Strengths and weaknesses of ecological economics

Strengths and weaknesses of ecological economics

Critics have described the identity of ecological economics as weak and one that

lacks a generally accepted conceptual framework (Dovers, & Stern 2003, p.5). It has

also been dismissed as having a knowledge structure that is not clearly defined (Dovers, & Stern 2003, p.5). However, ecological economists rebut this criticism by

pointing out that ecological economics is distinguished by its distinct focus on time,

nature and justice (Daly, & Farley 2010, p.4). Unlike other mainstream economic

schools of thought ecological economists, point out that issue of sustainable

development, irreversibility of environmental change, issues of intergenerational equity

and uncertainty of the long-term outcomes is what informs and guides ecological

economics research, analysis and valuation (Daly, & Farley 2010, p.4). Ecological

economists question the basic mainstream economic models like cost-benefit analysis

and the separation of economic values from scientific inquiry. Here, ecological

economists argue that economics as a study is inevitably normative and less empirical

or positive (Daly, & Farley 2010, p.4). For this reason, ecological economists see

strength in their positional analysis which seeks to integrate time and justice issues as

the most productive and effective approach to economics.

Daly, a great ecological economist of repute who is in fact associated with the

founding of this field argues that a major strength of ecological economics is its seeing

of the natural and manmade capital as fundamentally complements replaceable only

over a very insignificant margin (Daly 2008, p.88). Seeing capital from this perspective

will enable an economy to appreciate the fact that if they are complements then the one

in short supply will be limiting and if they are substitutes then there is no limitation (Daly

2008, p.88). Daly (2008, p.88) elucidates that the fact of limiting factor largely increases

the force of scarcity. In short, ecological economics challenges the mainstream

approach towards natural resources, contending that it underestimates natural capital

by regarding it as substitutable with manmade capital, that is, with labor and technology.


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