Category Archives: Education & Publications

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:

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

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

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. 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:


New book on “Planning for Balance”

Planning for Balance: Making a Choice for a Safer Future, explores social choices that can help us create a safer future. It offers a program for deliberate economic, social and technological planning that respects natural balance. Planning in this sense is not intrusive, or “human centered”, but rather in harmony with the goal of preserving all life on earth. The ideas here support a workable survival economics that can help us achieve a better world.

Mark Jablonowski is an independent researcher who has spent the last 30 years studying and managing risk. He holds B.A. and M.A. degrees in Economics from the University of Hartford, (West Hartford, Connecticut, USA), where he has also served as an adjunct faculty member. Mr. Jablonowski is currently Director of

EE study highlighted in Chemical & Engineering News

A study published in Ecological Economics by Christopher Weber and Scott Matthews of Carnegie Mellon University was highlighted in an Oct. 8th story on “Taking Freight Off the Road” published in the online Chemical & Engineering News.  The story focuses on the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by shifting more freight transportation to water and rail, citing the 2008 EE article as:

A 2008 study published in Ecological Economics estimated that nearly a third of the greenhouse gases created by U.S. household consumption are emitted outside the country.

To read the full story, go to:

Tim Jackson’s Economic Reality Check

As the world faces recession, climate change, inequity and more, Tim Jackson delivers a piercing challenge to established economic principles, explaining how we might stop feeding the crises and start investing in our future. Check out this latest TED talk grounded in the principles of ecological economics.


To learn more, check out Tim’s recent book Prosperity Without Growth.