Category Archives: USSEE

USSEE President Jon Erickson discusses ecological economics with Michigan State University’s Dr. Kirk Heinze on WJR Radio’s Greening of the Great Lakes

Ecological economists seek quality of life over quantity

by Russ White for Greening the Great Lakes

Jon Erickson is a professor and managing director of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont.  And he’s president of the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics.

“Ecological economics has a different vision of the economy than traditional economics,” Erickson says.  “We fundamentally feel like the economy is supported, sustained and contained by ecosystems.

“We see a healthy economy and a healthy ecosystem going hand in hand; you can’t have one without the other.”

Erickson says there’s a real lack of a connection between the health and wealth of the economy and the maintenance of the ecosystem in traditional economics.

“Economics as it’s taught in many places is really devoid of a sense that there’s an environment that we extract resources and inputs and energy from and there’s an environment that we put waste back in to.

“It really is taught in most programs that economics is a system in and of itself, and if the environment is anywhere it’s simply a sector of the economy.  We really try to turn that on its head,” says Erickson.

The traditional approach to the economics of the environment is really focused on efficiency – how do we efficiently manage the resource that we’re extracting and using in the economy, according to Erickson.

“Ecological economics certainly pays attention to efficiency, but it’s really a third-tier goal,” says Erickson.  “We first and foremost want to look at the sustainable scale and size of the economy relative to the sustaining and containing ecosystem.”

A second goal of ecological economics is the equity question:  who shares in the benefits and burdens of economic cooperation, says Erickson.

Ecological economics embraces a trans-disciplinary approach to problem solving.

“It’s a blurring of the lines between disciplines,” says Erickson.  “We feel like that at universities there are disciplines, but in the world there are problems.  And the problems don’t fit neatly in these boxes we’ve created on campuses.

“We’re really trying to, more than anything else, engage in a conversation about the problems and to let the problems define the disciplinary perspective that we need to solve them, not the other way around.”

The USSEE’s biennial conference highlighting the latest research and education initiatives in ecological economics will bring together an interdisciplinary group of academics and practitioners to analyze society’s most pressing social and environmental problems and design solutions for a sustainable future.

The conference will be held at MSU June 26 – 29, 2011.

Click here to hear Erickson’s October 22 Greening of the Great Lakes conversation with Kirk Heinze.  Greening of the Great Lakes airs every Friday evening at 7 on News/Talk 760 WJR.

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

USSEE President Jon Erickson Discusses Ecological Economics at Michigan State University

GreenBoard: Looking at economics as part of the ecosystem
Thursday, October 21st, 2010 | Author: pacheco

Declining world oil supply, widening income gaps and over-exploitation of global fisheries were just some of the bad news Jon Erickson delivered in his talk at MSU this past Monday. But Erickson’s lecture, “An Ecological Economics for the Century of the Environment,” wasn’t actually about an impending doomsday. Erickson, who is a professor and managing director with the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont, emphasized how ecological economics can help save the planet. He also announced an opportunity for the MSU community to become involved in this discussion.

Studying economics through an ecological perspective is a return to amore holistic look at economic development where an economy’s sustainability is considered in relation to the dependent ecosystem. This means a forest is valued not just for its timber, but for all its ecosystem services, such as carbon storage, recreation, and pollination.

Erickson is critical of theories that characterize the economy as a closed system in which goods and services are simply exchanged between producers and consumers. For Erickson, these theories are insufficient because they do not consider the economy’s dependence on the environment as a source of raw materials and as a sink for pollution. “Where’s the environment and where’s the waste,” he asks.

Ecological economics understands the economic system as embedded within the ecosystem. In a world where natural resources like oil and water are only becoming scarcer, such a new, integrated perspective is necessary, says Erickson. He calls for a transdisciplinary approach. “Problems don’t sit neatly in disciplinary boxes,” he said. This type of economics challenges an idea fundamental to traditional economics: individuals are rational, isolated and self-serving beings. Erickson asked: “Who are we and where are we headed?” “Do we care about the future? About each other? Do we care what other people think?”

USSEE logoWhile these questions may seem more related to philosophy than economics, Erickson is confident in this new approach. As president of the U.S. Society of Ecological Economics (USSEE), he will be leading a larger discussion of this topic at MSU on June 26-29, 2011 when the USSEE hosts its sixth annual biennial conference, “Building a Green Economy,” in East Lansing.

“Michigan was chosen as the conference site because it is a kind of backdrop to the national dialog on the need for transition to a new economy that is not only environmentally sustainable, but…also socially just and equitable,” said Robby Richardson, an assistant professor in the Department of Community Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies and an ESPP affiliate.

Richardson is the conference chairperson and arranged for Erickson to speak. “The MSU community is already engaged in the design and delivery of curricula, research, and outreach programs that are interdisciplinary and innovative, and I am delighted that we are able to host this conference at MSU,” he said.

Interested in attending, presenting or contributing a paper? For more information on the conference, visit, and with any questions contact Richardson ( or 517-355-9533)

Written by Liz Pacheco (, News Writer for Environmental Science and Policy Program.