Further Problems with Neoclassical Environmental Economics

Gowdy, John M.; Olsen, Peg R.
Environmental Ethics Vol. 16/2 (1994), pages 161-171

We examine the merits of neoclassical environmental economics and discuss alternative approaches to it. We argue that the basic assumptions of the neoclassical approach, embodied in the indifference curve, make that model inappropriate for environmental analysis. We begin by assuming that the basic postulates of the neoclassical model hold and then argue that even this ideal state is incompatible with environmental sustainability. We discuss the role of the discount rate, the exclusive emphasis on marginal choices, and the assumption of perfect information.

Globalization and Sustainability: Conflict or Convergence?

Rees, William E.
Draft. Final version in: Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society, 22/4 (2002), pages 249-268

Unsustainability is an old problem – human societies have collapsed with disturbing regularity throughout history. I argue that a genetic predisposition for unsustainability is encoded in certain human physiological, social and behavioural traits that once conferred survival value but are now maladaptive. A uniquely human capacity – indeed, necessity – for elaborate cultural myth-making reinforces these negative biological tendencies. Our contemporary, increasingly global myth, promotes a vision of world development centred on unlimited economic expansion fuelled by more liberalized trade. This myth is not only failing on its own terms but places humanity on a collision course with biophysical reality – our ecological footprint already exceeds the human carrying capacity of Earth. Sustainability requires that we acknowledge the primitive origins of human ecological dysfunction and seize conscious control of our collective destiny. The final triumph of enlightened reason and mutual compassion over scripted determinism would herald a whole new phase in human evolution.