The Environmentalism of the Poor
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The Environmentalism of the Poor

A Study of Ecological Conflicts and Valuation

Joan Martinez-Alier

The Environmentalism of the Poor has the explicit intention of helping to establish two emerging fields of study – political ecology and ecological economics – whilst also investigating the relations between them.
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Chapter 11: On the Relations between Political Ecology and Ecological Economics

Joan Martinez-Alier


11. On the relations between political ecology and ecological economics Against the hopes of many environmental economists and industrial ecologists, the economy is not ‘dematerializing’. This has been a point of departure for the present book. Ecological economics provides the theory on the structural conflict between the economy and the environment. Without such a theory, this book would merely become an entertaining catalogue of environmental struggles, with a tendency to select anecdotal evidence showing a black-and-white picture of the good guys (and girls) against the bad guys. The conflict between economy and environment does not manifest itself only in the attacks on remaining pristine Nature but also in the increasing demands for raw materials and for sinks for residues in the large parts of the planet inhabited by humans, and in the planet as a whole. The fact that raw materials are cheap and that sinks have a zero price is not a sign of abundance but a result of a given distribution of property rights, power and income. The environmental load of the economy, driven by consumption and by population growth, is growing all the time, even when the economy (measured in money terms) is based on the service sector. Some impacts may decrease on some geographical scales, but then other impacts appear on other scales, with the resulting social conflicts. For instance, reduction of global carbon dioxide emissions may be obtained through local nuclear or hydroelectric energy projects, or by absorption of carbon dioxide through...

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