Ecological economics for humanity’s plague phase

| November 17, 2019 | Leave a Comment

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Media Type: Article - Recent

Year of Publication: 2020

Author(s): William Rees

Journal: Elsevier

Categories: , ,

The human enterprise is in potentially disastrous ‘overshoot’, exploiting the ecosphere beyond ecosystems’ regenerative capacity and filling natural waste sinks to overflowing. Economic behavior that was once ‘rational’ has become maladaptive. This situation is the inevitable outcome of humanity’s natural expansionist tendencies reinforced by ecologically vacuous growth-oriented ‘neoliberal’ economic theory. The world needs a more ecologically-informed economics yet, despite its self-description, contemporary ‘ecological economics’ does not adequately reflect key elements of human evolutionary and behavioral ecology. How should the discipline develop? This paper briefly considers some of the missing pieces that are particularly relevant to humanity’s econoecological predicament: competitive displacement of non-human species through habitat and resource appropriation; humans as exemplars of the maximum power principle; the implications of ‘far-from-equilibrium’ thermodynamics; and evidence that H. sapiens is in the plague phase of a global population cycle. I then describe some of motivational and cognitive roots of crisis denial that extend even into the 2015 Paris climate accord. The paper concludes with: a) a list of principles for ecological economics consistent with the analysis and; b) a minimal set of policy actions necessary for the global community to achieve a more equitable steady-state economy and stable population within the biocapacity of nature.

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