Student guide Facoltą di Economia A.A. 2008/09

Introduction to ecological economics
Aim of the course
The conventional economic model is based on the hypothesis of infinite monetary growth. Nonetheless it also requires considerable inputs of energy and material which are not infinite and have an impact on our planet. Environmental signals show us we are probably on the edge of a crisis and the uncertainty about our future environment relates to the development of a new discipline: ecological economics. Transdisciplinar by nature, its contributions 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 scientific paradigm and, when dealing with some environmental problems, it stresses on our ignorance about the outcome and on the application of the precautionary principle. It proposes a methodological alternative to conventional decision making based only on monetary evaluations of the environment: in ecological economics decision problems are analysed in a multicritrerial context where the pillars of sustainability -environmental, economic and social- play a role. Considering globalization from the point of view of access to natural resources, ecological economics defends a southern perspective (environmentalism of the poor), just as it promotes participation of lay people to critical decisions. Finally, I will show an ecological path that focuses on human ecology and self-organisation.
Keywords: energy use, carrying capacity, environmental crisis, uncertainty, ignorance, transdisciplinarity, new scientific paradigm, precautionary principle, multicriteria decision making, environmentalism of the poor, participation in decision making, self organisation, human ecology.

This module is 15 hours long, covers up to 10 topics related between them. The last class will be a discussion and a revision of what has been explained. As the programme is quite intense, you can also choose which of these topics you are most interested in:
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.      Fundaments of ecological economics: limits to physical growth, ignorance and precautionary principle, multicriteria analysis.
4.      Sustainability: its pillars and its concept. Weak sustainability versus strong sustainability
5.      Monetary and non monetary indicators; from GDP to the ISEW (Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare); Ecological Footprint and HANPP (Human Appropriation of Net Primary Production).
6.      Globalization: a case study from soy trade and its uses. A perspective from political ecology. The environmentalism of the poor.
7.      The role of science and governance in society.
8.      Enterprise and the environment: ethical consumption, life cycle assessment, industrial ecology.
9.      The commons: an institution beyond the state and the market. Self-organization: a case study from Barcelona squatters.
10.    Final discussion and revision