Ecological Economics and development in Latin America

Ecological Economics and development in Latin America

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By Walter Alberto Pengue

The economic and financial gigantism of this new global order, in these times is perceived in the economic crisis, but the expansion of this gigantism is found in all parts of the economic world, in the change of scales, which exceed the human, not only in the world of capital, but in the global business world (which has no limits to its vortex) in the expansive growth of corporate groups, in their forms of appropriation of the world, its people and its nature.

"I write for those who can not read me. Those from below, those who have waited for centuries in the queue of history, cannot read or have nothing to do with ”.
Eduardo Galeano, The dignity of art. The Book of Hugs, p. 140.

A debate, economic?

The international financial crisis, which became visible in the last months of 2008, has once again brought a part of the global financial economic world to its knees and highlighted once again the enormous flaws that the partial approach to a complex problem left to the discretion of a few and added to the most extreme greed, it can generate over hundreds of millions of people.

A financial system that, although it always was, today is more disconnected from its own economic reality (Diagram No. 1). This bubble or financial economy grows and bursts, recurrently, since it is always disconnected from reality, which it affects in different ways.

The disconnection of the financial world from its reality of support, already showed worrying warning signs when the financial circulation figures exceeded the world GDP by ten times and then allowed it to reach the current numbers where the disproportion is 50 times.

The financial apparatus is made to "stimulate" the production of goods or services, hence a financial circulation of the same order as the world GDP was sufficient, warned the mathematician Max Dickmann of the Paris VII University. But the system multiplied madly and uncontrollably. If the available mass is measured in monetary units, this circulation of 50 times the global GDP means that 98% of the system is a great international financial bicycle.

And here is a first approximation to the tremendous disconnection that exists between the actors of the financial, economic and natural resources markets: From the point of view of stability, the serious thing is that 98% of the financial bicycle circulates at an infinite speed like that of light, while the reproduction of goods and services, the remaining 2% does so at a snail's pace, despite technological leaps (Naishtat, 2008). And who has thought, from this economic world, on the replacement rates of nature ?: nobody. Market interest rates and nature's replacement rates, in many cases, are not similar (Costanza and others, 1999). And that is the most serious. We are eating the world. The former, of course, exceed the natural ones, as many times as the financier thinks of.

However, despite what happened, unfortunately the world itself hopes that, from the most orthodox economy (which basically subsumed them in the problem), the magic recipes that give account of a solution and a search for stabilization will come out again in unfinished cycles every day more recurrent. It is just that, magic and not science.

Incredibly, hundreds of billions of dollars have disappeared from the system, and practically the main concerns of economic actors and policy-makers only seek to again seek a point of stability and equilibrium, within the same economic environment, that is, seeking unsuccessfully a relaunch of capitalism, without understanding that the bases of the problem are in this giant with feet of clay.

The economic and financial gigantism of this new global order, in these times is perceived in the economic crisis, but the expansion of this gigantism is found in all parts of the economic world, in the change of scales, which exceed the human, not only in the world of capital, but in the global business world (which has no limits to its vortex) in the expansive growth of corporate groups, in their forms of appropriation of the world, its people and its nature.

The path of change for the improvement of life on earth does not go through the economy on this scale, but through the recognition of the human dimension in this world. E.F. Schumacher clearly stated his ideas when, in 1973, he wrote his article Small is beautiful, where he emphasized the concept of natural capital and highlighted the alternative economy based on a human scale, decentralized and supported by proprietary technologies, ideas that inspired generations of environmentalists. A shift towards a new environmental rationality.

The contradiction between capitalism and planetary sustainability and stability has been raised by authors such as Joel Kovel, in his book The enemy of nature. The end of capitalism or the end of the world? (The enemy of nature. The end of capitalism or the end of the world ?, in 2002, which warns about the same issues.

Despite all its achievements, and the examples that supported by Scumacher's ideas around the world, economic gigantism, hand in hand with financial and economic globalization (1), continues to prevail in the minds and hearts of economists and from those who, unfortunately, continue to listen to them. Just as today, a new real estate bubble was allowed to grow supported by unsustainable financial figures even in economic market terms, in the same way, a cult of the possibility of the exploitation of nature is still maintained today as if such a situation had no close limit. But let's do a brief history exercise.

Diagram N ° 1. The real and financial economy and its base of support "not registered": Nature

As an academic discipline, economics is only two centuries old. Adam Smith published his pioneering book, The Wealth of Nations, in 1776. Smith's contribution consisted in analyzing how markets organized economic life and achieved rapid economic growth. In his own way, he tried to show that the price and market system was capable of coordinating individuals and firms without the presence of a central direction.

Perhaps along the way, there would be basic concepts that would serve to understand again what is really happening today. Aristotle, made use of the concept of chrematistics (from the Greek khrema, wealth, possession), in the sense that today we give to this economy. For the philosopher, chrematistics responded to a set of strategies that allowed whoever developed them to accumulate money over money and therefore power and with this carry forward, the most recalcitrant decisions. Aristotle's chrematistics was certainly a reprehensible attitude, against nature that dehumanized those who developed it. Aristotle already conceived the risk that chrematistics would become independent of the economy and seek, not just to satisfy the need, but an unlimited enrichment. They were the risks of confusing the means (money) with an end in itself. It is clear, from the beginning, that when we talk about economy in today's world, we are talking about chrematistics. Far has been the original and interesting definition linked to the economy as the administration of the resources of the house or the environment.

Going back then to Adam Smith and almost a hundred years later, as capitalist companies began to spread their influence to all regions of the world, appeared the exhaustive critique of capitalism, Karl Marx's Capital (1867, 1885, 1894) which argued that He was doomed and that depressions, revolutions would soon follow him and that the only possible alternative would be socialism.

In the decades that followed, events seemed to confirm Marx's predictions. Economic panics and deep depressions of the 1890s and 1930s led twentieth-century intellectuals to question the viability of capitalism based on private enterprise.

Socialism had great prominence since 1917, and in the 1980s about a third of the world was governed by Marxist doctrines. Marxism and current progressivism continue to share with neoclassical economics, the same ideas of "progress", of technological optimism under a brutal concept of exploitation and domination of nature.

But the crises continued and in 1936, John Maynard Keynes's The General Theory of Occupation, Interest, and Money appeared, describing a new way of approaching economics that was to help states mitigate the worst ravages of the economy. business cycles through monetary and fiscal policy.

In the 1980s the Western capitalist countries and the Eastern socialist countries rediscovered the power of the market to achieve rapid technological change and raise the standard of living of their societies, or at least a part of them. In the West, governments reduced regulations that regularized patterns of industry and production and liberalized prices, and in the late 1980s - 1989 - countries with centralized economies directly incorporated the capitalist economy (Samuelson and Nordhaus, 1995).

To this day, we have ironclad communist market economy regimes (China), partially challenged by advocates of "free enterprise" who once argued that this could work properly only under democratic regimes. The assumptions of the Indian economist Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate in Economics (1998), when he argued in favor of these ideas (2) in Democracia y Libertad and his many other works, in fact, from the USA remain a little behind and out of date. and not from India.

During the nineties, and especially at the end of this century, the large, progressive and systematic worldwide expansion of transnational companies and their capital investments in most of the countries of the world, the increase in commercial exchange and the aforementioned disintegration of the Russian socialist system, have been the main causes that have led the process of globalization and transnationalization of the economy. Emerging countries, with huge populations and territories, are beginning to weigh heavily on the global economic board. The BRIC group (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are a demonstration of this as well as the G20.

Multinational companies have a concentration, economic, financial, commercial and technological power of such gigantic magnitude that it has never been known before (Minsburg and Valle, 1994).

Despite this important economic growth and increase in the well-being of certain sectors, together with the positivist expectation that the economy has in the future solutions offered by technology and the use - ad infinitum - of resources, there are several issues that from the Neoclassical economics still have no answer or have even been raised.

Key issues facing the next millennium that have not even been partially solved are directly linked to the overexploitation of natural resources, the undervaluation of these (that is, the non-recognition of their true environmental value and not only from the market ) the unbridled pressure on ecosystems, the widening gap between rich and poor, the unequal distribution of wealth and growing hunger in the world. All this, under a climate change scenario that is not contemporary to us and whose consequences in a recurring sum of natural or anthropic catastrophes, droughts, floods, losses of food production we have just begun to elucidate.

Anyway, something is changing in the economy. The international financial crisis at the dawn of this millennium, heralds an important transformation (which does not imply, major changes, do not be happy), in global capitalism. Or at least it seems so. The same economists also appeal to the ethical responsibility of companies and the reform of the system itself (3). It's not much, but at least for a while they're going to try to be a little less reckless. Furthermore, neither them nor the States that follow their recipes and recommendations can be asked. On the other hand, the harmful consequences of deregulation and free markets and even the possibility of providing new structures to the international economy are discussed. Many sectors of public opinion in developed countries show some apprehension regarding the real meaning of trade liberalization and its deleterious effects. It is even argued in favor of greater government interference in the internationalization of the economy.

The globalist model of the future is no longer as effective or as interesting. It used to be presented as a kind of panacea for the world economy. Now its limitations and the destructive consequences it can bring are becoming apparent. The acceleration of economic cycles and the global consumption of resources make us question the economic, social and environmental sustainability of this system.

Cycles of nature or of the economy?

However, and incredibly, it is still extremely paradoxical that not enough attention has been paid to key situations that affect the very base of the capitalist system, and that it is not seen in money, but in the importance, until now very relativized, that is has given the resource base where all goods come from: Nature.

In the conventional approach to economics (Diagram 2), as developed by classical economists (Samuelson and Nordhaus, Economics, 14 °), the circular and closed diagram is the one suggested to understand the operation of a market economy. This is how there you can identify the owners of the factors of production (land or resources, capital and labor), which are families or the domestic economy and, on the other hand, the companies that would be the ones that demand these for production. . Families offer these factors in the market for resources or factors and they are exchanged for money (income, interest and salary). Then companies use these primary resources for the production of different goods (eg, soybeans, footwear, housing) that they offer in the goods and services markets for which they will receive money. The income of the families (also money), will serve them to acquire those goods in the market, thereby closing that circuit. Thus, incredibly, a cycle of production and transfers in a perpetuom mobile that would go on forever would work for the economic explanation. Adam Smith (1776) was moved to recognize that there was "an order" in the economic system and proclaimed the principle of the "invisible hand", according to which, every individual, selfishly seeking only his own personal good, acts as if he were directed by an invisible hand that would also guide achieving the best for all. Smith's invisible hand doctrine explains why the outcome of the market mechanism seems so orderly. His insight into the governing function of such a mechanism has influenced modern economists, both admirers of capitalism and its detractors. A former president of the International Society for Ecological Economics, Richard Norgaard, would say many years later that "the invisible hands of the market often have to have someone who moves and guides them", alluding to the non-delegable role of the state and regulations on such an unpredictable pattern.

On the other hand, there is another proposal to try to understand these questions. The first thing could be to try to understand the economy within nature and not this within or at the service of the former. In this way, we will come to see that the economic circuit, seen as such by economists, is not like that, but rather, it works thanks to a unidirectional flow of energy and materials in transformation.

Unlike the conventional economic system that sees the economy as a circular flow of goods and money (Diagram 2), the ecological economy comes to firmly review these assumptions and proposes a unidirectional flow of energy, whose original source is the sun (which it is the pilastre that operates the economic wheel) until a final conversion into non-reusable energy or pollution (Diagram 3).

Diagram Nº 3. The operation of the circuit under the sphere of Ecological Economy
Unidirectional flow of energy

Very different, then, will be the arguments, if in this system instead of perceiving only a flow of materials or money to flow in a circular way, the group mobilized by a permanent income of energy is looked at from a greater context, which is the one that does yes move that wheel, like the water of a river, which, passing from one point to another, moves a wheel. If the latter (in the example, water), were not present, the system would stop, it would stagnate. But the passing water follows a flow, unidirectional. It is not the same. Like the example of water with the wheel, the energy that enters the system and makes it move, is not the same that leaves it, after use. On the one hand that energy is transformed and on the other it generates energy of another quality, thus fulfilling in the economy, the principles of physics, first and second of thermodynamics.

Thinking about the system in one way or another, then, has extremely important consequences on our natural environment. Seeing it in the first instance, is what allows to promote its degradation and until its exhaustion (Hotelling, 1931) by accelerating economic cycles, with little socio-environmental consideration. Following the fundamentals of the second diagram will reconsider many of the forms of appropriation of nature, its recycling capacity, identify energy bottlenecks, its carrying capacity and even a search for the slowdown of "sustainable" economic cycles economically or financially. but impossible to sustain in ecological terms.

Nicholas Georgescu Roegen (1971), one of the pillars of modern ecological economics, said: “Nothing could be further from the truth than to affirm that the economic process is an isolated and circular question, as represented by traditional analysis ... economic is solidly founded on a material base subject to certain restrictions. Due to these obstacles, the economic process has an irrevocable unidirectional evolution. In the world of economics, only money circulates in two directions from one economic sector to another (…), if the latter is considered, it would seem that economists (…) have succumbed to the worst economic fetishism: monetary ”.

Likewise, it is important to note that in this economic circuit as such, it is the "economy" that is inserted into a society that contains it and not the other way around. Why?. Well, because not all of society, for whatever reason, is part of that economic system. A society that also generates its own and different culture, which in many cases, is not a component of that economic system either. How we would judge or include in these exchanges of goods and services for money, the informal systems, the barter that exchanges goods, the exchange and social support networks, certain forms of the social economy, the cooperative systems that do not use money (4) or the mere refusal of some social sectors to fall into the exchange of money. That economic system is then inserted into a much larger system that is the social system, which would respect diversity and different needs. Which is also cultural. And only there, is when nature appears, perhaps far away for the economy, but continent of the whole process. The first great circle then, is that of nature. Which has limits: the planet's own. Or even more so the biosphere and the spaces to which man has bequeathed thanks to his technological capabilities. With a superior energy source that encompasses it above all that great system that is the sun.

Willian Kapp (5), highlighted it in 1976 when he said that “Environmental destruction and the growing scarcity of resources have finally made us aware of the fact that production, allocation, choice of inputs and their placement are not occurring in closed or semi-closed systems that economic science has traditionally used as theoretical models to explain economic processes, but basically this occurs in open systems ”.

Today, we can see that both capitalism and communism have failed in their relationship with nature. There is no such thing as “perpetual capitalism” as James O'Connor so brilliantly documents it in his article “Sustainable Capitalism Is Possible” in the book Political Ecology, Nature, Society and Utopia. But that also an even more powerful force has risen above these that is further overshadowing the environmental security of the planet and therefore of humanity: consumerism.

With its heart centered on the most brutal individualism, exacerbated by the media, marketing, materialism, and the availability of money, the forces of consumerism have paled capitalism itself and are even advancing irrationally, even when the economic system itself gives indicators of saying Enough. Consumerism has won the spaces of religion, family, politics and social parameters (Santamarta 2004). Endless consumption and economic growth is the paradigm of a new religion, where increased consumption is a way of life necessary to maintain economic activity and employment. Man works, only to consume in many cases superfluously or he spends every day more hours of his working time to achieve this state, at least in developed economies.

The consumption of goods and services, of course, is essential to satisfy human needs, but when a certain threshold is exceeded, it becomes consumerism.

"The main causes that the global environment continues to deteriorate are unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, particularly in industrialized countries," says Agenda 21.

Of the 6,600 million inhabitants that we have in the world, the privileged consumer society is made up of 1,728 million people, 28% of the world population: 242 million live in the United States (84% of its population), 349 million in Western Europe (89% of the population), 120 million in Japan (95%), 240 million in China (just 19% of its population), 122 million in India (12%), 61 million in Russia (43 %), 58 million in Brazil (33%) and only 34 million in sub-Saharan Africa (5% of the population).

In total, 816 million consumers live in industrialized countries (80% of the population) and 912 million in developing countries (only 17% of the Third World population).

The 15% of the world's population living in high-income countries is responsible for 56% of the world's total consumption, while the poorest 40%, in low-income countries, are credited for only 11% of consumption. Despite the fact that most people today consume more - due to the expansion of the world economy in the 1990s and the improvement in living standards in many countries - the average African household's consumption is 20% lower than that of 25 years ago.

But sustainable consumption is not just about the equitable use of resources. If the entire population of the world lived as an average inhabitant of high-income countries, we would need another 2.6 planets for the support of all, according to the measure of the sustainability of productive space, an independent measurement based on United Nations statistics .

The annual output of the world's economy grew from $ 31 trillion in 1990 to $ 42 trillion in 2000, and had risen to just $ 6.2 trillion in 1950. This increase in economic activity created millions of new jobs and on the other hand, it encouraged people to consume more (than they need, and even more than they don't need). For example, world telephone connections increased from 520 million in 1990 to 844 million in 1998, or 62%. Cell phones in Argentina now exceed twice the number of fixed telephone lines and continue to grow.

Although per capita income has increased by 3% per year in 40 countries since 1990, more than 80 nations have lower per capita incomes than they did a decade ago. One fifth of the world's population lives on less than a dollar a day, without the means to meet their basic needs for food, clean water and health care.

Global energy consumption has increased significantly since 1992 and is projected to increase at a rate of 2% per year until 2020. Global consumption of fossil fuels increased by 10% between 1992 and 1999. Per capita use remains higher in the United States. developed countries, where people consume up to 6.4 tons of oil equivalent per year, that is ten times more than the consumption of developing countries.

Between 1950 and 2007 (Santamarta 2004), the consumption of water has tripled, that of fossil fuels has increased fivefold, that of meat grew by 550%, carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 400%, world GDP increased by 716 %, world trade reached 1,568%, world advertising spending grew by 965%, the number of tourists leaving its borders increased by 2,860%, the number of cars went from 53 million in 1950 to 565 million in 2002 and the consumption of paper jumped to 423%, in this case between 1961 and 2002. The important gains in efficiency (let us also think about the Jevons paradox (6)) are quickly absorbed by the increase in consumption. Homes are getting bigger, but with more recyclable materials, and cars are getting more and more powerful.

Right now, current levels of consumption and production, based on the world's ecological average productive area, exceed the Earth's ecological capacity by 25%, which means that even at current levels, humanity is eating up the world's natural capital. planet at a considerable rate. Don't eat the world, it seems to be the only slogan for such debauchery. It is not enough to propose changes and reduction of consumption. The current consumer paradigm must be attacked, particularly in hyperdeveloped economies and consumer enclaves in developing economies.

But how is it that this is not seen? Well, it is not perceived, clearly, because those affected are not visible, because the damage occurs in remote places, or they degrade settings of little interest or remote, or their disappearance is not perceived until very late, or the damage is delayed or masked . Worse still, these "cannot be related" to the intensification of consumption. Or because ultimately, it is not known. Or little is known. Or the problem is partially known. Or thanks to power, the damage is virtually socialized and burdens both the poorest or future generations (who cannot defend themselves or claim it!), Or on the most impoverished countries. Joan Martínez Alier, another former ISEE president, says: "The poor sell cheap." Sadly, I must add that also poor countries, although rich in resources, are also "sold cheaply", or sold in this way, by those who manage them.


Issues such as externalities, social and private costs and benefits, pollution and degradation of natural resources - erosion, salinization, losses of the productive capacity of soils, losses of biodiversity -, increased poverty, unemployment and the regionalization of the world in advanced and stagnant areas has not been efficiently addressed by orthodox economics.

Some proposals and analyzes with this same perspective have been approached from Environmental Economics, with its studies on externalities, the intergenerational allocation of exhaustible resources, placing special emphasis on the property rights of the resource and not beyond (Coase, 1981 ; Pigou, 1962; Solow, 1974).

An externality is a cost not included in the accounts of a company, or of a country or a region. The concept has reached in particular the environmental and social discussion (generally identified as damages), as these are values ​​generally not included. The externality can have two senses and then be positive or negative. It will be the latter case, when it includes these damages and positive when it generates benefits not considered a priori (eg: a road that was unknown what was going to be done before installing a factory on a property, and that as a result, reduces its transportation costs, or pollination of installed bees, in apiaries in areas close to a sunflower production field).

However, the approach that is made, in general, of externalities is moniterial. When seeking to incorporate these costs, environmental economics proposes that they be recognized and resolved through exclusively monetary criteria (Diagram No. 4).

In these terms, environmental economics will be an emergent of Pigou's welfare economics, which addressed, among other issues, the difference between marginal social and private net products and discussions about taxes (in the style of environmental retentions, for example by the usufruct of natural resources such as soil).

In the sixties, the well-known article by Coase, “The problem of social cost” was added to this analysis.

Based on this, it is basically the main pillar of environmental economics, a sub-appendix of classical economics that seeks an optimal allocation of natural resources or their consumption or destruction, using monetary terms. Thus, external marginal cost functions (or externalities) and private marginal benefits are delimited, trying to obtain a "social optimum", in which the social actors involved (two companies, one company and one private individual, two individuals, one NGO and a company, the state and the company, two states), would be satisfied.

Diagram Nº 4. The circular flow of the Economy seen from the Environmental Economy, including externalities.

These basic relationships are the ones that have given rise to the well-known "Theorems" of Coase and Pigou, icons of the discussion of Environmental Economics and the Economics of Natural Resources. David Pearce (7), is one of the emblems of this capitalist reproduction model with green tones.

The placement of externalities, between companies and even between countries, brings about a discussion that is more about political ecology (8) than about the economy itself, including the environmental one and refers to the mechanism of where? and at what prices? this damage is placed. Says W. Sachs (9): ”Thus, the new distribution of economic power is accompanied by a change in the geographical distribution of impacts on the environment. If, from the ecological point of view, power is defined as the ability to internalize environmental advantages and externalize environmental costs, it may well be assumed that the lengthening of economic chains gives rise to a process of concentration of advantages in the upper extremes and disadvantages at the lower end ”. In other words, the environmental costs incurred by transnational value creation chains will be especially high in countries of the South and East, while post-industrial economies will become increasingly benign and environmentally friendly. A chief economist of the World Bank (everyone knows the case of L. Summers) recommended a few years ago, filtered and published in The Economist, depositing the environmental liability (the externality) in those territories where the economic compensation produced by the loss of life or diseases, a consequence of the impacts of polluting foreign companies, imply the lowest marginal cost.

Many of the analyzes carried out on the impacts on natural resources and the environment have been presented from this perspective and have great popularity among the economic actors of the global establishment. But the atmosphere, getting worse.

But how to apply these concepts, when the wishes or preferences of future generations are not known? When there are conflicting values? When the right to the existence of other species must be considered (or not?), When there are huge number of social groups relegated or when there are serious conflicts of values ​​?. Hence, the importance of including the concepts of incommensurability and that there is more than one criterion for weighing the accounts, as argued by the ecological economist Giuseppe Munda and others who apply for the resolution of these problems, under the broadest prism of the multi-criteria systems, which manage to capture the complexity of the environmental problem.

In other words, ecological economics uses different valuation languages, which admit a weak comparability of values, very different from the strong comparability of conventional cost-benefit analyzes. Without abandoning the use of monetary elements, it relativizes or neutralizes their expressive power, causing them to lose their privileged position, and is a generator of biased decisions, facilitating an integrative and overcoming analysis.

The first and second principles of thermodynamics

Thermodynamics is the study of transformations of energy. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can only transform from one form to another. This law is a conservation law, according to this, energy is conserved.

The first law then, is related to the amount of energy. The second law deals with the quality of energy. It has been said that the first law of thermodynamics states that you cannot get something for nothing, while the second law states that you always pay more anyway. That is, according to the first law, energy cannot be created, it can only be transformed from one form to another.

In relation to the second law, it clearly has ecological and economic implications. What stands out is that any conservation involves losses. That seems to contradict what was said in the first law, but it is not. The loss does not occur in terms of quantity of energy but of quality of energy. All energy transformation processes include a certain degradation of the quality of energy.

Roegen said again: “There is no such thing as that of a Free Meal. In economics the numbers always add up: For each outlay there must be an equivalent income.

In ecology: The numbers never add up. They are not carried in dollars, but in terms of matter-energy, and in these terms they always end up in a deficit. In fact, each work, done by a living organism, is obtained at a higher cost than that work represents in the same terms ”(Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, Atlantic Economic Journal, V, March 1977, pp.13-21)

Differences between Ecological Economics with Environmental Economics and Economics of Natural Resources

Environmental economics and the economics of natural resources are disciplines functional to neoclassical economics where private rights, cost-benefit relationships and optimal allocation of resources and the subjects of pollution are made with the price system in focus. It is a kind of greenwash economy, which does not solve the central nodes that generate environmental and social degradation.

Likewise, they ignore basic issues of the functioning of ecosystems, the deleterious effects of economic growth and the different forms of distribution of benefits and positions in society.

Environmental economics refers to the way of managing and assigning costs in the disposal of waste, air and water pollution and, for example, the degradation or conservation of soils. It is also linked to specific projects for the conservation of natural resources, biodiversity or the valuation of environmental services, through the payment in money for their conservation, something of great interest to international banks (World Bank, IMF, Fondo GEF) and conservation multinationals such as TNC, CI, WWF or IUCN.

The economy of natural resources can be considered as the study that society does for the management of scarce natural resources, such as a forest, a jungle, fisheries, water, oil or minerals, which for economic science they are considered inexhaustible or substitutable.

Thus, the ecological economy clearly differs and distances itself from the previous two, overcoming the current economic fetishism to delve into a comprehensive, holistic approach, with a system vision that clearly contributes ecology, under the umbrella of a new environmental rationality (Table N ° 1).

An ecological economy is an economy that recognizes that economic rationality and ecological rationality, in isolation, are totally insufficient to reach correct decisions that help solve the ecological and economic problems of the 21st century.

Table No. 1. Conventional economics, conventional ecology, environmental economics and ecological economics. Positions on different topics.

Conventional economicsConventional ecologyEnvironmental economicsEcological economy
Vision of the worldMechanical, static and atomisticEvolutionary and atomisticMechanical, static and atomisticSystematic and evolutionary dynamics
Time dimensionShort termMultiple scale. From days to eons.Short termMultiple scale. From days
up to eons.
Spatial dimensionFrom the local to the internationalFrom local to regionalFrom the local to the internationalFrom the local to the global.
Considered speciesHuman speciesOnly non-humanSpecies icons (whales, panda, monarch butterfly)The
Basic objective at the macro levelEconomy growingSurvival of the speciesEconomy growingEcological economic sustainability. Decrease or Stationary Economy
Basic objective at the micro levelProfit maximization (companies) or profit (individuals)Maximum reproductive successConservation of species or ecosystemsecological economic sustainability
Hypothesis on technological progressVery optimist
Technology as a solution
No opinion or little commitment Eg: case of biotechnologies, nanotechnologies.Very optimistPrudence. Approach from uncertainty. Technopathogies.
Technology as an illusion.
Academic StatusDiscipline. Focused on the use of mathematical instrumentsDiscipline. Focused on techniques and instruments.Discipline. Instrument focused. Monochrome resolution systems.Transdisciplinary. Pluralist, based on the comprehensive analysis of the problem
Valuation methodsMonocriterials based on moneyMonocriterials, based on money. Follow the economist's recommendations.Monocriterials. Based on moneyMulticriterials. Use multiple valuation languages.
Physical IndicatorsDoes not use themUses themDoes not use themUse Biophysical Indicators to review the state of the ecosystem.
Relations with the natural environmentDoes not have them. Does not know the functions of the environment.Study the environment in isolation from the social environmentRecognizes the environment and values ​​it economically.Look for and analyze the relationships between the economic and ecological systems.
System analysisStatic. Based on mechanical methods of maximizing individual present utilityApply systems analysis theoryDynamic approach, on the studied system only.Dynamic, “immortal” and multigenerational approach (Georgescu-Roegen): Maximizes the happiness of present and future humanity
Based on resourcesUnlimited Limited. But it proposes substitutions.He addresses them as an object of study. There is no commitment to its integration into the human system.LimitedIt warns about the risks of the disappearance of ecosystems and loss of environmental services.
Main analysis mechanismCalculation of costs and benefits according to subjective preferencesSystems theoryCalculation of costs and benefits, integrating externalitiesMulti-criteria analysis systems. Systems Theory
Types of sustainabilityWeak sustainability. Natural capital can be transformed into human-made capital.Strong sustainability. ConservationWeak sustainability. There is no substitution. No
is the same. Second principle of thermodynamics.
Discount ratesHigh. Maximization of financial interestLow. They are governed by the reproduction mechanisms of nature.Compromise between interest and discount rates. High rates degrade the resource. Low rates with more conservationistsLow rates, similar or equal to the replacement or renewability rates of nature. Under the precepts of Productive Ecology. Do not extract more from the ecosystem than the ecosystem can give, without collapsing.
Environmental servicesDoes not recognize themIt recognizes them, but linked to the natural environment and integration with the ecosystem. Does not address human impactsYou recognize them, in terms of their market value. It intends to incorporate them into market systems for sale. Ex: Carbon Bonuses. Sale of biodiversity.It recognizes the high value of its existence, both to the human species and to other species.
Position against external debtIt aims to solve it from the growth and the payment of interests, associated with the country's payment capacity.There is no compromise. Nor are there studies on the impacts of economic pressure on ecosystems.It promotes the recognition of environmental services and the obtaining of funds in this wayIt creates the concept of ecological debt, for the recognition of the unsustainability of the current mechanism of reproduction of global capital, and the over-exploitation of the resources of the poorest countries.
Equity Inter
Does not contemplateNo
Express your concern and
the right of future generations to the same usufruct of nature
Position against the other speciesDoes not consider itConsiders them important as part of the ecosystemIt considers them as a subject of conservation.It considers their right to survival, to their own environment and to their full development as a species in their own ecosystem.
Participatory democracyDoes not consider itDoes not consider itDoes not consider itIt proposes that decisions on the ecological limits of the economy be based on scientific political debates of a democratic and open nature, from which the true State policies that lead to true development emerge.
About energyThe era of oil and nuclear energy is stressedEnergy efficiency (Odum)Alternative energies. Biofuels. It does not study the possible impacts of new energy technologies.It was post-oil. It aims to reduce overall energy consumption. Stationary economy.

Environmental Services

Environmental services are the enormous benefits that humans obtain as a result of the functions of ecosystems. Among them are the maintenance of the gaseous composition of the atmosphere; climate control; control of the hydrological cycle, which provides fresh water; waste disposal and nutrient recycling; the conservation of hydrological basins, the generation and preservation of soils and the maintenance of their fertility; waste disposal and nutrient recycling; the control of harmful organisms that attack crops and transmit human diseases; crop pollination; and the maintenance of a huge genetic pool from which humanity has already drawn elements that form the basis of its development such as crops, domestic animals, medicines and industrial products.

For the classical economy these services are tremendously undervalued. The quality of the environmental services depends to a great extent on the conditions in which the natural systems are found and the management that is made of them.

In this sense, it is extremely relevant to evaluate the relationship between biological diversity, the functioning of ecosystems and macroeconomic variables.

Ecosystems are self-organizations that require a minimum of species diversity to capture solar energy and develop cyclical relationships that link and sustain producers, consumers and decomposers, responsible for maintaining biological productivity (10).

There is a minimum diversity of species in the ecosystem that is essential for ecosystems to withstand the disturbances to which external factors subject them.

To such an extent that the most important and critical ecological function of biodiversity is the maintenance and improvement of this property of ecosystems, known as resilience (Holling, 1973, 1994). Resilience is the property of ecosystems to respond to stress caused by predation or disturbance from external sources (including human activities), which incidentally then includes a biodiversity value. Ecologically crucial biodiversity is the vital mechanism that ensures the essential resilience of ecosystems. Resilience is, ultimately, the only guarantee of the ecological sustainability of ecosystems. An ecosystem is healthy and "free from disaster syndrome" if and only if it is globally stable and sustainable. That is: if it is active and maintains its organization and its autonomy over time and is also resistant and capable of absorbing and creatively using all possible external disturbances (stress) that may affect it (Costanza et al., 1992).

Environmental services come from the benefits of natural ecosystems and in some cases agroecosystems, widely underestimated by society. For example, the process of food globalization leads, on the one hand, to a significant increase in exportable goods up to their overexploitation and a consequent association with the undervaluation of these products.

Currently, two trends are beginning to appear regarding the use of these environmental resources. The first says that it is important that environmental services are listed on formal markets, which would allow, on the one hand, to generate economic resources and, on the other, to obtain a price that functions as a signal that warns about changes in their availability or condition. This is not the position of an Economic Society, it is stated by the North American Ecological Society (Ecological Society of America, 1997).

The other position highlights that “this origin has led many organizations and communities to fall into this new market trap. Others have seen it as a source of resources. The latter, often associated with the most polluting transnationals, such as the oil and automobile companies, which from the beginning of this new mode of commercializing biodiversity saw the opportunity to justify pollution while doing a lucrative business at the same time. This vision transforms forests, headwaters, riverbeds, water tables, genetic resources and indigenous knowledge and the beauty of a landscape into "capital" and profitable commodities that can be traded by whoever claims their responsibility. property and have money to buy them ”(Ribeiro, S, 2002).

A third position, that of the Manifesto for Life, promoted by the Program for the Environment, UNEP in Latin America, highlights that today, common goods are subject to the forms of property and rules of use where interests converge in a conflictive manner. of the State, of transnational companies and of the peoples in the redefinition of what is their own and what is foreign, what is public and what is private, the heritage of the peoples, the State and humanity. Environmental goods are an intricate network of communal goods and public goods where the principles of the freedom of the market, the sovereignty of States and the autonomy of peoples are confronted (from the Manifesto for Life, 2002).

The Ecological Economy

Ecological economics is not a fertile branch or a more or less independent appendage of economic theory, but is a transdisciplinary field of study. It can be defined as the science of sustainability management and as such, it studies the interactions between society and nature, far beyond the limited approaches of both economics and ecology, sciences with which it is related, as well than with others that firmly study complex environmental problems such as political ecology, agroecology, sociology, landscape ecology or urban ecology. Disciplines from the nature society conflicts become even more palpable or direct focuses of research interest.

Ecological economics adopts systems theory for the understanding of ecological phenomena and integrates them into studies of the physical and biological limits due to economic growth. It studies societies as living organisms that have functions such as capturing energy, using resources and energy from nature and eliminating their waste (social metabolism). This urban, rural, industrial metabolism works in different ways, in different stages from the capture of energy to its elimination (Toledo, 2008). (Diagram No. 5).

Toledo, 2008.

Remarkably, the intellectual precursors of the discipline were not economists but physicists, chemists, biologists, urbanists, ecologists such as Carnot, Clausius, Pfaundler, Geddes (11), Podolinsky (12), Popper-Lynbeus, Soddy (13), Lotka or Odum . In fact, his theories were dismissed by mainstream economists, as happened, for example, with Podolinsky's writings rejected outright by Engels and indirectly by Marx (14).

Alfred Lotka (15) basically raised the differences between endosomatic consumption and exosomatic consumption. The first characteristic of the metabolic demands of the human species is, in fact, very similar for each of us. This is the most democratic of the consumptions, where all the requirements are practically similar.As long as we can at least eat! Well then, where is the difference ?: In exosomatic consumption, that is, in the search for the satisfaction of extracorporeal requirements and there if, there is an abyss in terms of the energy demands (for transport, clothing, superfluous goods) of the citizens north and south.

However, it is more recently, with the arrival of reactionary or heterodox economists, where we can find the seminal axes of ecological economics and also in many non-economist authors, rich in ethical and environmental manifestations, many emerging from Latin America itself.

Most have been researchers and writers from the 20th and current centuries, such as Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, Herman E. Daly (16), Kenneth Boulding, Karl W. Kapp, Robert Ayres, Eduardo Galeano, Joan Martínez Alier, Robert Costanza, James O'Connor, Manfred Max-Neef or José Manuel Naredo (17).

Kenneth Boulding (18) raised the limited expansive probability of our species on earth, emulating its limits to the concept of the spaceship, in an article that highlighted these concepts: The economics of the coming spaceship (1966).

Nicolas Georgescu Roegen characterized the economic process, from the physical point of view, as the transformation from low entropy or natural resources to high entropy or residues. From here, the precepts on which ecological economics is based on thermodynamics.

That is why, in reality, measuring the impacts and effects on a resource in isolation should be considered erroneous, since each one of them is based on a system with which it interacts and feeds. It is impossible to extract from biological systems more than what can be considered as their sustainable or renewable yield (Daly, 1991), otherwise we would end them, and indirectly, with ourselves. Hence the importance of an ecointegrative analysis proposed by ecological economics.

All of this requires a deep knowledge of the structure and functioning of natural ecosystems, which are the basis of human life and of societies, knowledge that sets the limits, both physical and conceptual, to which human activity must conform and therefore hence the economy.

Neither does man use natural resources in isolation, but rather uses ecosystems, a process of appropriation that has been interpreted by Norgaard (1984) as a coevolutionary process. This means that to the extent that the socioeconomic system modifies biological systems, it is forced in turn to adapt the first to the changes introduced in the second, so that it is able to understand the effects of the modifications on ecosystems. - of acquiring new knowledge - that allows you to use them properly, for which you need to create new institutions, in the sense of new laws, rules or social norms of behavior (Aguilera Klink and Alcántara, 1994). Naredo (1992) proposes for economic analysis, an eco-integrating approach, whose foundations would affect the method, the instruments and even the very status of the economy, by removing it from the isolated universe of exchange values ​​in which it operates today to make it is a compulsory transdisciplinary discipline.

Others directly propose the change of the economic paradigm. In the last two centuries, humanity has gone through three great technological revolutions. First was the industrial revolution, which allowed an unprecedented expansion of the production of physical goods and the reach to regions and resources, hidden throughout the planet. The 18th and 19th centuries can be considered based on this type of development. The resources seemed limitless.

Then, much more recently, we approached the technological revolution, with the arrival of biotechnology, nanotechnologies, new material technologies and communications, which allow rapid flows of information and new forms of appropriation of nature. This reach mechanism is much more powerful than the previous one and even more impressive in its transformation effects.

The third, the revolution of this first stage of the 21st century, must be the sustainability revolution. In order to continue living on earth, man must appeal to all his wisdom and diversity of knowledge to achieve the search in all senses, of ways of coexistence with nature.

So, overcoming the barrier of the environmental appreciation of the environment, and replacing it in the economy and the environment by a system of energy flows, with direction, meaning and accumulation, added to the ability to assimilate waste, is the general proposal that makes us the ecological economy.

Understanding ecosystems, as complex systems, within which the human species is one more and is not the center of transformation and plunder of nature, at least in perpetuity.

We said that "Green economics is defined as 'the science of sustainability management'. The sustainability or viability of a system over time is marked by its exchanges with the physical environment, which (…) escape the usual analytical network of economists. This is precisely why the economy is now trying to extend its object of reflection and valuation to those parts of the physical process of production and expenditure that were not taken into account ”(Naredo, 1992).

According to Naredo then, the market ceases to be the panacea that was supposed, where it should guarantee the economic optimum by itself, to become another instrument to be used on a controlled basis to achieve solutions that adapt to certain socially agreed objectives or standards. What pushes to open the universe until now isolated from the economic, to the physical and biological reality and its predictive models, to the different technological options and to the processes of social negotiation.

Ecological economics also goes beyond the economic approach to the management of the useful and the scarce to consider the entire biosphere and the resources that may be both scarce and in some way today or in the future useful.

Let us remember then that the production process is represented as an open system dependent on the energy and materials that it exchanges with its environment, in a system of representation of the economic process, characterized by its permanent imbalance and its irreversibility with respect to time. The ecointegrative approach aims to study the flow of materials and energy, in an open system and in continuous disequilibrium where they interact with the real economic objects that appear and disappear from the system while their corresponding exchange values ​​do.

“Green economics is a strong ecological critique of conventional economics. It is a new approach to the dynamic interrelationships between economic systems and the total set of physical and social systems ”(Van Hauwermeiren, 1998). Here, economic science is only partial, largely ignoring the intricate and complex functioning of ecosystems, of which the human species is only a part.

Even from a social point of view, ecological economics makes the discussion of equity, distribution, ethics and cultural processes a central element for understanding the problem of sustainability. It is therefore a systemic and transdisciplinary vision that transcends the current economic paradigm.

Therefore, the same consequence of the current economic system will be the main pillar that societies as a whole will analyze and criticize widely in view of their own survival. It is there that the assumptions of green economics effectively emerge. When society assumes, with a new look of environmental rationality, that it is no longer possible to continue overexploiting natural resources and that it will walk directly to its extinction, if it does not produce changes in its consumption and production habits. When, by putting natural resources at risk and losing minimal environmental services, society also understands that money cannot be eaten or that with all this together, it is not possible to go back to the serious natural impacts on a global scale.

Of course, these perceptions are already reflected among economists, who, as I have said, have sought alternatives from their own sphere of discussion. In fact, these different offers may be useful tools for change, provided that the State uses them in their true development context. Otherwise, they will only be palliative, which will partially mask the growing and often imperceptible (initially) advance of environmental degradation, until its most dire consequence for economists, the disappearance of production.

Summing up then, the ecological economy, understands that economic activity is not an activity that only uses environmental goods or natural resources in isolation, but is an economic activity that is precisely focused on the use of ecosystems.

Its base of support is based on fundamental biophysical and energetic aspects, such as the laws of thermodynamics and where the scale of development of the economy is limited by the ecosystem itself. In this framework, transformation processes must clearly differentiate between natural capital and human-made capital, and explicitly demonstrate that of course one cannot be totally replaced by the other.

Ecological economics clearly differentiates and marks the incongruity between the different time rhythm between the economic dimension and the terrestrial biogeochemistry.

The new technologies constitute a clear object of analysis of the new science, which places special consideration in the evaluation of risks and benefits. The lack of knowledge about potential effects in the long term, places special emphasis on the criteria of uncertainty and prudence (19).

In the current context, the States, through their institutions and actors, will then be the main responsible for the appropriation of emerging knowledge and information from the Ecological Economy, which can lead our nations to true development. Then, the management of sustainability will need a broad debate among all social actors that allows generating the necessary political decisions for the development of the economy in the appropriate ecological framework, which is not governed by the laws of men, but by the of the nature. Man must adapt to it. The new policy will then make it possible to take advantage of natural resources in a rational way, respecting intragenerational and intergenerational equity and the sustaining capacity of the global ecosystem.

The great challenges for the future and the Region

Many times, it has been argued that the world must put a brake on its current excessive growth. However, between those economies that are practically at the limit of their endosomatic consumption and those others, such as hyperdeveloped countries, that do so at the maximum tension of their exosomatic consumption, there is an abyss. The ecological footprint of countries such as Bangladesh is 0.5 hectares while that of the United States reaches 9.57 hectares (if the issue were measured, for example, based on the resource needs for basic production). At a minimum, the former should reach standards of human well-being, in the style of what the Chilean Manfred Max Neef so rightly pointed out, of development on a human scale. That is, to recognize that development refers to people and not objects. It will be necessary to aim, as Max Neef says, more than to the satisfaction of mere needs (basic or not), to the realization of a certain scale of satisfiers, that allow to achieve the realization of this new man.

But in addition to solving these iniquities and the ways in which to achieve adequate development, the world must make the effort to understand the finiteness of planetary resources. Howard T. Odum clearly stated this in his work A prosperous Way Down: Principles and Policies (Odum and Odum, 2001), where he expressed his concern about a world with less oil and with natural and technological limitations in order to continue deepening its energy demand. How prosperous and peaceful would that world be? The sage wondered. However, Odum not only warns about the impending disaster, but also shows ways and positions, to achieve a fuller humanity with less consumption and destruction of available resources. Joan Martínez Alier, has approached with singular capacity, the conflict situation and different valuation languages ​​between Latin American economies, corporate groups and developed nations.
At this point, we could ask ourselves if there is an ecological economy with a South American imprint, and in truth, we can affirm that yes, that even in some way, before the formal consolidation of the Society, Latin America had shown clear signs of a strong criticism of the despotic transformation system of nature and its people.

The bulwark of this movement, not only of the poor, but also of Latin American intellectuals and writers, springs from Las venas open de América Latina (a work that should be compulsory text material, in Latin American universities and in all schools). and schools in the Region), where the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, from a Montevideo in the late 1970s, told the story of the tremendous inequalities that Latin America suffered, in particular, since the clash of two worlds. His analysis, past and current, not only raises the lament of what has been historically lost, but the functions and effects that the current organizations of global power, the imperial role of countries, of the managers of our wealth fulfill in this order that for change it, first you have to know and understand it.

It is true that many researchers in the Region have still applied instruments of environmental economics to support analyzes that, being partial, are also an important contribution to the understanding of models of use of nature, as the economist Héctor Sejenovich did a few decades ago. and his Manual of Patrimonial Accounts (edited by UNEP, Mexico, 1996) or the researcher on environmental issues at INTA, Ernesto Viglizzo (2008), by applying the methodology of Robert Costanza (20) (21) to give price (and not value, in terms of the complete calculation of the total economic value, VET) to the different ecoregions of Argentina.

However, this partial view of nature's accounts is changing rapidly and regional accounting is enriched by the contribution of new methodological instruments, with a broad approach, such as the Multicriterial Systems developed by the Italian scientist Giuseppe Munda. Falconi and Burbano (2007), make an interesting synthesis of these methodologies.

Through the social multi-criteria method, it is possible to try to capture the most comprehensive “value” of a certain ecosystem, particularly when there are conflicting interests and decisions go beyond the level of scientific discussion and merit resolutions with strong social political participation.

Latin America is changing. The world too, but we don't know its direction. In the first case, partially still, with advances and setbacks, the Region is more receptive to hearing more innovative proposals, heterodox in many cases. There is, we could affirm, an incipient school of Latin American ecological economic thought, which is based on the texts of Leff, Max Neef, Elizalde, Quiroga, Martinez Alier, Morello, Massera, Pengue, Barkin, Borrero, Cavalcanti, Muradian, Altieri and many others. , which from different perspectives, styles (and related disciplines as well) press for the strengthening of environmental education in their societies. Because education, at all levels and to achieve deep and lasting changes, must go through the environment or it will be nothing (in the sense that it will only reproduce the educational status quo, in many cases it is necessary to participate so that there are no changes).

These ecological economists today occupy the cracks in the wall of the system, but their research and results contrast against an irrefutable reality, which makes, even partially, they begin to be heard.

If Argentina, instead of relying only on partial analyzes, that trying to incorporate the environment through decisions of environmental economics or depending on resolutions of neoclassical economics, had approached the question of mining, pastures or regional development, using multi-criteria methodologies, it could have offered its society and its government decision-makers complete alternatives that could alleviate the strong clashes that we suffer and will continue to suffer.

From Rayen Quiroga and the Tigre without jungle in Chile, through Jacobo Schatan and the Sacking of Latin America, coming to Walter Pengue and The Appropriation and Sacking of Nature, it has been tried to show for the Region, that it is also not only important , to measure the levels of damage and contamination, but as much or more importantly, to check what is happening with the resource base itself: the soil, water and its biodiversity, in energy and physical terms.

The outflow or use of environmental goods from Latin America is multimillion dollar and they are exported at zero value. When I wrote for Le Monde Diplomatique, The Emptying of the Pampas, we were showing the unpleasant result, already palpable, of the impacts that the unsustainable model of soy monoculture would have and will continue to have in the Region. The shadow of The Open Veins of Latin America covers this entire scenario. Before it was silver and gold. Today it is soy, oil or biofuels.

Thus, the region today exports millions of tons of nutrients annually with its grains, with its meats, with its woods. It is a focus of attraction for international capital, which buys its land at often ridiculous prices (Pengue, 2008) or takes advantage of its waters and then exports it as virtual water, to places and economies that do not have this resource.

The region increasingly exports raw materials with little added value, it grows in this in considerable volumes, but there is no development.

Incredibly, despite decades of talking about development, and in the last two, repeatedly citing sustainable development (Common and Stagl, 2008), the least we have done in the region is develop ourselves. We have only grown in our debt accounts and in the exports of raw materials from all our countries, at the cost of their overexploitation and destruction.

It is a truism truth to speak of sustainable development. Development, if it is truly development, why does it have to be called sustainable?

It should be clear that development does not imply degradation or destruction, or of natural capital and even less of human capital, but rather, of recovery and restoration, and of the permanent improvement of both situations, or not?

If development means “being well”, these indicators of human well-being are for the Latin American region, one of the most inequitable in the world.

The development programs (really, for the North to develop), are only partial and full of good intentions. But let us remember that these programs, which bring funds from supranational organizations such as the World Bank, the IMF, the IDB, or manage funds for sustainable development and conservation (BM GEF), are in many cases, more indebtedness for our countries, improvements economic for its direct managers and greater poverty and inequality for the interior of our societies.

These organizations must radically change to serve countries, in particular those that will remain in a permanent state of sustainable under (development). Live with ours, the respected economist Aldo Ferrer said and continues to say, without addressing the environmental issue. The deterioration of the terms of trade, manifested at the time, this brilliant theory, Dr. Raúl Prebisch, first director of ECLAC but thanks to whom also, Argentina joined the IMF. Prebisch was one of the first to understand, although he did not develop it, the effects that export pressures would have on the country's soils.

More currently, it is highlighted by a Latin American ecological economist, Rayen Quiroga (2003), for whom development has failed in Latin America, on all scales.

It is not possible to continue proposing the same recipes to old problems and to many others that we face and will face in this century. If this century will be that of sustainability or that of the sustainability revolution (in short, human development always failed), ecological economics, as a transdisciplinary scientific discipline, is a solid and mature proposal to collaborate in the resolution of environmental problems. .

The crisis with which we began to analyze the situation in this article clearly needs another look. It is not a look at partial changes. It is a look of profound changes, which will not come from the same sectors that created it. It is possible that these same, veer a little towards a position of more State, more control, but not much more. It is not an extensive look, until we understand the crucial importance of our natural resources. We are like in K. Boulding's spaceship, the environment is our oxygen and fuel tanks, and incredibly we want to go further, when we have them practically empty.

Doctor Ing. Agr. Walter A. Pengue (1.2)

* Dr. Walter Pengue has been offering the Ecological Economy distance course for more than 5 years in the Virtual Campus environment of, you can see information at


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(1) Group of Landscape Ecology and Environment, GEPAMA, FADU, UBA

(2) ICO, National University of General Sarmiento

(1) But not of people or their free movement in the world.

(2) Sen's idea has been to achieve a just social economic system, but without violating individual rights.

(3) but without forgetting on the other hand, the fundamental law and the logical basis of capitalism that resides in the maximization of individual benefit

(4) The principles of Andean reciprocity are an example of an alternative economy that survived for centuries. Just as the market economy of capitalism works on the basis of its own principles, in the same way the reciprocal economy of Andean socialism has its own, created by Andean man over thousands of years, to respond to orographic difficulties. and climatic conditions of the Andean ecosystems, with the sole purpose of achieving the general well-being of all its inhabitants. Ayni. Mita, Minka.

(5) Kapp, K.W. The open system character of the economy and its implications. In Doepfer, K (ed.). The Economy of the future. FCE. 1978.

(6) The Jevons paradox, developed by the theorist Willian S Jevons, states that as technological improvement increases the efficiency with which a resource is used, it is most likely that the consumption of said resource increases, before it decreases. . Specifically, the Jevons paradox implies that the introduction of more energy efficient technologies can ultimately increase total energy consumption.

(7) David Pearce, wrote five books on Environmental Economics and more than 300 scientific articles in general on the same subject. He recently passed away, in September 2005. He has left a legacy of a fruitful school of environmental economists around the world.

(8) Political ecology is a discipline that attempts to address the problems related to conflicts over access to natural resources and forms of appropriation of nature. It has been a growing and very fruitful field in Latin America.

(9) During the World Environment Summit, Johannesburg, 2002, he wrote Globalization and Sustainability, An Essay.

(10) The net primary production of biomass and its appropriation by humanity (HANPP), a term developed by Vitousek, is an adequate methodology to evaluate the pressure of man on terrestrial ecosystems and in particular, infer states linked to biodiversity of the species.

(11) Patrick Geddes, born in Scotland in 1954, studied biology in London and then turned to urban planning: His work, Cities in Evolution, 1915, was one of his most recognized works.

(12) Sergei Podolinsky, was born in Ukraine in 1850 and died in 1891. His article The work of the human being and its relationship with the distribution of energy, could have been called to change economic history, if it had had the proper attention of the economists of the time.

(13) Frederic Soddy (1877-1956), studied at Oxford, where he was Professor of Chemistry. For his work in radioactivity he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1921. From the beginning of his scientific career he delved into the relationships between economic growth and the availability of energy, insisting on the difference between the real economy and the monetary economy. In 1922, Hendersons, London published his Cartesian Economics lecture. The influence of physical science in the administration of the State. Later also published by Joan Martínez Alier in his book The principles of Ecological Economy, Fundación Argentaria.

(14) However, there are several authors who maintain that behind Marx's legacy, there is today what we could call an “ecological Marxism” (Altvater, E, Valdés, C, O¨Connor, J and others).

(15) Alfred Lotka, proposed the theory that the Darwinian concept could also be applied to physical laws. Among his proposals were that the selective principle of evolution could also be considered for the maximization of the transformation of the energy flow. Two of his most outstanding works in this order: Contribution to the energetics of evolution School of Hygiene and Public Health, Johns Hopkings University Comunicacion, May 6 1992 and Natural Selection as a physical principle.

(16) Herman Daly has been ostracized by the fraternity of economists, because he never worked under the altar and the concept of unlimited growth. He argued that, contrary to what mainstream economists consider, regarding the need for growth to solve the problems of poverty and environmental degradation, this type of growth could be more costly for humanity than not growing. Steady-State Economics is one of the most influential books on environmental thought of the 20th and 21st centuries.

(17) Naredo, J. The economy in evolution. XXI century. Madrid. 1987.

(18) Kenneth Boulding brought a certain dose of self-criticism to the economic world. He said that "anyone who thinks that exponential growth could work in a world that is finite has two options: either he is crazy or he is an economist."

(19) As for example, those raised by J. Ravetz and the Argentine Silvio Funtowicz, in their book Political Epistemology. Science with the people (Centro Editor para América Latina, 1993), in the development of the concept of Postnormal Science, for cases in which complex situations must be faced, new technologies and decisions are hasty and in many cases therefore, under the pressure from multiple competing interests.

(20) Especially based on the article The value of the world´s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature. 387. May 15. 1997.

(21) Costanza argued, emulating the land of a company, that someone who analyzed the balance sheets of the first one, one of the first things they would do due to its mismanagement, would be to throw out its general manager (CEO).

Video: Spains Geographic Challenge (July 2022).


  1. Aranris

    I am glad that your blog is constantly evolving. Such posts only add popularity.

  2. Blade

    Authoritative post :)

  3. Garrison

    Well written, learned a lot for myself, thank you for that!

  4. Uilleam

    Great phrase

  5. Brenten


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