Letters to the Editor
The self-sufficient services fallacy, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (2009)
Katherine Ellison’s column, What if they held Christmas and nobody shopped? (Front Ecol Environ 2008; 6: 568), contained an important oversight regarding the conflict between economic growth and environmental protection. The article began with a timely reminder that the profligate consumption characterizing Christmas in the US has a heavy ecological footprint. Ellison rightly noted that such consumption is finally being scrutinized by various organizations. She wrote, “The rapid rise of anti-growth groups, such as [the Center for a New American Dream] worldwide suggests people are catching on to what one recent book dubs the fallacy of ‘shoveling coal on a runaway train’.”. Read More.
Prospects for Reconciling the Conflict Between Economic Growth and Biodiversity Conservation with Technological Progress, Conservation Biology (2008)
The basic conflict between economic growth and biodiversity conservation is generally understood among ecologists and ecological economists. The conflict tends to resonate with the general public and is occasionally reflected by political representatives. For example, the 93rd U.S. Congress expressed an understanding of the conflict in the first sentence of the Endangered Species Act, in which it found that “various species of fish, wildlife, and plants in the United States have been rendered extinct as a consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation” (16 U.S.C. 1531[a]). The phrase “untempered by adequate concern and conservation” left a theoretical door open to reconciling economic growth with biodiversity conservation. Read More.
The Foundation of a New Conservation Movement: Professional Society Positions on Economic Growth, Bioscience (2007)
The American Fisheries Society, American Society of Mammalogists, and Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) are contemplating position statements on the conflict between economic growth and conservation of fish, mammals, and biodiversity, respectively. Similar considerations are bubbling up in the Ecological Society of America, Society for Range Management, and International Society for Ecological Economics. Positions have already been taken by The Wildlife Society, SCB’s North America Section, and the US Society for Ecological Economics, complemented by numerous position statements and endorsements from nonprofessional conservation organizations and individuals. Read More.
Establishing Indicators for Biodiversity, Science (2005)
In their policy forum “The Convention on Biological Diversity’s 2010 target” (14 Jan., p. 212), A. Balmford et al. argue that “conservation scientists have a lot to learn…from economists” in regard to the establishment of indicators that are “rigorous, repeatable, widely accepted, and easily understood.” By way of example, they refer to gross domestic product (GDP) and write that the “global imperative to protect biodiversity and ecosystem services must become as politically significant as economic growth…” Read More.
The Steady State Economy: What it is, Entails, and Connotes, Wildlife Society Bulletin (2004)
In its technical review on economic growth, The Wildlife Society (TWS) described a “fundamental conflict between economic growth and wildlife conservation” (Trauger et al. 2003:2). This conflict exists because, as the economy grows, natural capital (such as timber, soil, and water) is reallocated from wildlife to the human economy (Figure 1). Many believe technological progress may reconcile this conflict, but technological progress expands the breadth of the human niche and, in the service of economic growth, exacerbates the conflict (Czech 2003). Read More.
Fish Conservation, Sustainable Fisheries, and Economic Growth: No More Fish Stories, Fisheries (2004)
What is the biggest challenge to fish conservation and sustainable fisheries in North America today? Certainly some of the leading candidates would be human population growth, habitat destruction, commercial fishing, dams and other water diversions, aquifer depletion, water pollution, and invasive species. In other words, as a recent U.S. President was fond of saying, “It’s the economy, stupid!” Read More.
Taking on the Economic Triangle! Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (2004)
The Ecological Society of America (ESA) is devoted to ensuring “the appropriate use of ecological science in environmental decision making by enhancing communication between the ecological community and policy makers”. I argue that ecological science is appropriately and importantly used when it instills ecological principles into macroeconomic policy making. Read More.
Technological Progress and Biodiversity Conservation: a Dollar Spent a Dollar Burned, Conservation Biology (2003)
Biodiversity at all levels is important to the composition, structure, and functioning of ecosystems, and it provides many of the ecological services underpinning the human economy. Therefore, challenges to biodiversity conservation have become a major topic of academic and public debate. I have argued theoretically (Czech 2000 ) and empirically (Czech et al. 2000 ) that economic growth is the primary challenge to biodiversity conservation and ultimately to human economic sustainability. However, technological progress is proffered as a reconciler of economic growth and biodiversity conservation
(Lomborg 2001). Read More.
The Imperative of Macroeconomics for Ecologists, Bioscience (2002)
Increasing human population and per capita consumption have been widely recognized as threats to ecological integrity. Therefore, one might expect economic growth (a function of increasing population and per capita consumption) to occupy center stage at ecological conferences, infuse the policy implications of ecological research, and shape the public education programs of ecological organizations. This would make the ecological professions much more relevant to society. After all, economic growth is ubiquitous in public dialogue; population and per capita consumption are not. Furthermore, in the middle of the policy arena is a massive table devoted to economic growth, while population and per capita consumption occupy some folding chairs in a dimly lit corner. Read More.
Economic Associations Among Causes of Species Endangerment in the United States, Bioscience (2000)
Scientific assessment of the causes of species endangerment is essential for formulating and implementing sound conservation policy. Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a species is listed as threatened or endangered only upon federal examination of its status, including the reasons for its demise (Rohlf 1989). Beyond the listing process, critical habitat designation and recovery planning require federal knowledge of endangerment causes. As a result of these requirements, information on species endangerment has consistently appeared in the Federal Register since the ESA was passed in 1973. Researchers rely on that body of information to assess patterns of species endangerment in the United States, yet surprisingly few studies have addressed the causes of species endangerment. Read More.
Bill Clinton’s Legacy: An Inconvenient Irony (2013)
They say the ironies never cease, and last week the EPA headquarters were named the “William Jefferson Clinton Federal Building.” But irony and legacy are not always good bedfellows. Before the history writers get carried away and bestow upon Clinton the label of Environmental Protector, let’s look at the rest of the story… Read More.
Supply Shock: The Journey (2013)
Writing a book is like going on a journey. You explore the terrain, make discoveries, meet interesting people, and maybe learn a new language. The longer the book-writing, the longer the journey. Supply Shock was a long journey; here is a short travelogue. Read More.
Presenting the Economic Policy of the Occupy Movement (2011)
If there is one thing the Occupy Wall Street movement has generated, it’s the opinion that there is no unifying agenda or policy being advanced by the Occupiers. Perhaps that explains why organizations such as mine have been asked repeatedly to contribute to that agenda and help identify that policy. And perhaps the time has come to oblige. Read More.
President Obama’s (Hoped For) “Amaze Speech” (2011)
Fellow Americans, this evening I have a special message for you. It’s an unprecedented and surprising message, but ultimately it will resonate with your common sense, good will, and patriotic spirit. It turns out that the recessionary cloud we’re under does have an extremely valuable silver lining. I know; it sounds like something only a politician would say, but wait. I think you’ll be surprised to hear my explanation. Read More.
A Full Employment Act for the 21st Century (2011)
If we aren’t living in an “educable moment,” then we must be dumber than a doggone boot. Financial collapse, fiscal crisis, skyrocketing gas prices, global warming, revolutions in crowded countries, unemployment all around… let’s graduate from the College of the 21st Century and recognize the old kindergarten lessons about limits to growth were right after all. Read More.
Obama Steps Onto Slippery Slope (2011)
He’s finally done it. Barack Obama has taken the tantalizing trail to a notoriously slippery slope. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal recently, the President promised, “federal agencies [will] ensure that regulations protect our safety, health and environment while promoting economic growth.” In other words, we will have our cake [the environment] and eat it too [for economic growth], and federal agencies will be there to dish it all up. Read More.
Bill Clinton, The Nature Conservancy, and The Old Win-Win Rhetoric (2013)
When The Nature Conservancy decides to talk, the environmental community listens. Even some of Wall Street listens. Despite TNC’s low-key approach, no other conservation organization is remotely close to TNC in political connection and resources. Therefore, one of the most influential environmental books of the year is likely to be Nature’s Fortune by virtue of the fact that the author is none other than TNC’s president, Mark Tercek. Read More.
The Outlook for Steady State Economics in 2013 (2012)
The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) has been the leading organization in advancing the steady state economy as a policy goal for nearly ten years. Maybe that’s not saying much, because CASSE has been the only organization focused on advancing the steady state economy. But times, they are a-changin’. Others are sure to come onboard as climate change, biodiversity loss, supplies shocks and other formidable problems are all traced back to too much economic growth. Read More.
Economic Growth: The Missing Link in Environmental Journalism (2012)
Environmental journalists are like doctors. Doctors run from patient to patient, harried, dealing with symptoms more than causes. They’re too busy dispensing pills to talk about holistic health. It’s an approach that makes money for the health industry but isn’t so great for public health. Read More.
Book review of Ecological Economics: Principles and Applications (2004)
Having recently developed and ecological economics course for Virginia Tech, I can empathize with the growing number of ecological economists who have looked far and wide for a bona fide textbook that is at once introductory and comprehensive. Look no further, for Ecological economics by Daly and Farley is it! In the great tradition of the 19th century classical economists, Daly and Farley begin by wrestling with the moral philosophy of economics. Read More.
Book review of The New Economy of Nature: the Quest to Make Conservation Profitable (2003)
Gretchen Daily and Katherine Ellison are affiliated with Stanford University, where Daily is an interdisciplinary scientist and Ellison a consulting writer. Daily edited Nature’s Services: Societal Dependence on Natural Ecosystems, an excellent book on the economic importance of ecological integrity. Her teaming with Ellison portends great science writing, as evidenced by their fascinating chapter on pollinators, and their ultimate goal with The New Economy of Nature is a noble one: sustainability. Their means to that goal is expressed in the subtitle, The Quest to Make Conservation Profitable. Read More.
Book review of The World and the Wild (2002)
In August 2001 I began reading The world and the wild. On 11 September terrorism changed the course of history. On 29 September, returning to Dulles Airport (home of the flight that breached the Pentagon) and finishing The world and the wild, I read, ‘The dream of many now is to go abroad, run after money. Get rich fast! Become somebody fast! But look what is happening all over the country. Read More.
Book review of The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World (2002)
Bjorn Lomborg tells us The Skeptical Environmentalist was inspired by the late Julian Simon. It shows, and it is a dubious distinction. Julian Simon’s capstone, Ultimate Resource 2 (Simon 1996) was so fallacious and shoddily documented that I devoted a full chapter to refuting it in Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train (Czech 2000 a). Read More.
Letters to the Editor
Ecological and environmental policies versus a steady state economy in times of crisis: response to Folmer and Piersma, Conservation Biology (2007)
Folmer and Piersma (2007) agree with me and, I dare say, conservation biologists at large on two key points: biodiversity is in steep decline, and production and consumption of goods and services have negative environmental and ecological impacts, including biodiversity loss. Our differences lie in how we respond to these points. Read More.
The advocacy and science divide, Conservation Biology (2007)
In “Science, Scientists, and Policy Advocacy,” Robert Lackey (2007) helps us fortify the important fence between science and policy advocacy. The fence should be maintained with due diligence because it keeps the pastures of science and advocacy productive. Young scientists who imprudently charge the fence will be turned back to the scientific pasture. Intractably rogue scientists risk being culled from the herd. Read More.