Elizabeth M. B. Doran, Lindsay Barbieri, Ida Kubiszewski, Kate Pickett, Thomas Dietz, Michael Abrams, Richard Wilkinson, Robert Costanza, Stephen C. Farber and Jeannie Valcour
Ecological economics (EE) emerged and persists as a transdisciplinary field in service to creating a sustainable and desirable future for humanity on Earth. The early recognition that humans are inextricably linked and embedded in nature, deriving specific and quantifiable benefits from the healthy functioning of such systems, has resulted in much success for the field, in particular with respect to the concept of ecosystem services. In balance, human wellbeing has also been a central issue for the field, as it has been for other lines of research as well. As the field seeks to further mature and set forth a research agenda, it is time to assess the approaches that have been proposed and try to provide synthesis to illuminate the ways forward. We thus here review the frameworks, and their purposes, that have emerged as EE has matured. In undertaking this review, we pay particular attention to the international sustainable development agenda setting processes (i.e. the UN SDGs) that have transpired over the last two decades, which seek to incorporate variable definitions of wellbeing at a multitude of human and planetary scales. We further develop foundational concepts for systems analysis to enable the future EE agenda and bring coherence, integration and continued progress in the creation of actionable knowledge.