Presentations – Wednesday June 22
2:30-2:39PM Spectacular lessons in applying ecological economics
Tania Briceno, Conservation Strategies Fund
David Batker, Batker Consulting
Right now, ecological economics is being applied to measure and regulate mining impacts in the Amazon Basin, justify sediment and water diversions to restore extensive areas of the Mississippi River Delta, change the way federal agencies implement hurricane, flood, fire, drought and landslide adaptation and mitigation funding, and directly assist Native American nations in implementing their visions of development. Hear about the lessons and hardships of implementing ecological economics to change the relationship between the economy and nature.
2:39-2:48PM Narco-Degradation in Protected Areas of Central America: A Critical Ecological Economics Inquiry.
Bernardo Aguilar-Gonzalez, Eco EJE Consulting, Masters in Environmental Law Program, University of Costa Rica
This work uses a Critical Ecological Economics perspective to assess the environmental impacts of drug trafficking (DT) through Central America. We report, based on the work of the LITCA research group, the impacts of DT routes on the mosaic of protected areas (PAs) in the region. DT’s environmental impacts are diverse and manifest in land dispossession, lost usufruct rights and land grabs. DT also exacerbates neo-extractivist activities and includes the development of transport infrastructure and the use of PAs as transportation routes. We document the ecosystem service losses in five PA drug trafficking hot spots. Between 2001 and 2010, we estimate net losses reaching approximately $88 million per year, equivalent to almost twice the national budgets that Central American nations dedicate to their PAs. We also document the social costs of DT in terms of “ecological distribution conflicts” (EDC) and impacts on environmental governance. DT aggravates the environmental injustices already present in these areas, linked to neo-extractivist activities. Our findings suggest that strengthening participatory environmental governance may help prevent these impacts.
2:48-2:57PM Ethical underpinnings for a sustainable economy
Christian U. Becker, Colorado State University
This methodological paper discusses ethical underpinnings for a sustainable economy and, with this, the need to consider sustainability ethics in ecological economics. The paper argues that conceptions of a sustainable economy require a new ethical underpinning, a major shift in the way the economy has been conceptualized throughout the history of economic thought. The tradition of Western economic thought has mostly focused on the wellbeing of (current) individuals and (limited) societies. There have been no broader systematic considerations of the meaning of the economy for the wellbeing of nature, other species, or the planet. Against the backdrop of the historic overuse and transformation of the plant in the Anthropocene and related new ethical challenges, a sustainable economy requires a significant expanded and redefined ethical underpinning with regard to two aspects: First, a broader ethical foundation that systematically includes interests of non-human and future beings as well as conceptions of wellbeing of nature and future generations. Second, a re-definition of individual self-interest and societal welfare beyond rational utility maximization, efficiency, and growth.
2:57-3:06PM Education and Pedagogy: Integrating Entropy, Sustainable Scale, and Justice into an Ecological Economics Curriculum
Brent Haddad, University of California, Santa Cruz
Barry Solomon, Michigan Technological University, emeritus
Georgescu-Roegen argued that entropy and other biophysical laws be integrated into economic discourse, prompting a drive toward integrated energy/ecological/economic modeling. Daly then called for the sustainable scale of the economy and just distribution to join efficiency as measures of successful economic outcomes. These latter themes have grown to include both processes and outcomes of governance and economic activity often under the umbrella term justice. A challenge in teaching the field concerns the intellectual co-existence of embedding the economy and society in manifestly real and limited ecosystems, and the social constructionism that helps reveal power relations and injustice. We draw from the recently completed comprehensive Dictionary of Ecological Economics to build a shared understanding of common terms and key literature and how this seeming methodological trichotomy can coexist and coalesce. We argue that the three orientations illuminate crucial aspects of complex problems. A content analysis of the Dictionary reveals how these terms are used and exemplar literature. Merging the perspectives and methods is an achievable goal.
3:06-3:15PM Climate Challenges after COP26: The Roles of Forests and Soils
Jonathan M. Harris, Tufts University Global Development and Environment Institute
Anne-Marie Codur, Tufts University Global Development and Environment Institute
Following COP26 there remains a substantial gap between pledged and needed global emissions reductions. This gap requires increasing carbon removal from the atmosphere in addition to reducing emissions. Natural systems including forests, wetlands, and soils currently remove about 3 gigatons (Gt) of carbon from the atmosphere, equal to 33% of annual emissions. Soils are the main carbon sink on earth, storing about 2300 Gt of carbon, about three times as much as the atmosphere. Enhancing natural carbon sinks has great potential to close the emissions gap, but had not been given much prominence in COPs prior to COP26. COP26 included an agreement among 141 countries to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. Specific policy commitments, however, were lacking. COP26 saw limited progress on issues related to agriculture. The 4per1000 initiative, an independent international effort started at COP21, is actively seeking to advance forms of agriculture and grazing that regenerate soils and enrich their organic carbon content. We examine the policy initiatives needed to realize the potential of natural climate solutions, with a view to “closing the gap” at COP27.
3:15-3:24PM Economic Valuation of Biodisparity
Kyle Gracey, United States Society for Ecological Economics
Biodisparity, or taxonomic distance or uniqueness, is widely recognized in the evolutionary and conservation biology literature as distinct from biodiversity, though not without some definitional overlap. These fields have developed a variety of tools for assessing, with varying success, biodisparity at the species, community and system levels. However, economic theory and practice has thus far devoted little scholarship to explicitly valuing biodisparity. Yet, a lack of biodisparity valuation could cause ecosystems and species to be undervalued, negatively affecting conservation efforts. This paper outlines a basic theory of biodisparity valuation, and how practitioners might incorporate biological measures of biodisparity into economic valuation efforts. These efforts should primarily seek to illuminate and disentangle biodisparity valuation from biodiversity valuation, and from partially overlapping measures such as endemism. Techniques already common to economic valuation may be sufficient, but efforts to clearly explain biodisparity, in contrast to biodiversity, are likely needed as a first step in applying biodisparity valuation in the field. Implications of valuing biodisparity are also briefly discussed – knowledge of biodisparity may create a net-zero shift in existing biodiversity values across species or ecosystems, but there is some reason to think it may also increase total valuation.
3:24-3:33PM Linking water availability and ecologically and culturally valued ecosystems: a case study from the Puʻuloa aquifer, Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi
Leah L. Bremer, University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization and Water Resources Research Center, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Ahmed S. Elshall, Department of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, Florida State University
Christopher A. Wada, University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Laura Brewington, East West Center
Jade M.S. Delevaux, The Natural Capital Project, Stanford University
Aly I. El-Kadi, Department of Earth Sciences and Water Resources Research Center, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Kimberly M. Burnett, University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Groundwater in Hawaiʻi is intricately linked to ecologically, economically, and culturally valued ecosystems. Upstream native forest protection influences the amount and quality of groundwater recharge, which in turn impacts both drinking wells as well as groundwater dependent ecosystems, such as anchialine pools, spring-fed agriculture, fish ponds (loko iʻa), and nearshore ecosystems. In this study we partner with managers of native forests as well as with multi-generational spring-fed watercress farm in the most heavily utilized aquifer in the state (the Puʻuloa or Pearl Harbor aquifer) to build an integrated modeling framework that connects forest and spring protection into conceptualizations of sustainable yield (the legal limits of water that can be withdrawn without compromising the quality of wells and springs). We find that sustainable yield limits currently set by the state water regulator will likely need to be lowered to protect well quality and to maintain (or restore) valued spring flow under a drying climate. We also find that protecting culturally and ecologically valuable native forest from high-water-use invasive species can help to maintain water availability under a drying climate, providing a clear economic benefit and offering an important climate resilience strategy. In-so-doing, we demonstrate the importance of integrating up- and down-stream culturally and ecologically valued ecosystems into groundwater sustainable yield as part of a broader deliberative process of managing aquifers to sustain valued water, land, and coastal resources into the future.