Student guide International Program A.Y. 2007/08

Introduction to ecological economics
Aim of the course
Environmental signals show us we are probably on the edge of a crisis. The uncertainty about our future environment relates to the development of a new discipline: ecological economics. Transdisciplinary by nature, its roots come from economics, environmental sciences, biology, sociology, physics, ethics, psychology, etc. but it is not only the sum of all of them: the discipline is based on a new paradigm and, when dealing with some environmental problems, it stresses the ignorance of the outcome and the application of the precautionary principle. Also, it proposes a methodological alternative to conventional decision making based only on monetary evaluations of the environment; in ecological economics decision problems are always presented in a multicriterial context where the environmental, economic and social aspect play a role, therefore it gets closer than neoclassical economics to the science of sustainability.
1. The state of the world and future risks: atmospheric emissions, soil erosion, forest and biodiversity loss, population growth, climate change, agriculture, successful histories (the ban on CFCs)
2. Environmental (neoclassical) economics: Cost-Benefit Analysis and other techniques of monetary evaluation for the environment. Polluter pays principle, negative externalities and the reality, environmental Kuznets curve.
3. Open system versus closed system economics: entropy law, economic growth paradigms, technological perceptions, environmental perceptions;
4. Ecological economics: meaning, transdisciplinarity, and its fundaments: limits to physical growth, ignorance and precautionary principle, multicriteria analysis.
5. Sustainability: definition, the three pillars of sustainability, human capital, natural capital, man-made capital, measures of sustainable development, weak or strong sustainability
6. Indicators: GDP, NNP, green NNP and ISEW, Human Development Index, Ecological Footprint, Material Flow Analysis
7. North-South trade from a southern perspective, ecological debt (carbon debt, bio-piracy, environmental passive and toxic waste transportation), the environmentalism of the poor
8. Environmental risks, complexity and Post Normal Science
9. Enterprise and environment: ethical consumption, life cycle assessment, industrial ecology.
10. Policies: case studies and implications in the decision making context. Participation in decision making. The tragedy of the commons
In order to grant the credits for the course, an essay has to be written. This can either be an individual essay to be written before a deadline or a group essay to be presented during the last class.
Reading list
A detailed reading list will be distributed at the beginning of the course and will be found on the web at: