carrying capacity. We characterize the role of socioeconomic equity in human fertility patterns and in the sustainability of the world agricultural system, across the spectrum of levels of organization: between sexes within households, between regions within nations, and internationally. We also examine economic and ecological approaches to the measurement of sustainability, and discuss the extent to which changes in economic policy alone might succeed in transforming human societies into sustainable enterprises.

3. Daly, Herman E. School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, 20472-1921. NATURAL CAPITAL AS LIMITING FACTOR IN PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION: CONCEPTS, EVIDENCE, IMPLICATIONS.

A look at the relative importance of complementarity versus substitutability between natural and manmade capital in both production and consumption. Reasons for emphasizing complementarity and the consequent issue of a limiting factor are given, along with an analysis of cultivated natural capital into its components, and a discussion of limiting components. Cases and policy implications will be discussed.

4. Goodland, Robert. The World Bank, 1818 H Street N.W., Washington, DC, 20433. THE CONCEPT OF ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY.

The three separate concepts of sustainability — social, economic, and environmental — are related closely in parts. This paper focuses on environmental sustainability, rather than on sustainable development. Environmental sustainability is defined by: 1) Output Rule: Waste emissions from a project should be within the assimilitive capacity of the local environment to absorb without unacceptable degradation of its future waste absorptive capacity or other important services. 2) Input Rule: (a) Renewables: harvest rates of renewable resource inputs would be within regenerative capacity of the natural system that generates them; (b) Non-renewables: depletion rates of non-renewable resource inputs should be equal to the rate at which renewable substitutes are developed by human invention and investment. Part of the proceeds from liquidating non-renewables should be allocated to research in pursuit of sustainable substitutes.

5. Folke, Carl. The Beijer International Institute of Ecological Economics, Box 50005, S-104 05, Stockholm, Sweden. BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY AND ITS SUSTAINABLE USE: AN ECOLOGICAL ECONOMICS SYNTHESIS.

The paper focuses on functional diversity and the production and maintenance of ecological services that underpin human welfare. Ecological services are analyzed in relation to the role of organisms in ecosystem performance and resilience. Two major functional groups are identified; keystone process species and life-insurance species. Direct and indirect human driving forces that cause the loss of biological diversity are exemplified and discussed in the context of ecological discontinuities and thresholds. Management and policy that can reverse the current trend, and even enhance biodiversity are suggested, including ecotechnology and the use of traditional ecological knowledge. It is stressed that institutions that are adaptive and work in synergy with ecosystem processes and functions are critical and their development needs to be stimulated at all levels.

6. Russell, Clifford S. Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies, Nashville, TN, 37212. REGIONAL STUDIES AS AN APPROACH TO INTEGRATING ECOLOGY AND ECONOMICS.

Efforts to integrate economics and ecology at an abstract or conceptual level are intellectually challenging but often come off as the imposition of one discipline’s paradigm and normative judgments on the other. An alternative exercise, with potential practical benefits as well as intellectual rewards, is the linking of economic and ecological system models in the context of a broader or narrower regional problem. An early example of such an exercise was the Lower Delaware Estuary Model put together at Resources for the Future roughly 20 years ago. Some lessons may be drawn from that project for other efforts, but the problems that challenge ecologists and economists today are much tougher than the ones motivating the LDEM. The latter were acute, local, reversible on short time scales, and involved fairly gross intrusions — in the form of standard water pollutants — into the environment. Today’s problems may involve chronic, low-level insults, such as small annual extensions of development into natural areas. But their implications may well be global, as when species are lost. There is often the threat of irreversible (at least on the human time scale) change. And sometimes it is even hard to be certain that a human activity is actually the cause of the identified problem. These differences combine to make the challenge facing would-be 1990s integrated modelers very tough indeed. All the more reason to get started now.

7. Lubchenco, Jane, Paul G. Risser and Peter Alpert. Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, 97331-2914; Miami University, Oxford, OH, 45056; and University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, 01003. THE SUSTAINABLE BIOSPHERE PROJECT.

The Sustainable Biosphere Project (SBP) is an international, interdisciplinary, multi-year project of SCOPE, the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment. The object of the SBP is to understand the biophysical, social and economic determinants of sustainable ecological systems and to stimulate the implementation of practices and policies that will lead toward a sustainable biosphere. The SBP consists of seven regional Case Studies, each one located in a different region of the world. The first two Case Studies are the Amazon and the Southern African Savanna. Each Case Study focuses on specific natural resource use patterns identified by stakeholders within these regions. Each Case Study will build an analyzed information base, evaluate the sustainability of current practices and policies, and work with the stakeholders to produce alternate practice and policy options for sustainable ecological systems. These options will be considered from many viewpoints, including comprehensive ecological, economic and social considerations.

last updated May 30, 1995

Alan R. Johnson

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