Social Metabolism means the flows of energy and materials in the economy, and the human appropriation of net primary production of biomass. A central concept is “socio-ecological transitions”. The study of social metabolism overlaps with Industrial Ecology. It discusses the absolute and relative dematerialization of the economy (i.e. relative to GDP).
Ecological Economics encompasses the physical study of the economy (social metabolism), the study of property rights on the environment and their relation to environmental management, the study of the environmental sustainability of the economy (can manufactured capital substitute for so-called “natural capital”?), the economic valuation of positive environmental services and of negative “externalities” (loss of biodiversity, climate change), and also multi-criteria evaluation to rank alternatives in the presence of incommensurable values.
Environmental Health addresses physical, chemical, biological factors impinging on the health of humans. For instance, the effects of arsenic in water from natural factors is part of the study of enviromental health, as also water pollution with pesticides. Similar natural causes produce different social effects, because of the “social amplification of risk”.
Environmental Law considers the constitucional provisions (the Rights of Nature – as in the Constitution of Ecuador, 2008), the administrative law, the laws on corporate liability and accountability. It comprises international private and public law related to the environment, including e.g. the Basel Treaty on toxic waste exports.
Political Ecology focuses on the use of power to explain the access to environmental resources and services, or the burdens of pollution according to caste or social class or gender. It focuses both on local and international ecological distribution conflicts, and studies the use of power to decide procedures for decision-making in environmental issues. Together with environmental sociology, it studies also the environmental movements.
Also, Ecological Anthropology, Ethno-ecology, Agroecology, Environmental History …
The FP7 CEECEC project (2008-2010) developed out of disatisfaction from the distance between academic ecological economics, and the "activist knowledge" and the needs of environmental Non-Governmental Organizations.
CEECEC means Civil Society Engagement with Ecological Economics.
We asked NGOs to write reports on case studies of their own choice, and then collaborate with university institutes in turning these reports into chapters of an on-line Handbook of ecological economics. It is a 750,000€ project involving 13 institutions.
This is indeed what we did for two years. The NGOs chose the case studies, most of them of immediate relevance.
From science to activism, and from activism to science: CEECEC 14 case studies with their keywords
Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) in India from the Bottom-Up CSE
willingness to pay, opportunity cost, Coasian bargaining, environmental services, transaction costs, community property rights, CDM
Participatory Forest Management in Mendha Lekha, India CSE
biomass economy, GDP of the poor, joint forest management, watershed management, social capital, consensual democracy, community rights, non-monetary economy, livelihood security, rights-based approach
Mineral Extraction and Conflicts in Cordillera del Cóndor, Ecuador, Acción Ecológica
copper mining, Shuar communities, environmentalism of the poor, biodiversity hot spot, ILO Convention 169, Social Multicriteria Methods, languages of valuation, incommensurability of values.
High Speed Transport Infrastructure (TAV) in Italy (Turin-Lyon) A SUD-CDCA transport and energy, material flows, participatory democracy, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Multi Criteria Evaluation, High speed, NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard), activist knowledge, Local Governance
Nautical Tourism in the Lastovo Islands Nature Park, Croatia SUNCE
nautical tourism, marine biodiversity, depopulation, landscape value, property rights, protected area management, carrying capacity, resilience, public participation, willingness to pay, eco-tourism management.
Local Communities and Management of Protected Areas in Serbia (Djerdap) - Endemit
Mechanisms in Support of the Creation and Consolidation of Protected Areas in Mato Grosso, Brazil: The Potential of Redd and Legal Reserve Compensation - REBRAF biodiversity valuation, ecological economic zoning, avoided deforestation, carbon trade, payment for environmental services, opportunity cost, institutional innovations, public policy formulation
industrial logging, property rights, community forests, commodity chains, ecologically unequal exchange, cost shifting, corporate accountability, corruption, wood certification, consumer blindness, languages of valuation, FLEGT
Environmental Justice and Ecological Debt in Belgium: The UMICORE case. VODO
lead pollution, manufacturing of uncertainty, environmental justice, popular epidemiology, post-normal science, environmental externalities, corporate accountability/ liability, value of human life, discount rate, greenwashing
Aid, Social Metabolism and Social Conflict in the Nicobar Islands. IFF-UKL
humanitarian aid, material and energy flows, working time, property rights, community ownership, subsistence economy, natural disasters
Land use and water disputes in the Tana Delta, Kenya. UAB and Nature Kenya
Srinivasan et al. (from Berkeley), including the ecological economist R.B. Norgaard, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Srinivasan et al, 2008) quantified (at over USD 2 trillion) the Ecological Debt from North to South. A large part is the Climate Debt.
This was published in PNAS, signalling the scientific credibility of the concept of “ecological debt”. Other articles on the “ecological debt” in academic journals, 2008, 2009...
From science to activism: the EROI of agriculture
Since 2007 (if not before), the international network of peasant movements, Via Campesina , published reports stating that agriculture has changed from being a producer of energy to being a consumer of energy .
Actually, agriculture transforms solar energy into food, it does not “produce” energy. The efficiency of photo-synthesis is around one per cent, much of the solar energy input is not incorporated into the food energy.
But the meaning of Via Campesina’s statement is clear: the inputs of energy into agriculture (not counting solar energy) have increased more than the outputs, and in “developed” economies more energy is put into the agricultural and food system than we get out from the system. (Pimentel et al, Science , 1973).
The EROI is decreasing.
Sustainable peasant agriculture cools down the earth
From Activism to Science and from Science to Activism
Environmental Justice (USA, 1982 – Bullard etc.), Popular Epidemiology.
The on-line Handbook is ready (and freely available at www.ceecec.net), together with a Glossary, and videos and lectures, a trial on-line course of “bottom-up” ecological economics based on case studies is run in April-July 2010.
Students taking the course are members of NGOs but also university students, public administrators.
In August 2010 at the ISEE conference in Bremen and Oldenburg (www,ecoeco.org) we shall discuss the final results of the CEECEC project, and the prospects for teaching and learning ecological economics and other sustainability sciences with civil society organizations in the new EJOLT project.
Special Issue, Journal of Cleaner Production (a journal of industrial ecology) 2010
Crisis or Opportunity? Economic Degrowth for Social Equity and
Edited by F. Schneider, G. Kallis, J. Martinez-Alier
Editorial - Serge Latouche
Why environmental sustainability can most probably not be attained with growing production, Roefie Hueting
Energy transition towards economic and environmental sustainability: feasible paths and policy implications, Simone D’Alessandro Tommaso Luzzati Mario Morroni
Relax about GDP growth: implications for climate and crisis, Jeroen van den Bergh
Impact caps: why population, affluence and technology strategies
should be abandoned, Blake Alcott…
12 articles and book reviews (incl. Tim Jackson, Peter Victor…)
Conference in European Parliament, April 2009 (http://www.clubofrome.at/2009/degrowth/index.html)
Sustainable de-growth: Mapping the context, criticisms and future prospects of an emergent paradigm ( Ecological Economics, 2010 ) Joan Martínez-Alier, Unai Pascual, Franck-Dominique Vivien, Edwin Zaccai
“ Sustainable de-growth" is both a concept and a social-grassroots (Northern) movement with its origins in the fields of ecological economics, social ecology, economic anthropology and environmental and social activist groups. This paper introduces the concept of sustainable de-growth by mapping some of the main intellectual influences from these fields, with special focus on both the Francophone and Anglophone thinking about this emergent notion. We explain the reasons for the appeal of sustainable de-growth, and compare it to the messages enclosed within the dominant sustainable development paradigm.
Socially Sustainable Economic Degrowth ( Development and Change , 40(6): 1099-1119, 2009) Joan Martinez-Alier
Economic growth is not compatible with environmental sustainability. The effort to push up the rate of growth by increasing obligations to repay financial debts is in direct conflict with the availability of exhaustible resources and with the capacity of waste sinks. The economic crisis of 2008–09 has resulted in a welcome change to the totally unsustainable trend of increasing carbon dioxide emissions. The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 was generous to the rich countries, giving them property rights on the carbon sinks and the atmosphere in exchange for the promise of a reduction of 5 per cent of their emissions relative to1990. This modest Kyoto objective will be fulfilled more easily because of the economic crisis. This shows that economic de-growth, leading to a steady state, is a plausible objective for the rich industrial economies. This would be supported by the environmental justice movements of the South, which are active in resource extraction conflicts.
Degrowth Events London 12 Jan 2010: towards an international degrowth network
Degrowth conference in Barcelona 26-29 March 2010 (400 participants).
From activism to a research programme on the environmental, technological, demographic, social, socio-psychological aspects of “socially sustainable economic degrowth leading to a steady-state economy”. This largely overlaps with research on “socio-ecological transitions”.