The USSEE webinar series aims to share best practices and bring the latest research in the field of ecological economics to a broad audience. Each webinar recording is approximately one hour long, and consists of a presentation by the speaker, followed by open discussion and questions from webinar participants.

Transitioning to Just and Sustainable Food Systems: Lessons from Ecological Economics. A round table discussion with Liz Carlisle, Kamuela Enos, and Albie Miles, moderated by Phil Warsaw. Presented April 2nd, 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put into stark relief the everyday inequities within the food system faced by working-class communities, particularly BIPOC populations, as well as the broader unsustainability of industrial agriculture globally. The challenges span the entire supply chain: consolidation among producers has resulted in unsafe working conditions among farmworkers, while encouraging farming practices which deplete natural resources and reduce biodiversity. Retail workers, facing similarly consolidated markets, have been forced into underpaid (yet “essential”) employment. All the while, these same households face inadequate access and control of their local food environments, contributing poor public health outcomes reflected in disparate COVID-19 mortality rates among BIPOC in the U.S. This round table discussion will explore the existing dynamics within the food system, local perspectives on resisting these trends, and the potential for ecological economics as a base for envisioning a new and more just food system in the post-COVID economy.

Fundamentals of Ecological Economics in Today’s World. By Regina Ostergaard-Klem and Phil Warsaw. Presented January 28th, 2021.

The first talk in the USSEE 2021 Webinar Series: The Post-Covid Economy: Centering Justice, Sustaining Ecosystems, this webinar provides a primer on Ecological Economics, with a focus on the foundations of the discipline related to environmental justice, and sustaining ecosystems that are becoming even more apparent and relevant in today’s world. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting fallout have shone light on the ongoing disparities economic, health, social and ecological crises, their unevenness among multiple social lines, and the inability of a perpetual growth economy in remediating these crises. This inadequacy calls for the biophysical limits of the planet while centering equity in economic systems, which is at the core of Ecological Economics. This seminar both covers the fundamentals of Ecological Economics and outlines what an ecological economic response to COVID-19 might look like.

Insights on effective collaborations between natural and social scientists. by Melissa Baustian of the Water Institute of the Gulf. Presented September 16th, 2020

Solving complex environmental problems requires extensive discussions and studies conducted by researchers from diverse disciplines including the natural and social sciences. Solutions to these environmental challenges usually depend on conceptual models of how these systems are linked and the essential processes within them, also known as coupled-human natural systems or socio-ecological systems. As an ecologist, Dr. Baustian has learned to work with social scientists to study the complex linkages between these systems and to develop modeling tools that represent the essential processes within them. This webinar will provide insights on how collaborations can be most effective between natural and social scientists, providing examples from the speaker’s past and current research projects.

Beyond GDP: Measuring Genuine Progress. Panel Discussion presented June 3rd, 2020.

Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) is a metric designed to take fuller account of the well-being of a nation, only a part of which pertains to the health of the nation’s economy, by incorporating environmental and social factors which are not measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GPI has been suggested to replace, or supplement, GDP as a measure of economic growth. This roundtable will comprise of researchers from across the United States who have calculated the GPI for their local regions. The focus of this panel will be on the GPI methodology and to what extent it can be used to guide policy discussions at the state and local level. Topics will include application of GPI at the subnational level, tradeoffs faced when deciding whether to use regional data or scaled national data, practical challenges faced during GPI calculation, and opportunities for making GPI gender inclusive. The presentation will include 40 minutes of panel discussion, followed by 20 minutes for open discussion and Q&A.

Speaker List: Rob Moore, Scioto Analysis, Ohio; Mairi-Jane Fox, Regis University, Colorado; Eli Lazarus, University of California, Berkeley: Gunseli Berik, University of Utah; Regina Ostergaard-Klem, Hawaii Pacific University

Ostrom, Commons, and Voluntary Environmental Programs by Erik Nordman. Presented April 15th, 2020.

Twenty cities (including Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, and Detroit) have established 2030 District Energy Programs. Building owners within the districts voluntarily pledge to reduce their building energy use, water use and transportation-related greenhouse gases by 50% by 2030. The question is, can a voluntary program result in real resource use and pollution reductions? If so, how can the members hold each other accountable? Aseem Prakash, a student of Elinor Ostrom, and Matthew Potoski extended Ostrom’s ideas about managing a commons to voluntary environmental programs. The 2030 District program is evaluated using their “club theory” of voluntary environmental programs.

The Green New Deal: What is a Reasonable “Realism” in the Face of an Existential Threat by Eric Kemp Benedict. Presented October 9th, 2019.

In high-income countries, the first generation likely to be substantially impacted by climate change is coming of age, and they are urging us to action. Greta Thunberg is asking us to please panic, while Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez led the writing of the Green New Deal resolution. Their calls are grounded in appeals to “the science”: the physical mechanisms driving climate change and evidence of impacts from the natural sciences. Meanwhile, William Nordhaus was given the Nobel Memorial Prize for Economics for his work on the economics of climate change. His research program has arguably allowed for people to tell us not to panic. Yet, his has not been the only view within economics. In this presentation, I will briefly survey some of the alternatives and present a simple model for exploring broad alternatives. I will then talk about the role of social and institutional trust in making major systemic changes in a time of uncertainty.

Advancing the Integration of Ecosystem Services and Livelihood Adaptation by Lizzie King. Presented December 5th, 2018.

The concept of ecosystem services has become a cornerstone in dialogues and policymaking in conservation, natural resource management, and sustainable development. Most methods for ascribing values to the benefits provided by ecosystems are based on a conceptual “flow model” in which natural capital yields services, which in turn yield valued benefits to people. However, in sectors such as rural development and urban planning, there are increasingly vocal criticisms of outcomes that arise when decisions based on optimizing ecosystem services are put in to practice. In this talk, I will examine two limitations of mainstream conceptualizations of ecosystem service flows, and some methodological tools and cutting edge research from other disciplines that can help overcome those limitations. The first limitation is a failure to account for the range of capabilities that people need in order to co-create ecosystem services, and the second is a failure to formally consider how the benefits and values are distributed among members and segments of society. Principles from Sustainable Livelihood Analysis and the nascent field of adaptation studies can complement ecosystem service analyses and valuations to give more holistic and realistic understandings of ecosystem service flows and who benefits from them.

Maryland’s Experience in Measuring Genuine Progress by Anders Hayden. Presented August 18th, 2018.

The Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) is intended to provide a more comprehensive picture of wellbeing than Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by including monetary estimates for a range of environmental, social, and economic costs and benefits ignored in GDP calculations. Beginning in 2010, Maryland has adopted the GPI as an additional indicator of wellbeing for their state. This webinar will provide a look at how Maryland’s use of the GPI has impacted state policy and public priorities. The talk will also provide some preliminary findings from the speakers’s more recent work in investigating use of the GPI in the state of Vermont.

Valuing Ecosystem Services in the Mississippi River Basin by Tania Briceno. Presented June 20th, 2018

Tania Briceno of Earth Economics will present a framewpork for identifying, quantifying, and valuing ecosystem services associated with water and adjacent ecosystems; including important watershed attributes that result in different types of ecosystem seArvice values.

Ecological Economics of Global Climate Change by Jim Kahn. Presented April 18th, 2018.

What will global climate change do to the world economy? This talk does not present a series of cost and damage estimates, but examines the economics of climate change in conceptual terms. The initial focus is on the urgency of limiting emissions quickly, focusing on the tight schedule involved in freezing atmospheric emissions at a level below 500ppm. The world needs to quickly limit annual emissions to 1960s levels if it has any hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Classes of damages are discussed, such as health impacts, environmental refugees, coastal damage and impacts on resource dependent communities in developing nations The talk concludes by focusing on new technology and how intelligent policies, such as carbon taxes, alternative energy subsidies, and changes in land use can have the potential to drastically slow emissions.

Incorporating Ecological Economics into a Standard Economics Course by John Gowdy. Presented February 28th, 2018.

Those of us who teach a standard course in environmental economics are obligated to cover the basic tools of economic analysis and show how these tools are applied to environmental issues. These include marginal analysis, discounting, competitive equilibrium and market failure. But the limitations of neoclassical analysis as applied to the major global environmental issues we face, biodiversity loss and climate change, are becoming increasingly obvious. This webinar discusses what ecological economics can bring to the table in a standard economics course.

Advancing a just and sustainable society within the biophysical limits of global ecosystems