The Department of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of New Hampshire invites applications for a full-time (.88 FTE – academic-year, 9-month), benefits-eligible, three-year (renewable), non-tenure-track Lecturer position to begin fall term August 2019. UNH Lecturer Faculty are represented by the AAUP through a collective bargaining agreement. UNH is committed to social justice and actively creates an educational environment that fosters diversity, inclusion, and quality engagement for all.
We seek a skilled and passionate teacher and mentor to offer undergraduate courses and support the vibrant Environmental Conservation and Sustainability (ECS) Program. This lecturer will be primarily responsible for undergraduate teaching in ECS, and will also engage in on-campus and/or off-campus service responsibilities, including academic advising of undergraduates in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. The initial course load will include Principles of Sustainability, Sustainable Living – Global Perspectives, and Systems Thinking for Sustainable Solutions. Continued employment beyond the initial three-year appointment is contingent on satisfactory performance and program needs.
The University of New Hampshire is an R1 research institution that provides high-quality undergraduate and graduate programs of distinction. Located on a 188-acre campus in Durham, UNH (https://www.unh.edu/main/about-unh) thrives in a dynamic and beautiful part of New England. Approximately one hour from both Boston and Portland, Durham is also conveniently close to the Atlantic Ocean, the White Mountains, and New Hampshire’s Lake Region.
The UNH Department of Natural Resources comprises six academic programs, including ECS, and offers six majors and more than ten minors. The Environmental Conservation and Sustainability Program makes up approximately 130 of the 439 undergraduates in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (https://colsa.unh.edu/natural-resources-environment/program/bs/environmental-conservation-sustainability-major). Questions regarding this position can be directed to Clay Mitchell, Chair of the Search Committee (Clayton.Mitchell@unh.edu).
Minimum qualifications include a Ph.D. in natural resources, environmental studies, or a related field, and prior post-secondary teaching experience with demonstrated potential for excellence in teaching. Proficiency with current academic technology is highly desirable.
Application Procedures and Deadline
The application can be completed at https://jobs.usnh.edu/, and includes a cover letter, CV/resume, Statement of Teaching Philosophy, student evaluations of prior teaching, and names and contact information of three references. Applicants may also submit optional scholarly documents in support of their application. Letters of reference will be required before initial interviews. Review of applications will begin on March 29, 2019, and the position will remain open until filled.
The University of New Hampshire is an Equal Opportunity/Equal Access/Affirmative Action institution. The University seeks excellence through diversity among its administrators, faculty, staff, and students. The university prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, veteran status, or marital status. Successful applicants will be able to demonstrate a commitment to diversity and inclusive excellence. Application by members of all underrepresented groups is encouraged.
The United States Society for Ecological Economics (USSEE) will organize sessions in ecological economics at the 89th annual meeting of the Southern Economic Association (SEA), to be held in Fort Lauderdale, FL at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa, November 23-25, 2019 (Saturday to Monday) (www.southerneconomic.org/conference/). We are seeking 8 to 12 papers to organize two to three USSEE@SEA sessions in ecological economics. Proposals for full sessions as well as individual presentations will be considered. Please send the abstracts or complete sessions to Robert Richardson (email@example.com) by April 10, 2019, and we will organize the USSEE sessions and submit directly to the SEA. Please list all authors and full contact information for each author on the abstract page.
Feel free to contact Robert Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
The USSEE Board of Directors is soliciting nominees for two awards (the Herman Daly Award and Bernardo Aguilar Award) to be given in conjunction with the 2019 ESA & USSEE Joint Meeting, to be held August 11th-16th in Louisville, Kentucky.
The deadline for nominations is May 1st. Details on award criteria and submissions are below:
- The Herman Daly Award, was established in 2003 in honor of one of the visionaries and founders of ecological economics, Herman Daly. The award is designed to recognize outstanding contributions to the field, and acknowledges individuals who have connected ecological economic thinking to practical applications and solutions that are sustainable in scale, equitable in distribution, and efficient in allocation. The award criteria include the following:
- made visionary contributions to the field of ecological economics
- connected ecological economic thinking to practical applications
- created conceptual frameworks and practical solutions to sustainability challenges
- identified policies and processes that advance social and environmental sustainability
- advanced the recognition of scale as an essential part of sustainability
- advanced distributive justice and social consciousness as an essential part of sustainability
- contributed to conservation and the just allocation of resources
A list of past Daly Award winners can be found at
Please send nominations to email@example.com by May 1st. Nominations should include the name, affiliation and contact information of your nominee, and a brief statement describing the nominee’s qualifications for the Herman Daly Award. The Board will review all nominations and select the recipient.
- The Bernardo Aguilar Award, was established in 2007 and is given to a person nominated and selected by students. The award was created to recognize a professional who has inspired students through teaching, research, ideas, and/or mentoring in ecological economics.
Please circulate to students! Students can submit nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 1st. Nominations should include the name, affiliation and contact information of your nominee, and a brief statement describing the nominee’s qualifications for the Bernardo Aguilar Award. The Board will compile the nominations and call for a student vote to select the award winner.
Wednesday February 27th, 1pm EST.
Gross Domestic Welfare: Comprehensively Measuring Income, with pilot accounts for the U.S. and California.
Presented by Eli Lazarus, PhD student, UC Berkeley Energy and Resources Group
In order to better understand, track and optimize welfare, we need assessments of comprehensive welfare. Various initiatives attempt this; from GDP and other standard national accounts, to the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), metrics like the U.N. Development Program’s Human Development Index, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Sustainable Development Goals, and Bhutan’s Gross Happiness Index. Gross Domestic Welfare (GDW) attempts to fill a gap in this research and these projects. GDW builds from the Genuine Progress Indicator, and from efforts to assess the full welfare contribution of ecosystem services and other non-market elements such as leisure. Elements that contribute to human welfare are incorporated as comprehensively as possible, valued in currency terms as a common unit, with shadow prices from valuation research where necessary. GDW differs from GPI in removing: historical and regional benchmarks; the boundary of impacts of the industrial economy; and a ‘standard’ and limited set of elements.
Initial pilot accounts are being built assessing California and the United States over the period 1995 to 2016. I will present these initial results, comparing them to GSP/GDP, and GPI accounts for CA and the US recently completed for the same period. I will present the framework, theory, and methods of Gross Domestic Welfare, and look forward to a robust discussion, including limitations, challenges, and priority steps forward.
To Register, email email@example.com, or visit Evenetbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ussee-webinar-gross-domestic-welfare-comprehensively-measuring-income-tickets-55840319900
University of Georgia: Odum School of Ecology
The Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia invites applications for one Lecturer (non-tenure track) with a focus in coupled human-environment systems and data literacy. We seek a discipline-bridging scholar who will play a fundamental role in training students to understand, analyze, and visualize information, including geospatial information, using a variety of data sources from natural sciences and one or more complementary perspectives. Potential areas of emphasis include ecosystem services, sustainability science, food energy or water systems, and interdisciplinary perspectives on global change; from ecological and complementary perspectives such as economics, engineering, or quantitative and qualitative social sciences.
The ideal candidate will bring new skills and theoretical perspectives to the Odum School, and will demonstrate a passion for undergraduate education and building programmatic excellence in data literacy training. We seek candidates with an aptitude for mentoring students interested in traditional ecological science careers (through the B.S. degree program) or careers focused in translation or integration of ecological science with policy, management, communications, or other disciplines (via the A.B. degree program). An interest in leading service learning classes would also be valued. The Odum School is dedicated to supporting and enhancing diversity and inclusiveness, and strongly encourages applications from candidates who will enrich that mission.
We especially encourage applications from candidates who have:
Expertise in coupled human-environment systems
Expertise in discipline-spanning scholarship
Expertise in data analysis and visualization
Expertise in geospatial information
Aptitude for undergraduate instruction and mentorship
Aptitude for providing data literacy training
Commitment to enhancing diversity and inclusivity
The position is a 12-month full-time appointment. Responsibilities are primarily instructional, with opportunity for research. The position offers diverse instructional opportunities including lecture, lab, and field courses, and directed undergraduate study and research. In addition to developing a spatial data course and other potential courses in their area of expertise, the scholar will contribute to current course offerings through instruction and by developing new data literacy and visualization components. The scholar will also contribute to undergraduate mentoring and research supervision as part of their responsibilities.
To apply, candidates must have a PhD in ecology or relevant field. To receive full consideration applications should be received by 27 February, 2019.
To apply for the position, candidates should electronically submit the following materials http://www.ugajobsearch.com/postings/59673:
1) Cover letter, including research interests and suitability for the position.
2) Curriculum vitae.
3) 2-page Teaching statement, including vision for enhancing data literacy.
4) 1-page Diversity statement, explaining experience, professional skills, and vision that would enhance diversity and inclusivity (using Other Documents#1).
5) Contact information for three professional referees who may submit letters of recommendation
Official transcripts will be requested from finalists. Questions regarding the position can be directed to search committee chair, Dr. Elizabeth King, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University of Georgia is located in Athens, Georgia. Georgia is well known for its quality of life with both outdoor and urban activities (www.georgia.gov). UGA (www.uga.edu) is a land grant/sea grant institution located approximately 60 miles northeast of Atlanta. It is within an hour driving distance from the North Georgia Mountains and four hours from the Atlantic coast. Athens enjoys a mild climate and yet still sees the benefits of the changing seasons. It is well known for its vibrant and evolving music scene, serving as the hometown of bands such as R.E.M., the B-52’s, Widespread Panic, the Drive-By Truckers, of Montreal, and Futurebirds.
The University of Georgia is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, ethnicity, age, genetic information, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation or protected veteran status. Persons needing accommodations or assistance with the accessibility of materials related to this search are encouraged to contact Central HR (email@example.com). Please do not contact the department or search committee with such requests.
Presented by Dr. Elizabeth G King
Wednesday December 5th, 1pm EST
The concept of ecosystem services has become a cornerstone in dialogues and policymaking in conservation, natural resource management, and sustainable development. Most methods for ascribing values to the benefits provided by ecosystems are based on a conceptual “flow model” in which natural capital yields services, which in turn yield valued benefits to people. However, in sectors such as rural development and urban planning, there are increasingly vocal criticisms of outcomes that arise when decisions based on optimizing ecosystem services are put in to practice. In this talk, I will examine two limitations of mainstream conceptualizations of ecosystem service flows, and some methodological tools and cutting edge research from other disciplines that can help overcome those limitations. The first limitation is a failure to account for the range of capabilities that people need in order to co-create ecosystem services, and the second is a failure to formally consider how the benefits and values are distributed among members and segments of society. Principles from Sustainable Livelihood Analysis and the nascent field of adaptation studies can complement ecosystem service analyses and valuations to give more holistic and realistic understandings of ecosystem service flows and who benefits from them.
Prize to celebrate best writing on planet’s environmental limits
The Gund Institute for Environment at the University of Vermont is pleased to announce the creation of the Eric Zencey Prize in Ecological Economics to celebrate the best writing on the environmental limits of our finite planet.
The prize is supported by a growing endowment, established with generous contributions by family, friends and colleagues of Zencey, a pioneering scholar in ecological economics, a field that explores the relationships between economics and our planet’s limited natural resources.
[Friends and colleagues seeking to support the Eric Zencey Prize can make donations and pledges online.]
“My sincere hope is that this Prize will help nudge our civilization onto a better path—one that arrives purposefully at an ecologically sustainable relationship between society and nature,” says Eric Zencey. “It’s important to me that the ideas we foster here in the Academy get to work in the world. I hope this prize will inspire future generations of environmental writers and ecological economists to communicate real-world solutions beyond ‘the Ivory Tower.’”
Valued at $4,000 USD, the Eric Zencey Prize will be awarded every two years to the best English-language current affairs book or work of long-form journalism that advances public understanding of ecological economics’ principles by using them as an explanatory lens on current affairs. The Gund Institute and the United States Society for Ecological Economics (USSEE) will partner to solicit nominations and select the inaugural recipient by 2020.
“This is an excellent legacy for Eric, and an important new prize for the field of Ecological Economics,” says Taylor Ricketts, Director, Gund Institute for Environment. “We thank the Zencey family for their vision and generosity.”
Born in Delaware, and holding a PhD in political philosophy and the history of science, Zencey is a writer, teacher, and public intellectual. At the University of Vermont and Washington University of St. Louis, Zencey has worked to bring ecological economics outside the academy to understand and address the political, economic, social, and environmental challenges facing society.
Zencey is author of four books, including The Other Road to Serfdom and the Path to Sustainable Democracy and (with Elizabeth Courtney) Greening Vermont: Towards a Sustainable State. His first book was the internationally best-selling novel and New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Panama. His writing has appeared in media outlets ranging from The New York Times and Chronicle of Higher Education to Adbusters. He has been a featured contributor to The Daly News, which honors the work of steady-state economist Herman Daly. Zencey has received Fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller-Bellagio Foundation and the Bogliasco Foundation.
In Vermont and Missouri, Zencey has been a pioneer in the compilation of and advocacy for the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), a more comprehensive measure of economic, social and environmental health than GDP. His efforts led to Vermont becoming one of the first states in the nation to adopt GPI measurement.
Zencey’s affiliations at UVM include the Gund Institute, the Political Science Dept., the Honors College, the Center for Research on Vermont, and the Center for Rural Studies. At Washington University, his appointments include teaching and research positions in the College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the Sam Fox School for Design and Visual Art.
ABOUT THE GUND INSTITUTE
The Gund Institute for Environment catalyzes environmental research, develops real-world solutions to global issues, and connects with leaders in government, business and beyond. Based at the University of Vermont, the Institute has 150 faculty, global affiliates, graduate students and post-docs who focus on environmental issues at the interface of four pressing themes: climate solutions, health and well-being, sustainable agriculture, and resilient communities.
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.
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.
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.)
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.