All posts by Jon Erickson

Anthropocene to the Ecozoic webinar this Wednesday, 12 noon EDT

This Wednesday, March 25th at 12 noon EDT is the next webinar in the series “From the Anthropocene to the Ecozoic”.  The last Wednesday of every month we’ll be highlighting the work of graduate students, faculty, and collaborators in the Economics for the Anthropocene (E4A) and Leadership for the Ecozoic (L4E) graduate research and training partnerships. 

The term “Anthropocene” is used by geologists to distinguish our current reality of a human-dominated geological epoch.  The “Ecozoic” is an aspirational term coined by the eco-theologian Thomas Berry as a call for a new era of mutually beneficial relations between humans and all of life.  In this monthly series we’ll discuss the research and action that could inspire, enable, and co-create a flourishing Earth community. 

This week’s talks highlight food systems research, including:

  • “Food that’s Not for Sale” by Sam Bliss, UVM Rubenstein School Ph.D. and E4A student;
  • “Regenerative Agriculture: Research Updates from a Champlain Valley Farm” by Dr. Juan Alvez, UVM Extension Faculty; and
  • “Wellington Hall Academy: Elementary Agriculture and Mindful Making” by Dr. Katie Kish, E4A McGill University post-doctoral associate

Webinars are livecast via Zoom at  Talks are designed to be short research overviews with ideas on actionable outcomes.  Recordings will be posted at the A2E YouTube Playlist for further sharing and discussing. 

We hope to see you virtually this Wednesday at 12 noon EDT.
Jon Erickson

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:  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

New Program “Economics for the Anthropocene” Recruiting PhD Students

The Gund Institute at the University of Vermont (UVM), McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, and York University in Toronto, Ontario seek up to nine PhD students to join a new international research initiative, “Economics for the Anthropocene” in Fall 2014.   This first cohort of students will focus broadly on applying approaches based on ecological economics to water security and watershed management issues.  The Lake Champlain Basin and lower St. Lawrence watershed provide an ideal model for this theme, but students will have considerable latitude and assistance in developing the direction of their work. In addition to the initial focus on transboundary water management, the full scope of research will include work on applying ecological economics theory and methods to regional energy management and climate justice.

BACKGROUND: McGill University, York University, UVM, and 25 other partners will launch the Economics for the Anthropocene in 2014. The partnership will (1) Create a vibrant international research network in ecological economics; (2) Train future leaders capable of analyzing and managing the unique challenges of the Anthropocene; (3) Actively link academic and non-academic partners in solving transnational problems that exemplify these new challenges; and (4) Integrate the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities to improve education, train new leaders, and enhance life’s prospects in the Anthropocene.

The partnership will train up to 60 graduate students in three cohorts over six years. Students will enroll at any of the three universities, and cohorts will take core courses together through web-enabled classrooms that link our campuses. Joint field courses will engage non-academic partners in providing hands-on experience in transdisciplinary problems and their ecological, social, and economic dimensions.  The partnership consists of 25 academic and non-academic partners and 60 collaborators who will help guide research questions, mentor students, provide internship opportunities and serve on graduate committees.  Through this network students will work on policy-relevant research grounded in solving real-world issues. This will include extending core ideas of ecological economics to finance, law, governance, ethics and philosophy.  The partnership will focus on three daunting regional challenges: water security, energy resources, and climate justice.

***********PENDING FUNDING***********

OFFER: The PhD students at UVM, McGill, and York will receive a generous 12-month research stipend.  The majority of tuition for this program will be covered via scholarships and teaching assistantships. Travel and research funds are also available. Funding (once approved) is guaranteed for three years. The partnership has applied for a grant for this program that will be announced in late April 2014.  If the grant is not awarded, funding cannot be guaranteed.

QUALIFICATIONS: Master’s degree preferred, but all highly qualified candidates will be considered.  Students must have a strong interest in ecological economics, sustainability science, transdisciplinary research, and practical application of scholarship.

APPLICATION: Interested students should contact one of the following:

McGill University:

Peter Brown:
Nicolas Kosoy:

Applicants must apply to the Department of Natural Resource Sciences by February 15.

University of Vermont:

Jon Erickson:
Joshua Farley:
Taylor Ricketts:
Asim Zia: (on Sabbatical FY 14)

Applicants must apply to the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources PhD program at UVM by February 1st and meet all of the admissions requirements.

York University:

Peter Victor:
Ellie Perkins:
Christina Hoicka:
Graduate admissions: Gwen Gringhuis:

Applicants must apply to the Faculty of Environmental Studies PhD program by January 8, or the Masters in Environmental Studies (MES) program by February 5 (international applicants) or March 12 (Canadian applicants), and must meet all of the admissions requirements.

Applications from women and people from diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds are encouraged.

Call for USSEE Board nominations

We invite you to propose candidate(s) for the Board of the US Society for Ecological Economics. The election will be held in September and we are seeking nominations. You are welcome to self-nominate.

Nominations are for the following positions:

  • President
  • Secretary/Treasurer
  • Board at Large (4 members)
  • Student Board Member

Term of Office: January, 2013 to December, 2014

Proposals are also sought for the next USSEE Biennial Conference (2013); an application outline is available for anyone wishing to make a proposal. Possible locations so far include Vermont and Colorado.

Your input will be very much appreciated.

Call for Papers for next issue of Reviews in Ecological Economics

After two years of co-sponsoring the publication of Ecological Economics Reviews (EER) as a special issue of the ‘Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences’, the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics is pleased to announce a move to Springer and a slightly different name: Reviews in Ecological Economics (REE). We are confident that this move will strengthen the new REE and increase our exposure and recognition.

As an editorial board member of REE, I would like to invite you to contribute an article to the upcoming issue.  Deadline for the contributions is November 1st.  Author guidelines can be found at

The mission of REE is to provide authoritative reviews of key topics in Ecological Economics. REE will be published once per year, with most contributions invited and peer reviewed.

For any questions, please email the REE managing editor, Ida Kubiszewski (

Jon D. Erickson
President, U.S. Society for Ecological Economics

13th Annual E.F. Schumacher Lectures

Neva Rockefeller Goodwin is probably best known for her leadership of shareholder action at ExxonMobil, intended to help the company, sooner rather than later, to anticipate and take leadership in ushering in a post-carbon economy. But on October 28th visitors to Britain’s House of Commons could have heard Dr. Goodwin, an economist and Co-Chair of the Global Development And Environment Institute at Tufts University, addressing an All-Party Parliamentary Group on the need for new kinds of economic thinking to meet our current environmental and social challenges.

Her remarks on this occasion were based on her paper: “A New Economics for the Twenty-first Century“. The other speakers were Peter Victor, Professor in Environmental Studies at York University, Canada, and a board member of the New Economics Institute, and Charles Seaford, Head of the Centre for Well-being at the New Economics Foundation and a coordinator of the Parliamentary Group on Economics of Wellbeing. Seaford spoke of the importance of changing policy goals from maximizing GDP to maximizing well-being. Dr. Victor described his model for how the Canadian economy can move from its present path to one of low or no growth, while still increasing well-being, as described in his book, “Managing Without Growth: Slower by Design not Disaster“. However, to comprehend and support such policy changes a new economic theory needs to be developed and made accessible to governments and their citizens. Neva Goodwin outlined aspects of that alternative economic theory.

Kelvin Hopkins, a Labour Member of Parliament commented after the session that he wished it could have been heard by all of the 659 Members. He urged the speakers to continue to build the case for a new economics. The trip to London was part of a five person delegation from the New Economics Institute to a conference on “Modeling the Great Transition,” hosted by partners at the New Economics Foundation. It is a bold project. We all know parts of the new economy, whether the words we use to describe it are “sustainable”, “just”, “transparent”, or “secure”; or perhaps “local empowerment”,”global caring”, “well-being”, or “community”. But how do all of these fit together, and how will we get from our current economic condition to the one we imagine?

These were the questions that were addressed at the conference and that will be further addressed by speakers at the Thirtieth Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures on November 20 in New York City. “Voices of a New Economics” will feature Gus Speth, dean of the environmental movement and author of “The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability”; Stewart Wallis, Executive Director of London’s prestigious New Economics Foundation; and Neva Goodwin, whose development of forward-looking principles of economics is based on understanding and concern for the social and ecological contexts in which the economy is embedded.

Please join us on November 20 for the Thirtieth Annual Schumacher Lectures to continue the work of shaping an economy designed to support human well-being and restore our common eco-system. The location is Community Church at 40 East 35th Street in New York City. The program begins at 10AM and continues to 5PM. Tickets are $65 each and may be ordered through the New York Open Center, or by calling 212 219-2527 x 2.

The following groups are adding their voices to the discussion by co-sponsoring the lectures: American Sustainable Business Council, BALLE, BerkShares, Capital Institute, Confluence Philanthropy, Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy, David Suzuki Foundation, Friends of the Earth, Garrison Institute, Global Development And Environment Institute, Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, Kosmos Journal, The Land Institute, New Economy Network, Ocean Arks International, Other Worlds, Tikkun, Westport Village Green Initiative, and Your Olive Branch.

Susan Witt and Stephan Crown-Weber
Berkshire Office and Library
New Economics Institute
140 Jug End Road
Great Barrington, MA 01230

Board of Directors: Gar Alperovitz, Jessica Brackman, Eric Harris-Braun,John Fullerton, Neva Goodwin, Hildegarde Hannum, Dan Levinson, Richard Norgaard, David Orr, Will Raap, Gus Speth, Peter Victor, and Stewart Wallis.

Advisory Board: Peter Barnes, Merrian Fuller, Bill McKibben, Otto Scharmer, Doug Tompkins, and Robert Wade.


The New Economics Institute (formerly the E. F. Schumacher Society) is a 501(c)(3) organization. Donations supporting its work are tax-deductible (

NCSE Panel on “Building Undergraduate and Graduate Programs in Ecological Economics”

The January 20-22, 2010 annual meeting of the National Council for Science and the Environment hosted a panel discussion on “Building Undergraduate and Graduate Programs in Ecological Economics”.  The panel was organized by Rob Dietz, Executive Director of the Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy, and included the following discussants:

  • Brian Czech, Visiting Professor of Ecological Economics, Virginia Tech University
  • Jon Erickson, Professor and Managing Director, Gund Institute of Ecological Economics, University of Vermont
  • Chris Stratton, Course Developer and Instructor of Ecological Economics, University of Oregon
  • Kevin Horan, Course Developer and Instructor of Ecological Economics, University of Oregon

The field of ecological economics provides the foundational model for the transition to a new green economy – an economy characterized by sustainable scale, fair distribution of wealth, and efficient allocation of resources.  The International Society for Ecological Economics and its regional offshoots provide an academic hub for ecological economists who have been building the case for a transition to a different sort of economy for several decades.  Even with such a solid foundation, very few university programs are providing a curriculum in ecological economics (notable exceptions in the U.S. include the University of Vermont, University of Maryland, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and California State University at Stanislaus).  Training a new generation of students in ecological economics is a necessary component of the transition to a green economy, and universities can benefit from the experiences of programs that have already been developed.

The purpose of the workshop was to explain how to build undergraduate and graduate programs in ecological economics.  Workshop participants explored two basic models for building such programs:  (1) constructing a full-scale ecological economics program with several degree options, and (2) developing a collaborative program within a department of natural or social science.  Discussants and participants addressed program elements, course content, successes in program development, and pitfalls to avoid.

Elinor Ostrom breaks Nobel mould

The economics profession needs to be shaken up. Ostrom’s Nobel prize should encourage us to take a fresh approach

Kevin Gallagher,
Tuesday 13 October 2009 17.00 BST

The economics profession is in such disarray that one of the Nobel prizes in economics this year went to political scientist Elinor Ostrom – the first woman to be awarded the economics prize. This is an excellent choice (in any year) not only because of what Ostrom has contributed to social theory but also because of how she goes about her work.

In a nutshell, Ostrom won the Nobel prize for showing that privatising natural resources is not the route to halting environmental degradation.

In most economics classes the environment is usually taught as being the victim of the “tragedy of the commons”. If one assumes, like many economists do, that individuals are ruthlessly selfish individuals, and you put those individuals onto a commonly owned resource, the resource will eventually be destroyed. The solution: privatise the commons. Everyone will have ownership of small parcels and treat that parcel better than when they shared it.

Many environmental experts also reject the tragedy of the commons argument and say the government should step in.

Ostrom says the government may not be the best allocator of public resources either. Often governments are seen as illegitimate, or their rules cannot be enforced. Indeed, Ostrom’s life work looking at forests, lakes, groundwater basins and fisheries shows that the commons can be an opportunity for communities themselves to manage a resource.

In her classic work Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, Ostrom shows that under certain conditions, when communities are given the right to self-organise they can democratically govern themselves to preserve the environment.

At the policy level, Ostrom’s findings give credence to the many indigenous and peasant movements across the developing world where people are trying to govern the land they have managed for centuries but run into conflict with governments and global corporations. Some economists on the frontier of their discipline have started to use Ostrom’s insights in their work. In their recent book Reclaiming Nature: Environmental Justice and Ecological Restoration, James Boyce, Liz Stanton and Sunita Narain, show how communities in Brazil, India, West Africa and even in the United States have managed their resources in a sustainable manner when given their rightful access to their assets.

Indeed, Boyce and his collaborators find that communities should be paid for their services, since they can sometimes do a far better job than government or corporations at managing resources. Indeed, “payment for environmental services” has become a buzzword in development circles. Now even the World Bank has a fund for PES schemes across the world.

In terms of methodology, Ostrom proves her findings three times over. As opposed to many economists who never leave the blackboard, Ostrom often conducts satellite analyses of resource depletion to measure amounts of degradation. Second, she actually goes out into the field and performs case studies of human and ecological behaviour all across the world. However, she doesn’t stop there. When she gets back from her fieldwork she conducts behavioural experiments to see if random subjects replicate her findings in the field.

The Nobel committee should be applauded for recognising such rigorous theoretical and empirical work. Shining light on Ostrom is a call to economists to spend a lot more time analysing human behaviour, rather than assuming that we are all rational selfish individuals. It is also a call on economists to become more empirical and to find ways to validate their theories.

Adopting Ostrom’s approach will not only help us forge a better relationship with the natural environment, but will help us become more realistic about the economy in general. It’s time for a fresh approach to both. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2009
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