Summary and Conclusions

This is a sample of the range of transdisciplinary thinking that can be put under the heading of ecological economics. While it is difficult to categorize ecological economics in the same way one would a normal academic discipline, some general characteristics can be enumerated.

• The core problem is the 'sustainability' of interactions between economic and ecological systems.

• An explicit attempt is made at 'pluralistic dialog' and integration across disciplines, rather than territorial disciplinary differentiation.

• An emphasis is placed on 'integration' of the three hierarchical goals of sustainable scale, fair distribution, and efficient allocation.

• There is a deep concern with the 'biophysical underpinnings' of the functioning of jointly determined ecological and economic systems.

• There is a deep concern with the relationship between the 'scale' of economic activity and the nature of change in ecological systems.

• Since valuation based on stated willingness to pay reflects limitations in the valuer's knowledge of ecosystems functions, there is an emphasis on the 'development of valuation techniques' that build on an understanding of the role of ecosystem functions in economic production.

• There is a broad focus on systems and 'systems dynamics, scale, and hierarchy' and on 'integrated modeling' of ecological economic systems.

These characteristics make ecological economics applicable to some of the major problems facing humanity today, which occur at the interfaces of human and natural systems, and especially to the problem of assuring humanity's health and survival within the biosphere into the indefinite future. It is not so much the individual core scientific questions that set ecological economics apart -since these questions are covered independently in other disciplines as well - but rather the treatment of these questions in an integrated, transdisciplinary way, which is essential to their understanding and effective use in policy. The solutions being considered in ecologial economics are deserving of increasing attention.

See also: Adaptive Management and Integrative assessments; Ecological Footprint; Ecosystem Services; Limits to Growth; Sustainable Development.

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