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2.2.3 Ecological economics

Ecological economics, which formally came to prominence in the mid-1980s, represents a departure from reliance on the use of mainstream economic modelling. Instead, it branches out to actively engage with and incorporate the ethical, social and behavioural dimensions of environmental issues. In short, ecological economics attempts to provide an interdisciplinary approach to environmental issues, whereas environmental economics maintains the primacy of economic modelling.

Mark Sag
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2.2.2 Environmental economics and green consumerism

In economic terms, green consumerism is typically expressed using measures based on the willingness to pay (WTP) principle. As mentioned above, this takes two main forms: eco-taxation, in which environmental costs are estimated and added to the price of commodities (e.g. vehicles with high carbon emissions); and eco-labelling, in which products are labelled with relevant environmental information, such as is now required by the food industry and governments in many industrialised count
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2.2.1 Environmental economics

Environmental economics emerged as a sub-discipline in the 1960s, following a tradition that began in the early twentieth century with ‘agricultural’ economics and continued in the 1950s with ‘resource’ economics. In each case, natural resources are treated as environmental assets in the same way as other resource inputs, using the classical mainstream supply and demand economic models. David Pearce, who at one stage was at the forefront of environmental economics and was an ac
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2.2 Economic valuation: towards ecological economics

The blue whale could have supplied indefinitely a sustainable yield of 6000 individuals a year.

This is one of the earliest references to sustainability in the literature, taken from the 1971 edition of the science journal Nature (cited in Senge et al., 2006, p. 45). Here, the blue whale is given instrumental value – a means of measuring not the survival of the blue whale for its intrinsic v
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2.1 Accounting for the consequences of environmental harm

The ethical tradition of consequentialism informs not only what matters from the perspective of caring for the environment, but also what matters from the perspective of accountability towards it. In eighteenth-century Europe, the actual environmental consequences of rapid economic development, triggered by the industrial revolutions taking place at that time, prompted an increasing concern for accountability. The most evident expression of this came with ideas of sustainable development
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Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you should be able to:

  • describe environmental matters regarding obligation and entitlements from a ‘caring’ perspective;

  • appreciate the significance of environmental consequentialist ethics in conversations around developing care;

  • identify and compare formal and less formal expressions of environmental responsibility;

  • understand ‘accountability’ in the context of environmental issues;

  • ide
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2.1 Conversing with environment

Consider a situation involving what might be regarded as eco-social collapse. For example, the trigger of global warming (caused primarily by use of fossil fuels in developed countries) has encouraged the rapid development of biofuel agriculture through grants from rich countries in the global North to Brazil and other tropical countries in the global South. This has generated both ecological problems (deforestation, pesticide pollution, etc.) and socio-economic problems – particularly with
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6 Further reading

The models being used in research take such simple energy flows and increase the ‘granularity’ of the components used, to build complex time sequences.

You may like to see Information Sheet 8 at the website of the Climatic Research Unit for a summary of how these have developed.

Click on 'View document' to see charts mentioned in the activity below

2 A 4.6 billion-year history

Climate change is a natural process of warming and cooling that has occurred all through the Earth's history. Throughout geological time there have been ‘hot-house’ periods and ice ages. In order to understand the current situation, it is necessary to have some sense of context and perspective, from historical and geological time-scales. The document below shows a chart showing a generalised temperature history of the Earth.

Click on 'View document' to see the chart

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Learning outcomes

After studying this unit you should be able to:

  • Define and use, or recognize definitions and applications of, each of the terms in bold in the text.

  • Understand the complexity of the interdependence between organisms and their environment.

  • Describe some of the consequences for health of pollution.

  • Explain why it is difficult to gain international agreements to secure biodiversity and reduce pollution.


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Acknowledgements

The material acknowledged below is Proprietary, used under licence and not subject to Creative Commons licensing (see terms and conditions). Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following:

Figure 1/Unit Image © John Isaac/Still Pictures

Figure 2 © Ian Hodgson/Reuters/Popperfoto

Figure 3 © PA Photos

Figure 4 © Accent Alaska

Figure 5 © Tony Bennets/Lonely Planet Images

Figure 6 © Bryan & Cherry Alexander Photography


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5.1 Food preservation and the development of refrigeration

Most societies have had traditional methods of preserving food: drying, baking, pickling, salting, smoking, the use of sugar, and in cold climates, freezing or chilling, with the use of ice houses in the summer. These techniques were usually carried out at a local level, which meant that most perishable food was consumed near to where it was produced, and any food processing was usually small-scale and localised. Cattle and livestock, for example, were moved ‘on the hoof’ from their pastu
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2.2 We are part of nature

Take a few minutes to look around at your surroundings before you read on. What do you see? Obviously this depends on where you are at the moment: at home, at work, or perhaps travelling in between, or maybe you have the misfortune to be laid up in hospital. Possibly like me you are at home. I am fortunate to have a study where I do much of my writing and you won't be surprised to hear that I'm looking at a computer screen at the moment. What else can I see? Books and bookshelves, furniture o
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5.7 Relating individual rights to state sovereignty

The fourth set of problems is really a specific example of the third set and relates to the ways in which individual rights relate to state sovereignty. The Millennium Conference of the UN in 2000 endorsed the need for people-centred changes to the institution and renounced its previous ‘state-centred’ structure. The human-centred logic of rights regards human rights as a value which places legitimate constraints upon the politics of national self-interest and interstate competition. Chan
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5.4 The influence of the Western perspective

With regard to the first set of problems – that the rights discourse is not universal but is deeply informed by a Western perspective – it is striking that many actors and commentators on the international stage now frame their arguments and assertions in terms of the language of rights and justice. Yet we need to ask to what extent this language of rights and justice really underpins shared understandings and values. There is a strong case for saying that if there are shared understandin
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Introduction

This unit is about rights and rights claims, and the idea of implementing justice in the international sphere based on the concept of rights. It is agreed by most people that ‘rights are a good thing’ and in many respects they are. However, this unit deliberately takes a critical view. It seeks to examine closely why rights are a good thing and highlights some of the problems associated with rights. In this way, we hope that the sense in which rights are still, ultimately, ‘a good thing
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5 Conclusion

The issue of climate change draws attention to the power of human activity to transform the planet in its entirety, and it is brought into sharp focus by the predicament of low-lying islands like Tuvalu. As we have seen in this unit, the issue of rising sea level and other potential impacts of changing global climate also point to the transformations in the physical world that occur even without human influence. Oceanic islands provide a particularly cogent reminder that the living things wit
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4.1 When climate changes

We have seen that human-induced climate change poses a challenge for people who live on islands. Such changing patterns and extremes of climate also put pressure on the other living things that are part of the make-up of island territories. However, long before human beings became aware that they could transform the flows that constitute climate, they and other species were already taking advantage of these same flows to help create the very territories that are now under threat. But have the
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5.3 Order and chaos

How can we explain a sudden switch of behaviour at a particular temperature? There must be two competing influences (say X and Y) that depend differently on temperature. Figure 23 indicates how a unique temperature (a so-called critical temperature, Tc) arises,
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4.3.2 Competing processes

Let's look graphically at the way the rate of a thermally activated process changes with temperature. Figure 16 shows two rates with different activation energies of 1.0 and 0.5 eV – which curve is which?

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