Ecological Economics

Boston University
Boston, Massachusetts

Instructor(s): Ruth, Matthias
Subject area: Economics
Department: Economics
Course number: GG/EE 511
Year taught: 1997
Level: Undergraduate

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Please note that the copyright for this syllabus is retained by the instructor.

Overview: Methods and tools of ecological economics are introduced in the first part of the course and illustrated by empirical applications. The second part is dedicated to specific studies applying different methods and tools of ecological economics to particular natural resources and environmental issues in their relationship to population and economic growth.

Course Description
The increase in human numbers and economic activity has put Homo Sapiens in a position to influence nearly every flow of energy and matter on Earth. Explaining the extent and impacts of this influence is well beyond the theory and analytical tools of individual disciplines, such as economics or ecology. A new interdisciplinary approach is needed, one that unites the relevant aspects of different disciplines.

The theory and tools necessary to understand the relation among human populations, natural resources, the environment, and economic growth are brought together in the discipline of ecological economics. Ecological economics emphasizes the flow of matter and energy among socioeconomic systems and their environment. The methods of ecological economics can be used to provide a more thorough understanding of economy-environment interactions than that offered by a traditional economic analysis.

Methods and tools of ecological economics are introduced in the first part of the course and illustrated by empirical applications. The second part is dedicated to specific studies applying different methods and tools of ecological economics to particular natural resources and environmental issues in their relationship to population and economic growth.

Students are required to read the assigned material in preparation for the class and must be prepared to discuss that material in class.

Course Requirements
There will be three exams. The last exam is cumulative.

Exam 1: 25% Exam 2: 25% Exam 3: 40% Participation in Class Discussions: 10%.

A set of most recent studies in the field of Ecological Economics that are used in this class will be on reserve in Stone Science Library.

Schedule GG/EE 511 Spring 1997
Date Topic (Readings)
Jan 15 Introduction (Ruth 1993 Chpt. 1)
17 Historic Overview (Proops 1989, Christensen 1989, Underwood and King 1989, Daly 1992)
22 - 24 Core Concepts in Natural Resource Economics (Ruth 1993 Chpt. 2, Solow 1974)
29 - 31 Laws of Thermodynamics (Ruth Chpt. 4, Ayres and Nair 1984)
  Energy, Time and Information (Weinberg 1977, Weinberg 1982, Spreng 1992, Ruth 1995, Ruth 1996)
Feb. 5 - 7 The Economy as a Subsystem of the Ecosystem (Norgaard1985, Ruth 1993 Chpt. 3, Ruth 1995, Ruth 1996)
12 Value Theories (Hall et al. 1986)
14 - 21 Substitution and Technical Change (deVries and Berry 1979, Hannon and Joyce 1980, Ruth and Bullard 1993)
26 Review/Discussion
March 5 Macroeconomic Models: Standard National Accounts (Cherry 1980)
7 Macroeconomic Models: Natural Capital (El Serafy 1991, Hueting 1991, Daly and Cobb 1994, Constanza and Daly 1992)
19 - 21 Macroeconomic Models: Energy Input-Output Models (Casler and Wilbur 1984, Costanza 1980)
26 Limits to Growth (Meadows et al. 1972, Simon and Kahn 1984, Mikesell 1995)
28 Productivity Growth and Technical Change (Boretsky 1975, Baily 1986, Alexander 1992)
April 2 Resource Scarcity: Neoclassical Model (Brown and Field 1979, Hall and Hall 1984, Norgaard 1990)
4 Review/Discussion
11 Applications: Aquaculture (Folke 1988, Folke and Kautsky 1989)
16 Applications: Arable Land (Per Hasund 1991)
23 Applications: Wetlands (Costanza et al. 1989)
25-28 Applications: Dynamic Models of Economy Environment Interactions (Ruth and Cleveland 1996)
30 Sustainability (Victor 1991, Daily and Ehrlich 1996, Solow 1992)

GG/EE 511 Readings 1997 (All articles are on reserve in Stone Science Library.)

Alexander, D. 1992. Resource Use and US Manufacturing Productivity Growth, Journal of Post-Keynesian Economics, Vol. 14, pp. 389 - 407.

Ayers, Robert U. and Indira Nair. 1984. Thermodynamics and Economics. Physics Today. pp. 62-71.

Baily, Martin Neil. 1986. What Has Happened to Productivity Growth? Science, vol. 234. pp. 443-451.

Boretsky, Michael. 1975. Trends in U.S. Technology: A Political Economists View. American Scientist, vol. 63. pp. 70-82.

Brown, Gardner M. and Barry Field. 1979. The Adequacy of Measures for Signaling The Scarcity of Natural Resources. Advances in the Economics of Energy and Resources, vol. 1. pp. 218-247.

Casler, Stephen and Suzanne Wilber. 1984. Energy Input - Output Analysis. Resources and Energy, 6. pp. 187-201.

Cherry, R.D. 1980. Chapter 4 - Production, Income, and Spending in Macroeconomics, Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., Reading, MA. pp. 61-91.

Christensen, P.P. 1989. Historical Roots for Ecological Economics: Biophysical versus Allocative Approaches, Ecological Economics, Vol. 1, pp. 17-36.

Costanza, Robert and Herman E. Daly. 1992. Natural Capital and Sustainable Development. Conservation Biology, vol. 6(1). pp. 37-46.

Costanza, Robert, Stephen C. Farber, and Judith Maxwell. 1989. Valuation and Management of Wetland Ecosystems. Ecological Economics, 1. pp. 335-361.

Costanza, Robert. 1980. Embodied Energy and Economic Valuation. Science, vol. 210. pp. 1219-1224.

Daily, G.C. and P.R. Ehrlich. 1996. Socioeconomic Equity, Sustainability, and Earths Carrying Capacity, Ecological Applications, Vol. 6, pp. 991-1001.

Daly, H.E. 1992. Steady-state Economics: Concepts, Questions, policies, GAIA, 1992 No. 6, pp. 333-338.

Daly, H.E. and John B. Cobb. 1994. For the Common Good, Beacon Press, Boston.

de Vries, Bert and R. Stephen Berry. 1979. Physical Information in Economic Analysis in Changing Energy Use Futures. Rocco A. Fazzolare and Craig B. Smith (eds.)

El Serafy, Salah. 1991. The Environment as Capital in R. Costanza (ed.) Ecological Economics, Columbia University Press. pp. 168-175.

Folke, Carl and Nils Kautsky. 1989. The Role of Ecosystems for a Sustainable Development of Aquaculture. Ambio, vol. 18(4). pp. 234-243.

Folke, Carl. 1988. Energy Economy of Salmon Aquaculture in the Baltic Sea. Environmental Management, vol. 12(4). pp. 525-537.

Hall, C.A.S., C.J. Cleveland and R. Kaufmann. 1986. Chapter 3-Value in Classical Economics in Energy and Resource Quality, Wiley-Interscience, New York. pp. 69-76.

Hall, Darwin C. and Jane V. Hall. 1984. Concepts and Measures of Natural Resource Scarcity and a Summary of Recent Trends. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, vol. 11. pp. 363-379.

Hannon, Bruce and John Joyce. 1980. Energy and Technical Progress. Document 308, Energy Research Group, University of Illinois and Champaign-Urbana.

Henderson, J. M. and Richard E. Quandt. 1980. Microeconomic Theory: A Mathematical Approach, McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, Chapter 4.

Hueting, Roefie. 1991. Correcting National Income For Environmental Losses: A Practical Solution For a Theoretical Dilemma in R. Costanza (ed.) Ecological Economics, Columbia University Press. pp. 194-213.

Meadows, D.H., D.L. Meadows, J. Randers, and W.W. Belnews. 1972. Chapter 11- The Limits to Exponential Growth in The Limits to Growth. Universe Books, New York.

Mikesell, R.F. 1995. The Limits to Growth: A Reappraisal, Resources Policy, Vol. 21, pp. 127-131.

Norgaard, Richard B. 1990. Economic Indicators of Resource Scarcity: A Critical Essay. Journal of Environmental and Economics and Management, vol. 19. pp. 19-25.

Norgaard, Richard B. 1985. Environmental Economics: An Evolutionary Critique and a Plea for Pluralism. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, vol. 12. pp. 382-394.

Per Hasund, Knut. 1991. Arable Land as a Resource. Linking the Natural Environment and the Economy: Essays form the Eco-Eco Group. Carl Folke and Thomas Kaberger (eds.). Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 111-140.

Proops, J.L.R. 1989. Ecological Economics: Rationale and Problem Areas, Ecological Economics, Vol. 1, pp. 59-76.

Ruth, M. 1993. Integrating Economics, Ecology and Thermodynamics, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dortrecht, The Netherlands.

Ruth, M. and C.W. Bullard. 1993. Information, Production and Utility, Energy Policy, Vol. 21, pp. 1059-1067.

Ruth, M. 1995. Information, order and Knowledge in Economic and Ecological Systems: Implications for Material and Energy Use, Ecological Economics, Vol. 13, pp. 99-114.

Ruth, M. 1996. Evolutionary Economics at the Crossroads of Biology and Physics, Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems, Vol. 19, pp. 125-144.

Ruth, M. and C.J. Cleveland. 1996. Modeling the Dynamics of Resource Depletion, Substitution, Recycling, and Technical Change in Extractive Industries, in R. Costanza, O. Segura and J. Martinez-Alier (eds.) Getting Down to Earth: Practical Applications of Ecological Economics, Island Press, pp. 301-324.

Simon, Julian L. and Herman Kahn (eds.). 1984. Introduction in The Resourceful Earth: A Responce to Global 2000. B. Blackwell, Oxford, New York. pp. 1-47.

Solow, R.M. 1974. The Economics of Resources or the Resources of Economics. American Economic Review, Vol. 64(2). pp. 1-14.

Solow, R.M. 1992. An Almost Practical Step Toward Sustainability, Resources for the Future, Washington, D.C.

Spreng, D. 1993. Possibilities for Substitution between Energy, Time and Information, Energy Policy, January 1993, pp. 13-23.

Underwood, D.A. and P.G. King. 1989. On the Ideological Foundations of Environmental Policy, Ecological Economics, Vol. 1, pp. 315-334.

Victor, Peter A. 1991. Indicators of Sustainable Development: Some Lessons from Capital Theory. Ecological Economics, 4. pp. 191-213.

Weinberg, Alvin M. 1982. On the Relation Between Information and Energy Systems- A Family of Maxwells Demons. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, vol. 7, no. 1. pp. 47-52.

Weinberg, A. M. 1977. Of Time and the Energy Wars. Nature, vol. 269. p. 638.