USSEE Board Presents an Ecological Economics Agenda for Inquiry

The USSEE Board of Directors has developed an “Ecological Economics Agenda for Inquiry,” the result of brainstorming and scenario planning processes undertaken by the Board between April and June, 2013, with a goal to revisit the role of ecological economics as a discipline and specifically the role of the US Society for Ecological Economics (USSEE) in addressing contemporary ecological, social and economic challenges at various scales. The Agenda is intended to set the stage for further dialogue, research and action, and it is created to broaden the scope of the society to foster greater engagement by stakeholders beyond academics. The Board hopes that this agenda will create a more welcoming space for scholars and practitioners from public, private and non-profit entities to come together in building a more just and sustainable human presence on earth. The Agenda will be presented and discussed at the upcoming 7th biennial conference, and your contributions to the dialogue are invited.

US Society for Ecological Economics: Transforming the Economy for a Just and Sustainable World

An Ecological Economics Agenda for Inquiry

May 2013


This Agenda for Inquiry is the result of brainstorming and scenario planning processes undertaken by USSEE Board of Directors throughout the spring of 2013 and presents a clear direction for further dialogue, research and action. The Agenda has been approved through May 2015 at which time the USSEE Board of Directors will review and revise as needed. The development of this Agenda marks an important step for the USSEE, focusing attention on the economy and the needed transformation to move toward a just and ecologically sustainable society. Current debate among ecological economists and practitioners includes the need to focus more attention to the biophysical foundations of our economic life and to develop new approaches to live within these limits.

Beyond critiquing the likely causes of unjust and unsustainable ways of life, we must articulate the future we desire. The intent of setting this Agenda is to stimulate discussions about which current directions for inquiry and practice are most promising and which we should leave behind and when. The issue of valuation of ecosystem services is a challenging debate exemplary of this very effort. By focusing attention to these important questions, we will generate new conceptions–new imaginings of how we can organize ourselves to sustain life and enhance its quality within biophysical limits.


The current economic system is not able to provide for a just and sustainable future in which both human life and nonhuman life can flourish. Therefore, the focus of the US Society for Ecological Economics is on developing new approaches to understanding our economy and its dependence on the biophysical systems that govern life on Earth. We welcome citizens, practitioners, scholars and artists who would like to work with us to create, debate and promote new paradigms, tools, and messages that will facilitate progress towards justice and sustainability in our communities, our nation, and the world.

Focal Questions

  1. What is the role of markets in a just and sustainable society?
  2. What changes are needed in our economic system to allow us to resolve the problem of unemployment while staying within biophysical limits?
  3. What changes are needed in our economic system to allow us to resolve the problems of poverty within biophysical limits?
  4. How do we learn about biophysical limits before we cross them? How do we adapt our human systems to operate within biophysical limits, given inherent uncertainty and the emergence of novelty?
  5. How do we understand our place in a just and ecologically sustainable society? With over 7 billion people and ecological decay how do we envision a path to a healthy human ecology (at multiple scales including psychologically, sociologically, spiritually, institutionally, locally, nationally, and globally)? And what approaches, tools and messages are needed at each scale?
  6. What is the relationship between local movements and foundational change? What is the difference between reform and revolution? National and global change?