The 7th biennial conference of the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics started on Sunday, June 9 with an opening reception and a welcome from Valerie A. Luzadis, USSEE President; Taylor Ricketts, Director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics; Jon Erickson and Brian Kelly, co-chairs of the conference committee; and Senator Ginny Lyons, of the Chittenden senate district of Vermont.
The conference program kicked off on June 10 with a plenary panel session entitled “Money-Energy-Economy Nexus: Past, Present, and Future,” featuring Cutler Cleveland (Boston University), Carey King (Jackson School of Geosciences), and Nate Hagens (Institute for Integrated Economic Research). Jon Erickson moderated the session, which began with a brief history of the energy-economy nexus that provided the foundation for the development of ecological economics and biophysical economics as interdisciplinary fields of inquiry. Dr. Cleveland discussed the works of 20th-century scholars from the physical and social sciences who contributed to this foundation, including English chemist Frederick Soddy (1877-1956), US mathematician and chemist Alfred J. Lotka (1880-1949), sociologist W. Fred Cottrell (1903-1979), geoscientist M. King Hubbert (1903-1989), energy economist Sam H. Schurr (1918-2001), economist Kenneth E. Boulding (1910-1993), ecologist Howard Odum (1924-2002), mathematician and economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (1906-1994), physicist and economist Robert U. Ayres, economist Herman E. Daly, agricultural economist David Pimentel, and several prominent ecological economists such as Robert Herendeen, Charles A. S. Hall, Robert Costanza, and Joan Martinez-Alier. He drew from the work of these and other scholars to conclude that energy drives economic growth, net energy is the ultimate constraint, and the struggle for energy causes violent conflict.
Dr. King presented data that depicted declining agricultural employment and declining personal consumption of food and energy services over time, and raised several compelling questions about the trajectory of energy consumption in the future. Dr. Hagens reminded the audience that energy underpins all economic activities, and that costly energy is likely to strain economic growth. Compounding this problem for the last fifty years is the fact that growth in debt has exceeded the growth in gross domestic product.
Cutler Cleveland is Professor of Earth and Environment at Boston University, where he is also on the faculty of the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies. He is also a Senior Fellow at the National Council for Science and the Environment in Washington, DC. Carey King is a Research Associate at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the Jackson School of Geosciences at University of Texas-Austin. Nate Hagens is a well-known authority on global resource depletion and a Board member of the Institute for Integrated Economic Research and the Post-Carbon Institute. Until recently he was lead editor of The Oil Drum, a popular blog discussing global energy supplies and energy decline.