Ecological Economics

A new field that has developed to deal with the problems of accounting for the environment is ecological economics. This is a somewhat radical departure from classical economics that attempts to address "the relationships between ecosystems and economic systems in the broadest sense" (Costanza, 1989). The intention of workers in this new field is to reinvent economics with connections to ecology, rather than simply trying to correct "market imperfections" as with natural resource economics or environmental economics.

At a very basic level of comparison, ecology and economics have some commonalities or similarities that support the development of the new field. Both fields are named with the same prefix, eco from the Greek oikos, which refers to household. Thus, they appear to deal with similar systems. Ecology deals with natural environments and with environments that include human use and impact. Economics deals with interactions between humans and between humans and the environment. Thus, there is some overlap between the fields (Figure 8.4). Ecological economists hope to expand this overlap so that methods are developed that can be used to make better decisions about the environment.

Further evidence of the similarities between ecology and economics is the sharing of concepts and techniques by analogy. This sharing has been especially influential in ecology, which went through a phase during which economic tools and approaches were applied to a number situations (see reviews given by Bernstein, 1981, and Rapport and Turner, 1977). This same phenomenon has occurred in economics but apparently to a much lesser extent. Table 8.4 lists some examples of these cross-disciplinary analogies.

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