All posts by Robert Richardson

USSEE Stands with Protesters

The United States Society for Ecological Economics seeks to advance a just and sustainable society. Recent events have demonstrated once again that structural racism persists in our national economy and throughout our society, and it remains a barrier to the just and sustainable society we seek. Furthermore, longstanding institutional racism and inequality have been exposed and laid bare during the covid-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected communities of color. To that end, USSEE stands in solidarity with protesters in cities and towns across this nation, and we support the Black Lives Matter movement. We choose to align our organization with partners and friends in ways that serve and support humanity, particularly those communities that have been further marginalized or harmed by recent events. As a professional society, we seek to understand our world and better human lives, and we are committed to advancing economic, social, and environmental justice for all communities.

In Memoriam: Frank Ackerman

Economist and longtime member of USSEE Frank Ackerman died on July 15, 2019 at the age of 72. He was an environmentalist and a prolific writer on topics ranging from the economics of climate change to critiques of mainstream economic theory. After graduating from Swarthmore College, he earned a PhD in economics from Harvard University. He is the author of Why do We Recycle?: Markets, Values, and Public Policy (2013, Island Press), and co-author of On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing, with Lisa Heinzerling (2004, The New Press). His most recent book is Worst-Case Economics: Extreme Events in Climate and Finance (2017, Anthem Press). Earlier in July, he wrote his final essay, entitled “Why Economics?”. In this essay, Dr. Ackerman summarizes many of the questions that he pursued in his career:

“Was it worth the intellectual effort to work as an economist? The problems I encountered in economics remain very much with us. We are still stymied by complacence and understatement of inequality, the use of overly mathematical cost-benefit models and low carbon cost estimates to justify bad policy, and miscalculation of current and future risks.”

Dr. Ackerman spent his career at Tellus Institute, the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University, Stockholm Environment Institute, and Synapse Energy Economics, where he advised government agencies and non-governmental organizations on a range of climate, energy, and other environmental policy initiatives. Many of his publications, including papers, op-eds, and information about his books can be found at his website. He published numerous articles in Ecological Economics, and his work has been cited in the journal scores of times. Frank Ackerman’s intellectual contributions to the field of ecological economics are significant, and he will be greatly missed. His obituary was published in the Boston Globe.

What We Know: a AAAS initiative to promote awareness of the science of climate change

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has released a new report entitled What We Know, which aims to “present key messages for every American about climate change” as a way to hopefully show people the reality of what we’re doing to the Earth. Based on the evidence, more than 97% of climate experts have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening. What We Know helps us understand the science behind the realities, risks and response to the climate challenge.

It is not the purpose of this paper to explain why this disconnect between scientific knowledge and public perception has occurred. Nor is the initiative seeking to provide yet another extensive review of the scientific evidence for climate change. Instead, the report presents key messages for every American about climate change:

  1. Climate scientists agree: climate change is happening here and now. Based on well-established evidence, about 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening.
  2. We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts.
  3. The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can do.

The AAAS is the world’s largest non-government general science membership organization and the executive publisher of Science, a leading scientific journal. Its mission is “advance science for the benefit of all people.” Its goals include providing a voice for science on societal issues and promoting the responsible use of science in public policy. There may be no more pressing issue intersecting science and society than climate change and the What We Know initiative was born in response to that reality.

The What We Know initiative is dedicated to ensuring that three “R’s” of climate change communicated to the public.

  • The first is Reality — 97% of climate experts have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening.
  • The second is Risk — that the reality of climate change means that there are climate change impacts we can expect, but we also must consider what might happen, especially the small, but real, chance that we may face abrupt changes with massively disruptive impacts.
  • The third R is Response — that there is much we can do and that the sooner we respond, the better off we will be.

To guide the What We Know initiative, AAAS convened a group of prominent experts in climate science to address the fact that many Americans still erroneously believe that the scientific community is divided on the issue and that Americans are largely unaware of the full spectrum of climate risks – both what is likely to happen and what might happen — that human-caused climate change presents to Americans now and in the future. The AAAS has published a summary report with information and details.

Creating A Viable Market For Ecosystem Services

Creating A Viable Market For Ecosystem Services

Michigan State University (MSU) AgBioResearch economist Scott Swinton is working to measure the economic value of ecosystem services linked to agriculture and identify ways that policy can communicate those values to farmers. Michigan Farmer reports on a project that aims to measure the economic value of ecosystem services linked to agriculture.

Published: Mar 29, 2012

Social science positions in global environmental change at University of Maryland

Posts in Economics/Geography & Geography/Sociology

University of Maryland, College Park.  The College of Behavioral and Social Sciences is seeking (3) computational social scientists to expand Maryland’s strengths in the computational aspects of global environmental change through interdisciplinary joint appointments.  Rank will start at associate professor and tenure will be in the department closest to the applicant’s background.  Applicants should have disciplinary backgrounds in the social sciences and most importantly, have advanced computational skills which include experience integrating social science data into computational models. 

One appointment will be in Economics/Geography.  For that position, experience is preferred in sustainability science in combination with one or more of the following:  computational economics, economic geography, spatial modeling or data visualization.  For a detailed description of the position and application submission instructions please visit our web ad at (reference position 117853).

Another appointment will be in Geography/Sociology.  For that position, experience with agent-based modeling, social networks analysis, computational input-output analysis or social accounting, or data visualization is preferred.  For a detailed description of the position and application submission instructions please visit our web ad at (reference position 117853).

Review of applications will continue until the positions are filled, however applications received by March 2, 2012 will receive best consideration.  The University of Maryland is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and is proud of its diverse faculty, staff, and student body.  Women, minorities, veterans, disabled veterans, and individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply.

Graduate Research Assistantship in Ecosystem Service Valuation at Michigan State University

Michigan State University (MSU) announces the availability of a 3-year PhD research assistantship (RA) in ecosystem service valuation and program design in the Great Lakes basin. The successful applicant will join an interdisciplinary research team that is designing, testing, and implementing a pilot Payment for Environmental Services (PES) program to compensate farmers for adopting practices that benefit aquatic ecosystems.

The RA will join MSU faculty in contributing to all phases of this research. The time commitment will be 20 hours per week for a period of three years, beginning in summer of 2012. Compensation will include a stipend of least $1860 monthly, plus health benefits and a tuition waiver.  Continued employment is contingent upon satisfactory performance and progress toward degree.

The successful candidate must be accepted for admission to the PhD program in either the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics (AFRE) or the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation & Resource Studies (CARRS) at Michigan State University.

Qualifications: Candidates must meet the qualifications for admission to one of the participating PhD programs.  For AFRE, required qualifications and application information can be found here. For CARRS, application details can be found here. RA candidates are expected to be motivated, interested in the role of economic institutions in environmental policy, and committed to interdisciplinary research.

Applicants should apply to one of the two PhD programs following the relevant instructions. Applications must be submitted to the Graduate School. In the academic statement, please indicate interest in this research project, along with details about your relevant experience and abilities.  Review of applications will begin February 1, 2012 and will continue until a suitable candidate is identified.  For more information, contact in AFRE: Scott Swinton ( or in CARRS: John Kerr ( or Robert Richardson (

Release of book entitled What’s the Economy For, Anyway?

David Batker, organizer of the 2005 USSEE Conference and co-founder of Earth Economics, has just released a book with John de Graaf entitled What’s the Economy For, Anyway? Why It’s Time to Stop Chasing Growth and Start Pursuing Happiness (Bloomsbury Press, $25). Based on the 2010 film of the same name, this highly accessible and humorous book is intended for university students, professors, lay audiences and policy makers alike. It has already received a number of positive reviews! The book is available for purchase through booksellers listed on this page (and only $15.88 though Amazon for a limited time!).

Americans are working longer hours for lower pay, fewer benefits, less time for loved ones and no vacation. We’re postponing retirement or ditching it altogether. We’re told the best thing we can do for the economy is to work, borrow, spend and consume. Corporations keep raking in record profits; the one percent keep getting richer. You’re working for the economy – it’s not working for you. How did we get into this mess? How do we get out of it?

John De Graaf and Dave Batker provide fresh and convincing answers. This one-of-a-kind economics book is not only a fun read, it makes a compelling case for new economic goals, measures, and policies, and provides solutions at the scale of the problem.

De Graaf, a writer and filmmaker, and Batker, an economist and environmentalist, take on our wrong-headed obsession with growth at all costs. They show how our chief economic measure, Gross Domestic Product, is an outdated tool. It counts cigarettes and lung cancer costs as positive. It recorded the sale of toxic mortgages that sank banks and picked taxpayers’ pockets as an economic boon. It does not count the value of nature, of good health, of friends and family or that most important measure of success, happiness.

WTEFA? began as a film. De Graaf and Batker are funny, insightful and much-sought-after public speakers. They teamed up to make a 40-minute film that could be described as Econ 101 meets Jon Stewart. The film has been viewed online thousands of times, and on DVD has proved particularly popular in college classrooms, so they expanded its ideas into a book.

“It’s time for a solidarity economy, one that recognizes we’re all in this together,” they write. “You could call it capitalism with a human face.” What’s the Economy For, Anyway? succeeds brilliantly at putting a human face on the most pressing issue of our time.

More information about the book and its authors can be found in the official Press Release.

Graduate research assistantship in Agri-Food Systems at Michigan State University

The Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation & Resource Studies (CARRS) at Michigan State University (MSU) announces the availability of a research assistantship (RA) in Agri-Food Systems: Consumer Research beginning Fall Semester, 2012. This two-year project will focus on consumer perceptions of bird control techniques in agriculture, and involve the following research components: 1) focus groups, 2) a nationally representative online survey utilizing a conjoint format, and 3) experimental auctions. The results will characterize consumer willingness-to-pay for potential methods for limiting bird damage to specialty fruit crops, such as grapes, apples, blueberries and cherries. It will thus give producers information to make more informed decisions to adopt bird control techniques, and has the long-term potential to inform the development of more consumer-responsive ecolabels.

The research assistant will contribute to all phases of this research, including design, implementation, analysis and public outreach, in collaboration with faculty members Dr. Phil Howard and Dr. Chi-Ok Oh. The time commitment will be 20 hours per week throughout the academic year, with the potential for summer employment. Compensation will be at the standard RA rate based on degree and workload, as well as health benefits and a tuition waiver.

CARRS is an interdisciplinary department committed to engaged scholarship within the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at MSU. Our teaching, research and public outreach address critical issues at the interfaces of agriculture, natural resources, recreation, and communities. The graduate program is very flexible, with opportunities to design a program of study that includes courses from many other departments.

Qualifications: Research assistants are expected to be highly motivated and interested in agri-food issues as part of their graduate study. They are also expected to be committed to interdisciplinary work. Interested applicants should possess exceptional analytic ability, a strong background in statistics, and well-developed writing skills. PhD students preferred, although master’s students will be considered.

Applicants should send a letter of application, resume/CV, copies of transcripts and GRE scores, and contact information for three references to the address below. In your letter, please address your reasons for interest in the position and your training in academic research.

Dr. Phil Howard
316 Natural Resources Building
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824–1222

Employment will begin August 16, 2012. Continued employment is contingent upon satisfactory performance and progress toward the student’s degree. Review of applications will begin February 1, 2012 and continue until the deadline of March 1. Graduate program admission must be addressed separately and awarding of this RA is contingent upon acceptance into the graduate program. Graduate program admission and RA applications may be submitted simultaneously. See for more information. Contact: Phil Howard, , (517) 355-8431.

Doctoral training opportunity in ecosystem services at Portland State University

Portland State University is recruiting students for its interdisciplinary doctoral training program in Ecosystem Services for Urbanizing Regions (ESUR). ESUR is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through its Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program. The ESUR program is the first IGERT program to focus on the nexus of the science and management of ecosystem services and their interaction with the processes of urbanization.

Trainees will be selected from qualified Ph.D. students who have been accepted into the following PSU doctoral programs:

  • School of the Environment: Environmental Science and Management, Geography, or Geology
  • Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Public Affairs and Policy and Community Health
  • Urban Studies and Planning
  • Sociology

For more information about the ESUR IGERT program at Portland State University, including eligibility criteria and the application process, see the following brochure:

Portland State University ESUR IGERT Brochure

or the following link to the ESUR IGERT program website:

ESUR IGERT Program at Portland State University