Handbook of Environmental and Resource Economics
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Handbook of Environmental and Resource Economics

Edited by Jeroen C.J.M. van den Bergh

This major reference book comprises specially commissioned surveys in environmental and resource economics written by an international team of experts. Authoritative yet accessible, each entry provides a state-of-the-art summary of key areas that will be invaluable to researchers, practitioners and advanced students.
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Chapter 67: Environmental and Ecological Economics Perspectives

R.K. Turner


1003 assimilation and an increasingly unstable set of environmental conditions (Daly, 1973, 1991;Ehrlich, 1989). Public policy should already be based on a ‘no-growth’ objective because the signs are that the planet’s carrying capacity has been, or is very close t o being, exceeded. The position taken in this chapter is that neither of these polar views are strongly supported by the bulk of published natural science findings. Nor do they adequately characterize either environmental or ecological economics (Turner et al., 1997). Genuine scientific progress could be made much more rapidly if a pluralistic and multidisciplinary spirit of tolerance was adopted on all sides. There is a new substantive research agenda, straddling resource, environmental and ecological economics, waiting to be tackled and with findings that could be meaningfully and constructively debated. The agenda includes, among others, questions about sustainability and the substitutability of different forms of capital, including natural capital; macro-environmental scale and thermodynamic limits in source and sink terms; future technological and other changes, together with the problems of novelty and ‘surprise’; ecosystem resilience, thresholds and chaos. The issues are really important and demand urgent attention, research across a broad multidisciplinary front, with networked researchers. Such efforts could yield significant interdisciplinary insights into the human-nature co-evolutionary process. A second set of issues to d o with value systems, philosophy and ethics and related policy prescriptions are more fundamentally contentious, and represent areas of heated debate between ecological and mainstream economics. In the rest of this chapter (Sections 3 and...

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