Joint Production and Responsibility in Ecological Economics
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Joint Production and Responsibility in Ecological Economics

On the Foundations of Environmental Policy

Stefan Baumgärtner, Malte Faber and Johannes Schiller

This groundbreaking book takes a fresh look at how environmental problems emerge from economic activity and how they may be addressed in a responsible and sustainable manner. At its centre is the concept of joint production. This captures the phenomenon whereby several effects necessarily emerge from one activity and whereby human action always entails unintended consequences. This, according to the authors, is the structural cause behind modern-day environmental problems.
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Chapter 19: Conclusions and Perspectives

Stefan Baumgärtner, Malte Faber and Johannes Schiller


In this book, we have addressed the questions of how environmental problems emerge from human economic activity, and what this implies for an all-encompassing and long-term environmental policy. At the centre was the concept of joint production. It captures the general principle that human action, which is directed towards a certain end, inevitably gives rise to additional side effects. The concept is constitutive for explaining how environmental problems emerge, and is also fruitful for pointing to their solutions. A thorough understanding of joint production and its consequences is, in our view, an indispensable prerequisite for taking responsible action that meets the challenge of sustainability (cf. Section 1.1). So, analysing joint production means rethinking the foundations of environmental policy. 19.1 Retrospect: Approach of this Book We have analysed joint production and its consequences from different, complementary perspectives – that of the natural sciences, economics, and ethics. Our interdisciplinary approach was based on concepts, models, and case studies. Taking the ubiquitous phenomenon of joint production as a starting point, Part I laid the conceptual foundations of joint production. We defined joint production in an encompassing way which captures the inevitability of joint outputs, and explicitly takes into account the time dimension of such inevitability. In a thermodynamic analysis, we demonstrated that all production is joint production. This ubiquity of joint production leads to a number of structural consequences for the development of ecological-economic systems. Economic action – due to joint production – interferes with a multiplicity of ecological, economic and social stocks....

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