John Gowdy Webinar

To view John Gowdy’s February 28th, 2018 webinar on incorporating ecological economics into a standard economics course, see the link below to the video on the USSEE YouTube page. In this webinar, John covers some of the core principles of ecological economics, and describes how he incorporates them in his natural resource and environmental economics courses. The webinar follows his previous blog post here on the same topic.   The target audience is anyone interested in learning more about ecological economics, with a particular emphasis for faculty and students on how to supplement the content in their current courses.

 

Gund Institute Funded PhD Opportunities

The Gund Institute for Environment at the University of Vermont (UVM) seeks up to eight exceptional PhD students to start Fall 2019 and conduct interdisciplinary research on global environmental challenges. Application reviews will start January 18.

The Gund Institute is a newly expanded campus-wide center for interdisciplinary research, where 150 faculty, global affiliates, post-docs, and graduate students collaborate widely to understand interactions among ecological, social, and economic systems. We explore environmental issues at the interface of four pressing research themes: climate solutions, health and well-being, sustainable agriculture, and resilient communities.

CURRENT OFFERS:

Gund Institute Research Assistantship: We seek up to three PhD students working on Gund research themes, especially the connections among them. Students will receive up to four years of support at $32,000 per year, plus tuition.

Gund Institute Barrett Assistantship: We seek up to two PhD students for a new opportunity provided by the Gund Institute and UVM’s College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences (CEMS), supported by the Richard Barrett Foundation. Students will receive up to four years of funding, including an annual stipend of $35,000 and tuition.

Leadership for the Ecozoic: We seek up to three PhD students at UVM to pursue mutually-enhancing human-Earth relationships in a global research-to-action partnership with McGill University. Students receive three years of funding, including an annual stipend of $27,000, plus tuition.

All students receive health insurance. Conference and research funds are also available.

For full details, explore Gund PhD opportunities online (how to apply, qualifications, etc).

The Gund Institute catalyzes environmental research, develops real-world solutions to global issues, and connects UVM with leaders in government, business and beyond. We are committed to ensuring an inclusive environment where diverse voices and perspectives are active and welcome.

Integrating Ecological Economic Concepts into Other Disciplines

By Susan Santone

As a transdisciplinary field, ecological economics (EE) offers countless opportunities to contribute to other fields. But the notoriously siloed nature of disciplines, with their highly specialized content, can prevent these connections from happening. For example, EE topics such as thermodynamics and valuation of ecosystem services are unlikely to be fully understood—let alone embraced—by colleagues in humanities. So what can EE scholars do to build bridges to other fields?

The solution lies in the deeper conceptual bedrock underlying EE. Unlike specific topics such as thermodynamics, broad concepts such as interdependence, well-being, and equity apply across disciplines, providing the basis for transdisciplinary instruction.

In this blog, I’ll share instructional strategies I’ve used over the past 20 in faculty development programs serving educators in every field. I’ll describe how you can use these strategies to frame and infuse principles of ecological economics—and more broadly, sustainability—into disciplines that at first blush seem unlikely candidates. The material is drawn from my book, Reframing the Curriculum: Design for Social Justice and Sustainability (2018, Routledge), and at the end of the blog I’ll point you to some free resources, including a guide for facilitating many of the activities described here.

Framing the Inquiry

It’s no surprise that different sustainability topics find a comfortable home in a particular discipline, such as climate change in science or consumption in the social sciences. But regardless of the issue, I’ve found that educators are really striving towards one goal: how to engage their students in meaningful learning that advances sustainability. In every discipline, educators want to know how their courses can prepare students for the grand challenges ahead. I came to see it this way: the future is a story yet to be written, with today’s students writing tomorrow’s chapters. Where are our courses taking them?

That’s how I came to using story and narrative as central instructional metaphors. Story elements such as character, plot, and setting provide a universally relatable context that can make “wonky” topics accessible across disciplines and even grade levels. (I’ve seen sixth graders totally nail entropy and externalities.) The secret lies in weaving the elements together to tell a story—one that juxtaposes the beliefs and logic of two competing narratives I call The Story of More and The Story of Better.  To unfold the learning journey—itself a story—let’s start at the beginning with an effective way to set the stage for the narratives. (Directions for facilitating the activities described are available in the free facilitator guide mentioned.)

What’s the story we want?

When teaching about sustainability, the first question I typically ask is: What’s the story we want for ourselves, our students, and our communities, near and far? I’ve posed this question to educators from all ages and all backgrounds, including self-identified “conservatives” and “progressives,” veterans, Catholic nuns, and other people of faith. Regardless of the audience, the answers have been some version of this:

  • Clean water and air
  • Healthy, affordable foods appropriate to cultures and communities
  • Health care
  • Supportive and loving relationships: family, friends, neighbors
  • Educational opportunities: schools, books, Internet, informal learning
  • Economic opportunities: jobs, access to financing
  • Transportation, energy, infrastructure
  • Fair governance structures
  • Recreation and self-expression: hobbies, art, music, sports, etc.

Having lead this exercise with thousands of people, I can truly say I have yet to meet anyone who does not want the above. This universality raises additional questions to drive inquiry:  

  • What supports thriving and well-being?
  • Where are we actually headed, as a community and the world?
  • Who is responsible for the provision of healthy foods, safe housing, education, and other “ingredients” of thriving?
  • How do we organize society in ways that preserve the basis of well-being?

What supports the story?

With big-picture goals established, we must next explore the essential elements of this story—the actors, setting, and relationships that comprise the story. To begin, learners must understand the interdependence of ecological- and social systems, and the concept of the “commons,” the shared ecological and cultural gifts that support well-being. To teach this, I provide the students (actual students or practicing educators) with two sets of small cards. On one set are examples of the ecological commons such as oxygen, oceans, water, and sunlight. On the other are human-created, social/cultural commons, including public education, music, and language. After we define the difference between the two sets, I then ask people to describe ways elements from both sets work together to create and sustain well-being as they defined it. For example (as shown in Figure 1), people offer that animals, sunlight, and rivers support community celebrations and form local history.

Figure 1. The Commons Activity Example

After everyone has made a nice large web, I ask them to toss out elements and describe what happens (the connections all fall apart). In this way, participants come to understand that we not only have shared goals, we share the essentials needed to reach those goals. Interdependence, along with a definition of “community” that includes non-human members, thus become foundational principles as we move forward.

Where are we headed? Towards or away from the story we want?

With the desired story and its elements established, we then examine a range of global and local trends to determine whether we’re moving in the right direction. Drawing from sources from the Sustainable Development Goals to local data, we address progress (or lack thereof) on topics ranginge from climate change to gender equity to employment. For example, regarding food, people generally find it positive that the world produces the equivalent of 2,940 calories per day per capita (FAO, 2015), and the percentage of hungry people in the world has declined (United Nations Economic and Social Council, 2016). But the story becomes murkier when we consider that one-third of the world’s croplands are used to produce food for livestock (FAO, 2012) and an estimated 795 million people are still chronically undernourished (United Nations [UN], 2015). As people wrestle with these mixed trends, they inevitably raise and name interdependencies among ecological, economic, and social dimensions—an insight that provides a strong “a-ha” moments about the ways individual disciplines connect to others.

Competing Narratives: More and Better

The “Where are we headed?” activity brings to light another reality: the world is moving in different directions at once. We are writing competing narratives—one dragging us away from the future we want, the other nudging us towards it. With this, I introduce the narratives: ,The Story of More and The Story of Better. By unfolding and comparing the narratives, we discover the disciplinary relevancy of EE concepts such as systems, limits, indicators. While the descriptions I offer may seem basic or obvious, my goal here is to illustrate how the familiarity opens doors to deeper connections and transdisciplinary thinking.

Let’s start with The Story of More.

The actor in this narrative is none other than homo economicus, a construct of human nature driven by self-interest and the rational pursuit of individual gain (utility)—gains which are measured in quantitative terms: profits, economic growth, and GDP. In a story where money defines value, the environment is deemed worthless and “unproductive” until it is harvested or contributes to property values. As a setting, the environment is only a backdrop—a trough of props and resources to serve the main plot: growth. And there’s only one way to reach that goal: zero-sum competition, a game in which one winner reigns over multiple losers. These competitors—the Others—loom as adversaries and threats. In this scheme, hierarchy is necessary and equity is impossible.

In contrast, The Story of Better is grounded in community and interdependence, concepts that redefine who and what counts as a character. In The Story of Better, significant actors include not only people, but other species and ecosystems. This blurs the line between character and setting. In this story, the environment is now a cast of co-actors that sustain and contain the human action (including the economy). The understanding that social systems operate within ecological ones sets the foundation for concepts such as carrying capacity and the Ecological Footprint, a topic which itself spans disciplines. Simple exercises in life cycle analysis, such as tracing the back story of an everyday food, can be very effective ways to build this knowledge.

In The Story of More, “success” is defined by the interdependent factors of well-being, ecological health, biodiversity, equity, and more. This holistic aim makes it easy to introduce alternatives to the GDP, such as the Genuine Progress Indicator. Comparing these metrics brings in concepts such as externalities and opens up important conversations in many disciplines. For example, educators who come to understand the folly of the GDP as a hallowed indicator quickly see the parallels to the primacy of test scores. The GPD’s dismissal of environmental and social costs is little different than educational policies that fail to account for a child’s physical, social- and emotional well-being.

As learners contrast the principles of each narrative, they come to understand that Figure 2 is a biophysically accurate representation of sustainability in contrast to Figure 3. (Depending on the audience I’ll also introduce the conventional circular flow economic diagram, with “land” (i.e., the environment) sidelined as a “factor of production.”) Comparing the assumptions embedded in each diagram only reinforces the idea that our thinking is shaped by cultural narratives.

                               Figure 2                                                         Figure 3

Introducing the concepts of More vs. Better beg another question: Can they ever overlap? Exploring this provides an opportunity to re-examine outcomes and indicators through an activity I call More, Better, or Both?  Using a Venn diagram (with the two circled labeled More and Better), I pose scenarios such as these and ask learners where each would fall on the diagram:

a) A local bike-to-work campaign is effective, resulting in fewer cars on the road.

b) The community health clinic receives a large donation and uses the money to hire medical staff and provide care to children who would not otherwise get it.

c) A company with no ties to the region builds a luxury condominium development on a former farm.

Having to wrestle with costs and benefits—and to whom—is one way to ensure that the narratives are not oversimplified. For example, people point out that the increased tax base from the new condos would fall into the better side, depending on what the revenue supported. Others rightfully point out the implications of loss of farmland. The point is not to demonize money or romanticize a world where everything is free (whatever that means) but rather to elevate the things, experiences, and relationships that truly improves our lives, whether or not there’s a price attached.

The conceptions of human nature in the More vs. Better narratives provide rich opportunities for disciplines such as sociology, psychology, and evolutionary biology. For example, homo economicus’ me-first motive is presumed to be an innate human trait that overrides others such as empathy or cooperativeness, core human characteristics in The Story of Better. Whereas the Story of More is all about individualism (a conception of self removed from community), the Story of Better values individuality, the uniqueness of each person. This informs the associated beliefs about diversity. In The Story of More, diversity must be squelched in favor of “efficiency” and uniformity. On the other hand, The Story of Better prizes diversity (biological, linguistic, and cultural) because it is understood that we thrive when we abide with rather than over others. to be essential for thriving. It’s all about interdependence—a condition homo economicus resents and even denies because it entangles him in pesky social and ecological relationships. And it goes deeper: hiomo economicus’ assumed superiority over the environment invites us to examine the cultural and religious roots of anthropocentrism. When applied this to human relationships, the same domination mindset creates social hierarchies that can only be sustained through legitimizing myths such as Social Darwinism. The Story of Better challenges these narratives by exposing, for example, the eugenics and pseudosciences.

Our concepts of human nature also help us understand the concepts of rivalry and excludability as illustrated by Hardin’s infamous article, The Tragedy of the Commons. Is collapse of the field inevitable, or might we avoid it? It all depends on who’s in charge.

On one hand, homo economicus, motivated only by the prospect of another cow, is quick to slam the gate because enclosure and privatization are the only viable options in a winner-take-all mindset. But in The Story of Better, people have the capacity to develop social arrangements that provide equitable access while maintaining the pasture (here, I point people towards the work of Elinor Ostrom, among others). Comparing the More vs. Better responses to the commons’ dilemma enables us to question assumptions about our “natural” self-centeredness and instead cultivate our human capacity for empathy, cooperation, and other pro-social behaviors.  

The concepts of rivalry and excludability also apply to educational policy. In the Story of More, zero-sum competition drives the need for hierarchies—a parallel seen in test-based accountability schemes designed to sort winners from losers in the service of the economy. In contrast, The Story of Better offers the idea of access, interdependence, and diversity as an asset; these are the very ingredients of educational equity. As I tell my students, our educational system has turned knowledge, dignity, and respect for all into rival commodities when in fact there should be no need to ration them. (We contrast this with the obvious physical constraints of rival items such as classroom space.)

Learn more

The examples in this blog illustrate one powerful fact: the field of ecological economics offers essential concepts that are easily integrated into other disciplines. And, while not described here, such integration can improve learning by deepening inquiry and engaging students in solution-oriented projects.

If you would like to learn more about the activities presented or see an example of a transdisciplinary unit of student, please visit the website of Reframing the Curriculum, click on eResource, and download the ZIP file. You’ll find the materials inside.

Image result for susan santone

Susan Santone is an internationally recognized educator with over 20 years of experience in curriculum reform, educational policy, and sustainability. She is a part-time instructor at the University of Michigan School of Education, and the Executive Director of Creative Change Educational Solutions, a non-profit consulting firm serving schools and universities. She is the author of Reframing the Curriculum: Design for Social Justice and Sustainability, as well as articles and book chapters focused countering neoliberal influences education.


Open-rank faculty position: Professor of Environmental Sustainability, Florida International University

The Department of Earth and Environment of Florida International University invites applicants for the open-rank, tenure-track faculty position in Environmental Sustainability. Rank will be determined by experience and accomplishments. Candidates are expected to hold a doctoral degree and conduct research and teaching in sustainability science or studies. We particularly seek individuals conducting transformative, world-class, quantitative, interdisciplinary research at the interface of Human and Natural Systems. The Department of Earth and Environment (https://earthenvironment.fiu.edu/index.html) is composed of a diverse faculty with research interests in environmental, earth, atmospheric, and hydrologic sciences, as well as environmental resource economics, policy, management, and conservation. The Department is committed in our research and teaching to find sustainable solutions to environmental problems.

Environmental Sustainability is a complex field spanning the environmental, social, and economic systems. We seek interdisciplinary scientists with a strong background in any of the following fields: systems ecology, urban systems, water resources, bioenvironmental systems, green technologies, resource economics and policy, and/or regional sustainability planning. The ability to evaluate “apparent sustainability” scenarios and plans through quantitative methods and/or modeling is of interest. Principle responsibilities will include establishment of a strong externally funded research program, development of active collaborations with other faculty, research partners, and members of the community including policy makers and resource managers, and teaching at the graduate and undergraduate levels, especially in our BA in Sustainability Program. Research at FIU is typically coordinated under one of several Institutes and Research Centers, many of which are preeminent programs, (https://beyondpossible.fiu.edu/preeminentprograms/) and including the Institute of Water and Environment (InWE), the Southeast Environmental Research Center (SERC), the Sea Level Solutions Center, the Institute for Resilient and Sustainable Coastal Infrastructure, International Center for Tropical Biology, and Extreme Events Institute.

Qualified candidates are encouraged to apply to Job Opening ID (516092) at https://facultycareers.fiu.edu/and attach a cover letter, a detailed curriculum vitae, statements of research and teaching philosophies as a single pdf file. The CV and cover letters should provide detailed evidence of a record of extramural funding. The successful candidate will be expected to have an extramurally, well-funded, active research program. Candidates will be requested to provide names and contact information for at least three references who will be contacted upon submission of application. To receive full consideration, applications and required materials should be received by November 15, 2018. Review will continue until the position is filled

FIU is a member of the State University System of Florida and an Equal Opportunity, Equal Access Affirmative Action Employer all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or protected veteran status.”

Florida International University is classified by Carnegie as a “R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity” and recognized as a Carnegie Community Engaged university. It is a public research university with colleges and schools that offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs in fields such as business, engineering, computer science, international relations, architecture, law and medicine. As one of South Florida’s anchor institutions, FIU contributes almost $9 billion each year to the local economy and is ranked second in Florida in Forbes Magazine’s “America’s Best Employers” list. FIU graduates are consistently among the highest paid college graduates in Florida and are among the leaders of public and private organizations throughout South Florida. FIU is Worlds Ahead in finding solutions to the most challenging problems of our time. FIU emphasizes research as a major component of its mission with multiple state-of-the-art research facilities including the Wall of Wind Research and Testing Facility, FIU’s Medina Aquarius Program and the Advanced Materials Engineering Research Institute. FIU has awarded more than 220,000 degrees and enrolls more than 54,000 students in two campuses and centers including FIU Downtown on Brickell, FIU@I-75, the Miami Beach Urban Studios, and Tianjin, China. FIU also supports artistic and cultural engagement through its three museums: Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, the WolfsonianFIU, and the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU. FIU is a member of Conference USA and more than 400 student-athletes participating in 18 sports. For more information about FIU, visit http://www.fiu.edu/.

Economics for the Anthropocene (E4A) Graduate Student Research Symposium

Dear colleagues,

Please join me for an Economics for the Anthropocene (E4A) Graduate Student Research Symposium this Saturday, October 13, from 9 am to 2 pm eastern standard time.  Our symposium is an outgrowth of the E4A partnership supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, McGill University, York University, the University of Vermont, and over 20 institutional partners and 80 individual collaborators from around the world.  Presentation topics are summarized in the attached symposium agenda, including research on the energy-economy interface, human values in human-Earth bonds, food systems transitions, resilience in watershed communities, and socio-economic reform of economic institutions.

The symposium will be broadcast live via Zoom at: https://zoom.us/j/781591328.  Short, high-level presentations will be organized into five one-hour sessions, and you can come and go at your leisure.  Written questions can be addressed to our presenters via an online chat window throughout each session.

Thank you for your interest in our work, and we hope to see you virtually this Saturday.

-Jon Erickson

Associate Professor of Economics: University of Massachusetts Amherst

The Economics Department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst invites applications for a tenure-system appointment at the level of Associate Professor. Fields are open. We particularly encourage candidates specializing in the Political Economy of Environment, Economics of Sustainability, Environmental Justice, and Environmental Movements to apply.
Applicants may be considered for more than one position in the Department. Under exceptional circumstances, candidates at other ranks may receive consideration. Economics faculty members at UMass Amherst work in diverse areas, including the political economy of class, gender, race, environment, and economic development, as well as microeconomics and macroeconomics, from both heterodox and mainstream approaches.

Requirements: A completed Ph.D. in Economics or a related field or comparable training and experience is required. Candidates will be judged on their scholarly research as well as teaching. Rank and salary will be commensurate with qualifications and experience.

Additional Information: The University of Massachusetts Amherst is one of the major public research universities in the U.S. The university is a member of the Five College consortium along with Amherst, Smith, Hampshire, and Mount Holyoke Colleges. 
The university is committed to active recruitment of a diverse faculty and student body. The University of Massachusetts Amherst is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer of women, minorities, protected veterans, and individuals with disabilities and encourages applications from these and other protected group members. Because broad diversity is essential to an inclusive climate and critical to the University’s goals of achieving excellence in all areas, we will holistically assess the many qualifications of each applicant and favorably consider an individual’s record working with students and colleagues with broadly diverse perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds in educational, research or other work activities. We will also favorably consider experience overcoming or helping others overcome barriers to an academic degree and career.

Application Instructions:To apply please submit a cover letter, CV, contact information for three references, a recent research paper, and, if possible, evidence of teaching effectiveness at http://careers.massachusetts.edu/cw/en-us/job/495124?lApplicationSubSourceID=11182.
Review of applications will begin on November 1, 2018, and continue until the position is filled. Candidates may interview at the ASSA meeting (January 2019) and are encouraged to use AEA signaling.

More about the Faculty Hiring Initiative: https://www.umass.edu/economics/faculty-hiring-initiative

Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Position: Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA

The Environmental Studies Program at Washington and Lee University invites applications for a tenure-track position at the assistant professor level beginning 1 July 2019. 

We seek to hire an individual with interdisciplinary background in environmental studies who can complement our program’s current strengths in natural and social sciences.  Areas of study are open but we are particularly interested in candidates from the environmental humanities.  We anticipate that a candidate will have a disciplinary strength, but likewise that her/his scholarship will be interdisciplinary.  In addition to courses in her/his area of expertise, the new hire will be expected to teach Introduction to Environmental Studies, a 200-level course in Environmental Humanities, and contribute to the co-taught capstone research course in the major/minor curriculum.  The ideal candidate will be a dynamic, creative teacher-scholar committed to high-quality undergraduate education and student-faculty research.

Qualifications: Terminal degree in field is required (PhD preferred) with relevant graduate coursework, and teaching experience desired.

To apply, visit apply.interfolio.com/51887

When applying to this position online, please submit supporting materials – a letter of application, C.V., copies of graduate transcripts, contact information for three letters of recommendation, and evidence of teaching excellence if available.  Completed applications will be accepted until 15 October 2018.

Master Student Opportunity in Ecosystem Services Valuation or Social-Ecological Modeling – UMass Boston

Dr. Mavrommati at the School for the Environment, University of Massachusetts Boston seeks an applicant for a 2-year master or Ph.D. position, starting September 2019.

Potential research topics might include the use of deliberative multicriteria analysis in assessing ecosystem service tradeoffs and social-ecological systems modeling.

The ideal applicant must have an interdisciplinary background that includes a good understanding of environmental and social sciences, excellent oral and written communication skills, and a strong interest in working across disciplines.

Applicants must meet the minimum criteria for admittance into the School for the Environment Graduate programs.

Interested students are encouraged to contact Dr. Mavrommati (Georgia.mavrommati@umb.edu) to discuss their interests and motivation before applying and include in their email a CV and a description of their research interests.

Potential graduate students will be directed to apply to the University of Massachusetts, Boston Graduate Admission program https://www.umb.edu/admissions/grad/apply). The application deadline is December 15, 2018.

Transforming the Economy for a Just and Sustainable World