Category Archives: Education & Publications

The Green Transition Scoreboard: How to Invest for a Steady State Economy

Cross-posted from The Daly News

By Rosalinda Sanquiche

We must take some critical steps if we want to build a truly green economy — a steady state that meets global needs without undermining the life-support systems of the planet.  Clearly we need to move beyond fossil fuels.  We need to scale back the amount of energy and materials we’re consuming, especially in OECD countries.  We need to build a durable infrastructure, supportive of a low-carbon future.  One way to take these critical steps is through smart investments.  With governments stubbornly open to dangerous Industrial Era methods like nuclear power, despite the crisis in Japan, smart investments must come from the private sector.  The good news is that private investors are taking a strong lead, as demonstrated by the most recent update of the Green Transition Scoreboard® (GTS).

The GTS is a tool for tracking private investments in green markets, and the February 2011 update reveals an encouraging $2 trillion worth of investments in the green economy since 2007.  This amount is significant because many studies, computer models and reports indicate that investing $1 trillion annually between now and 2020 can ramp up material and energy efficiencies; reduce the costs of wind, solar and geothermal energy; increase sustainable land use and forestry; and support smart infrastructure, transport, building and urban re-design, all of which are necessary to achieve the green transition to a steady state economy.

The updated numbers for 2010 put global private sector investors on track to reach $10 trillion in investments by 2020!  How can more investments support a steady state?  The key is to spur substantial investment in the right sectors.  It’s a winning proposition, as smart investing can help societies use fewer energy and material resources and provide needed employment opportunities.

The GTS tracks five sectors:

  • Renewable Energy;
  • Efficiency and Green Construction;
  • Cleantech;
  • Smart Grid; and
  • Corporate R&D.

Renewable Energy includes private technology development, equipment manufacturing, and project finance. The Efficiency and Green Construction sector includes new building construction and existing building retrofits. Cleantech is a broad sector, encompassing agriculture, air and environment, energy efficiency, infrastructure and storage, materials, recycling and waste reduction, transportation and water/wastewater. Smart Grid includes companies actually putting smart grids in place, building the infrastructure rather than designing the technology.  Together, these first four sectors account for over $1.8 trillion in investments since 2007.

INVESTMENTS in the GREEN TRANSITION
2007 – 2010
Sector (US $)
Renewable Energy 1,358,937,000,000
Efficiency and Green Construction 282,011,000,000
Cleantech 65,024,042,088
Smart Grid 135,263,000,000
Corporate R&D 163,813,743,000
Total 2,005,048,758,088

Corporate R&D in green transition technologies alone accounts for over $163 billion in investments.  The GTS is the only source of aggregate corporate green research and development investments, specifically tracking R&D dollars for  innovative technologies that reduce the use of natural resources and minimize environmental impacts.

Several subsectors, such as nuclear, biofuels and coal carbon sequestration, have been purposefully omitted either because of controversy or lack of consensus that they will make a long-term contribution to sustainability.

Green technologies often draw on available local resources in a more cost-effective, timely manner than dated technologies of the fossil fuel era.  The GTS was created by Hazel Henderson, president of Ethical Markets Media, as a public service to help develop the green economy, reform market metrics, and provide due diligence worldwide.  Many developing countries where these technologies are of paramount importance lack the resources to compile the data encompassed in the GTS.  To provide this information as widely as possible, the GTS is available to the UN agencies spearheading the UN’s Green Economy Initiative.

To meet the challenge of achieving a sustainable and fair economy, investment funds need to be shifted away from ill-conceived hedge funds and dark pools, and away from sectors that depend on fossil fuels.  A modest goal for global private investment would be to direct 10% of portfolios to companies driving the global green transition. With the data in the GTS, security analysts can update their asset allocation models to highlight green markets.

The future of the economy will be determined by the investments we choose today.  Institutional investors need information like what’s provided by the GTS to make wise decisions.  As Ethical Markets Media continues to improve the Green Transition Scoreboard and as green sectors emerge around the world, investors will play a key role in building a 21st century economy that provides prosperity within the capacity of the planet.

__________

Rosalinda Sanquiche is the executive director of Ethical Markets Media.

Sustainable Business: Practices in Support of People, Profit and Principles

For decades, Vermont has been growing businesses that are worldwide leaders in clean energy and environmental stewardship – categories we would all call the “green” industries.

But what about a t-shirt printing business or CPA or lending institution?

Are they part of the green sector? Is marketing a “green” job?

The traditional answer would be “no” but at a time when all businesses can benefit from sustainable practices, the trend is for growth not just in “green jobs” but in the greening of all industries in any sector. Management of resources with consideration for the true cost of a business’s people and environmental impact when calculating profit is applicable to any organization.

In Vermont, many nationally-known businesses have applied the principles of environmental sustainability and social responsibility and still remain highly profitable. The question is, “How?”

Through the “Sustainable Business: Practices in Support of People, Profit and Principles” experience – a five-day, intensive summer program at the University of Vermont’s Burlington, Vermont campus – you can learn the design, organization and management principles and practices that have made these Vermont enterprises sustainable and profitable from the very business leaders who have forged the way. More importantly, you can apply what you learn.

For more information on this summer’s program (July 11-15), visit the Sustainable Business web site at the University of Vermont.

Growth of GDP and Discontent in Egypt and Tunisia

Cross-posted from The Daly News.

by Eric Zencey

The regime changes in Egypt and Tunisia have been hailed as victories for democracy, as proof of the liberalizing power of social networking media, as testimony to the power of nonviolent political action. All of that they may indeed be; but the events in Egypt and Tunisia also illustrate a major defect in our economic thinking, one from which we should draw a very different and much more cautionary conclusion.

The flaw in standard economic theory that’s behind the Middle East’s winter of discontent is the acceptance of gross domestic product (GDP) as an indicator of citizen well-being. A recent poll by the Gallup organization, reported in early February, found that despite significant gains in per capita GDP in both Egypt and Tunisia, the level of well-being of their citizens has been falling over the past decade. This decline in well-being certainly played a role in the unrest that put citizens in the streets, challenging their governments.

In Egypt, between 2005 and 2010 per capita GDP rose from $4,762 per year to $6,367. In Tunisia it rose from $7,182 to $9,489. But both countries saw a significant decline in the percentage of the population that is classified as thriving according to a standard, well established measure.

That measure is the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale, developed by a researcher named Hadley Cantril. It’s a survey research tool, and asks respondents to answer a few simple questions:

Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to ten at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you are standing at the present time? On which step of the ladder do you think you will stand about five years from now?

To rank as “thriving,” respondents have to have positive views of their current place on the ladder (seven or higher) and positive expectations about the future (eight or higher). Below that, respondents are ranked as “struggling”—their “ladder-future” expectation is lower than the present, or both values fall below the thriving range. Below struggling is “suffering,” people who report their place on the ladder at four or below.

The Cantril Scale correlates with objective markers of well-being. Thrivers have fewer health problems and fewer sick days, while reporting less worry, stress, and anxiety and more enjoyment, happiness, and respect. Those in the struggling category report more daily stress and worry about money than the “thriving” respondents, and more than double the amount of sick days. Those in the “suffering” category are more likely to report that they lack basics like food and shelter, more likely to report physical pain, and more likely to experience higher levels of stress, worry, sadness, and anger. They have more than double the rate of diseases compared to “thriving” respondents.

In both countries, as GDP rose steadily, the number of citizens categorized as “thriving” fell. In Egypt, 29% of people reported themselves as thriving in 2005, but that number fell to just 11% in 2010. In Tunisia, Cantril Scale data are unavailable prior to 2008, when 24% of the population could be classified as thriving; that number fell to 14% in 2010, a 40% decline.

The nonviolent revolutions in both countries may have been motivated less by abstract commitment to democratic freedom than by widespread experience of a declining standard of living and increased economic insecurity, even in the face of rising GDP. Two factors contribute to this result that seems paradoxical within the standard model of economic thinking: (1) increasing inequality in income and (2) increasing food prices.

Thanks in part to the Aswan Dam, which interrupted the regular cycle by which Nile delta farmlands were re-nourished by annual flooding, Egypt has been the single largest importer of grain in the world. When Russia announced an embargo on grain exports (the result of unprecedented, climate-change-driven weather that scorched into ruin nearly half of Russia’s usual annual harvest), the price of food shot up. Before the embargo, the average Egyptian family spent 38% of its income on food (compared to 7% in the U.S.). Most simply couldn’t afford the higher prices, and hunger and food insecurity spread through the middle class. Perversely, GDP counted higher food prices as a positive contribution to well-being.

Because of that basic flaw, a rising GDP did not mean a rising standard of living. And even if GDP were a more accurate measure of material well-being, it would still be mathematically possible for a very large number of people to become worse off economically as per capita GDP rises.  This situation could occur if there is growing income inequality (i.e., the benefits of increasing GDP aren’t widely shared). In Egypt and Tunisia, that mathematical possibility became an economic fact—and a politically charged social condition.

Declining standards of well-being are politically destabilizing, and lead naturally enough to sweeping support for regime change. In Egypt and Tunisia the regimes happened to be despotic, and the call for change came as a commitment to democracy, an end to corruption, and demands for civil liberties. But within democracies, declining standards of living can have the opposite effect. Open and institutionalized systems of regime change—voting—will absorb the discontent for a time, but if the decline lasts too long, and can’t be blamed on a particular party in power, pressure grows for stepping outside established parties for new, radical, revolutionary approaches. Democratic forms are no proof against a slide into repressive forms. In Germany in the 1930’s, a declining standard of living contributed to the rise of the Nazi party; Hitler was democratically elected to the office of Chancellor (and then proceeded to establish himself as Fuehrer).

As America’s perpetual-growth economy faces the reality of ecological limits, as climate change imposes costs and decreased well-being on us, as energy and other resource prices increase, we face the prospect of a widespread decline in our standard of living. Americans coming of age today are among the first generation who can’t be confident that they will be better off than their parents; by one widely used measure of well-being (the genuine progress indicator, which deducts loss of ecosystem services and other “disamenities” from the national accounts), the American standard of living has flatlined since the 1970s, despite continued strong growth in GDP.

Thus the cautionary lessons from Egypt and Tunisia. GDP is a measure of the commotion of money in an economy, not a measure of delivered well-being. If sustained or rising well-being is what is economically and politically desirable, we should measure it directly, instead of counting on GDP to do the job. And if we accept the idea of popular sovereignty—that governments rule with “the just consent of the governed,” as Jefferson put it in our Declaration of Independence—we must recognize that as the middle class goes, so goes the legitimacy of the regime in power. No system of government—despotic or democratic—fares well when the majority of its citizens experiences a declining standard of living.

When increasing the standard of living depends on continual expansion of the economy’s ecological footprint, that increase must at some point come to an end. The examples of Egypt and Tunisia invite us to ask: what then?

————–

Eric Zencey is a visiting associate professor of historical and political studies at Empire State College of the State University of New York, and an affiliate of the Gund Institute of Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont. He is the author of the forthcoming The Other Road to Serfdom: Essays in Sustainable Democracy.

 

Summer school series in Environmental Governance

The Norwegian University of Life Sciences is organizing a summer school series in Environmental Governance. The first course will run from June 20-July 1, 2011. The title of this course is ‘Environmental governance: Institutions for sustainable development’. The summer school is directed towards PhDs. A few places will also be offered to young researchers in the field. More information is found at:

www.umb.no/thor-heyerdahl-summer-school

Deadline for application for the 2011 course is February 15.

The Economics of Lawns and Landscaping

Cross-posted from:


The Economics of Lawns and Landscaping
by Brent Blackwelder

Throughout the United States in urban and suburban settings and in small towns, lawns and massive amounts of non-native flowers, shrubs, and trees dominate the landscape. Such an unhealthy landscape is hardly surprising within an economy obsessed with growth. We lay out grass lawns as fast as possible and throw down landscape arrangements with very little concern for ecological consequences. In contrast, a more thoughtfully designed and ecologically sound landscape fits hand in hand with the framework of a steady state economy.

What’s the Problem with Current Landscape Practices?

The landscaping choices of home and business owners tend to be costly from an economic and an environmental perspective. Around $45 billion is spent annually to care for the 40 million acres of lawns in the U.S., with 800 million gallons of gasoline burned in dirty lawnmower engines. Application of broad-leaf herbicides and high-nitrogen fertilizers for yard maintenance also entails harmful runoff into streams, rivers, bays and estuaries.

Because of the health consequences of chemically laced lawns that are maintained by oil-chugging equipment, a number of organizations such as Beyond Pesticides and SafeLawns have been promoting alternatives. SafeLawns features a slogan, “Time to Get Your Grass Off Gas,” that is particularly pertinent, as the BP spill is the latest in the ongoing oil spills, leaks, and other fiascoes attributable to our dependence on oil.

Of the 220 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions coming annually from off-road vehicles, lawn equipment like mowers and leaf blowers produce about 12% or 26 million tons of the total. Air quality in urban areas can suffer greatly as a result of the dirty motors typically running such equipment.

Importation of non-native species for landscaping causes another set of expensive problems (again from both an economic and an environmental standpoint). And the costly impacts of importing alien ornamental shrubs and trees into the United States have not been explained to the public. There is no way to guarantee that non-native species are free of harmful diseases and insects when they are imported because the host plants may exhibit no symptoms. Once on the loose, it is very hard, almost impossible, to bring the invasive species under control.

The most valuable tree in the eastern U.S. from both a wildlife and commercial timber standpoint — the American chestnut — was almost totally eliminated by the blight from Japanese chestnut trees imported a century ago for the ornamental nursery trade.

This type of disaster has been repeated over the past 100 years with sudden oak death disease, Japanese beetles that entered on Asian nursery stock, the greening disease besetting citrus in Florida, and the soybean aphid that arrived on Asian buckthorns for the ornamental trade — to name just a few.

The staggering price tag for damages caused by invasive species is estimated at over $100 billion per year. Furthermore, 85% of the invasive species have been brought into the U.S. by commercial nurseries. These nurseries suffer no economic consequences for having marketed such exotics that “go astray” and cause millions in damages.

How Would Landscaping Change in a Steady State Economy?

A key feature of a steady state economy is sustainable scale — the economy fits within the capacity of the ecosystems that contain it. Achievement of sustainable scale requires us to value ecological resources and the services they provide. There is a huge opportunity to generate such value by shifting how we manage the landscapes that surround our homes and buildings. Steady state landscapes would enhance biodiversity, improve air quality, and provide food for birds and other wildlife.

Gardening with native species is part of the paradigm shift. The massive harm that accompanies today’s unsustainable landscaping with exotic ornamentals is not reflected in economic calculations. Externalization of such harm would not be part of a steady state economy — an economy that values environmental resources today and in the future.

Professor Douglas Tallamy at the University of Delaware argues in Bringing Nature Home that unless we restore native plants to our yards, the future of biodiversity in North America is dim. Tallamy calls on the public to reevaluate its centuries-old love affair with alien ornamentals and to reverse the practices of the lawn and garden industry in order to provide food for wildlife.

People frequently ask me about tangible actions they can take to move us to a healthier planet. One major opportunity for many is to focus on their own yard or work with their local schools or businesses to shift to landscaping that is a positive force.

If you want to bring back birds and butterflies, you need to have the native vegetation where they can complete their life cycle. In addition to shelter from predators and nesting sites, birds need insects, not seeds or berries, to feed their young. Professor Tallamy asserts: “Birds will not be in our future if we provide them only with shelter and nesting sites.”

What a remarkable result would occur if the $45 billion currently spent on lawn care that degrades biodiversity and causes significant pollution were instead devoted to attractive native landscapes teeming with life!

Ecological Economics … the 4-volume set

Charles Perrings, former president of the International Society for Ecological Economics, recently completed a four volume set on Ecological Economics published with SAGE Publications.  From the SAGE web page:

The field of ecological economics developed in the late 1980s at the intersection of the social and natural sciences, with roots in political economy, ecology and biology, and has had a significant impact on research agendas and policy in related fields in subsequent years. This collection of classic and contemporary papers in ecological economics and its precursors includes an introductory essay that explores how the field has developed over time and identifies the main strands in the literature.

Volume I reviews the roots and evolution of ecological economics as a field. Volume II examines the methodological and technical challenges posed by the development of a new field at the intersection of a number of mature disciplines. Volume III focuses on the major developments in ecological economics of the last decade. Volume IV looks at the ecological economics of sustainability.

Beijer E-print Series

http://www.beijer.kva.se/reprint.php

Scientific papers published in refereed journals or in books that have undergone review, are published in the Beijer E-print Series in order to facilitate the dissemination of research results. These E-prints might earlier have appeared as Discussion Papers.

From the year 2008 the papers are no longer available as paper copies.  The name has therefore changed from the Beijer Reprint Series to the Beijer E-print Series. Reprints from 2007 and earlier can be ordered by e-mailing beijer@beijer.kva.se

Handbook of Ecological Indicators for Assessment of Ecosystem Health, Second Edition

Sven E. Jørgensen, Liu Xu, Robert Costanza, “Handbook of Ecological Indicators for Assessment of Ecosystem Health, Second Edition (Applied Ecology and Environmental Management)”
Publisher: CRC Press | 2010 | ISBN 1439809364 | File type: PDF | 498 pages | 13 mb

Continuing in the tradition of its bestselling predecessor, the Handbook of Ecological Indicators for Assessment of Ecosystem Health, Second Edition brings together world-class editors and contributors who have been at the forefront of ecosystem health assessment research for decades, to provide a sound approach to environmental management and sustainable development.

Significantly updated and expanded, this authoritative resource details a proven framework for selecting, evaluating, and validating ecological indicators for ecosystem health assessment. It guides readers through the application of this framework to a wide range of ecosystems, including wetlands, estuaries, coastal zones, lakes, forests, marine ecosystems, lagoons, agricultural systems, landscapes, and rivers. The text synthesizes material from a variety of books, journals, and private research, to consider biodiversity, energy needs, ecological economics, and natural capital in the measurement of ecological health.

Organized for ease of reference, the first part of the handbook provides the required theoretical background. It presents a complete overview of all relevant ecological indicators—including thermodynamics, resilience estimates, exergy, and emergy indicators. The second part focuses on how to effectively apply the ecological indicators to a number of important ecosystems. It includes many examples and case studies that clearly illustrate the advantages and disadvantages of each method for specific applications.

Offering first-hand insight and practical guidance from practitioners in the field, this complete resource supplies the tools and the well-rounded understanding required to diagnose the health of virtually any ecosystem with much improved accuracy.

http://depositfiles.com/files/9ni01qpyw

http://www.filesonic.com/file/24707581/Handbook of Ecological Indicators for Assessment of Ecosystem Health, Second Edition.pdf

Teaching Resources in Undergraduate Economics

Teaching Resources in Undergraduate Economics (TRUE) aims to make teaching resources – syllabi, reading lists, problem sets, assessments, etc – freely available online. The relevant pages on the Economics Network web site are in the form of a wiki. Teachers who express interest will receive a login and can edit the pages – in particular, by uploading their teaching resources, or they can simply email me the files they want uploaded.

For heterodox economists of all kinds this is a great opportunity to show what we are doing in the classroom, to influence future generations of teachers, to inform students (thus allowing them to demand something different of their teachers), and to gain feedback on our teaching resources from our colleagues.

See the heterodox economics TRUE page for more information on how to participate or take advantage of these resources.

 

The University Of Edinburgh-Ecological Economics MSc


School Of Geosciences

Course description

Course provides a toolkit for operationalising sustainability; resource and environmental economics are discussed from 1st principles with a clear focus on the social and ethical foundations of decision-making in real-world applications; optional modules include: Project appraisal, environmental impact assessment, environmental planning and environmental ethics; the tools presented include: environmental valuation, multi-criteria decision making, bioeconomic and ecosystem modelling, geographical information systems, pollution regulation instruments and cost-benefit analysis.

Entry requirements

Preferably a UK 2:1 Honours degree, or its equivalent if outside the UK, or an equivalent qualification in any subject. Applicants holding a UK 2:2 Honours degree, or its equivalent from outside the UK, may also be considered. Since there is an explicit ethicosocial element to the programme, students from a humanities or arts background are equally likely to gain entry as those from an economics, life sciences or engineering background.

More info at: http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/geosciences/postgraduate/masters-programme/taught-masters/ecological-economics