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Economics and ecologically sustainable futures

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Economic thought has had considerable influence on ecology and environmental management. This has been by and large to the detriment of ecology for two reasons: first, much of the neo-classical economics (the economics of resource allocation) is based on untested and highly improbable assumptions about behaviour in the real world. Efforts to validate this theory in ecological contexts have not been very successful and, further, have themselves been based on inadequate methods. Second, applications of economic theories of optimization to natural resource allocations have led to depletion rather than conservation of resources because they are based on unfounded assumptions about the natural world and the capability for self-renewal of natural resource systems. Further, viewing nature as a "commodity" focuses on only one aspect of nature's services and even here is inadequate, for it fails to account for renewal over long time horizons. Emerging conceptual frameworks based on ecological economics hold more promise in forging the much needed integration of economics and ecology. Their value may be realized if some of the "blinders" that govern economic thought can be shed in meeting the critical challenge of an ecologically sustainable and ethical future.
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Keywords: Conservation; Ecology; Economics; Environment; Green Model; Sustainable Development

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 1997

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