1. Editorial

  • Editorial - Ecological Economics and Sustainable Development, 30 years on, by Olivier Petit  

2. News from ESEE and its members

  • Environmental Policy and Governance - EPG Journal
  • The SDGs - hot air or comprehensive progress?

3. Hot topics

  • Dan O’Neill: Ecological Macroeconomics – A Call to Action
  • Gael Plumecocq: Who owns Ecological Economics?

4. Events, jobs and publications

  • Call for Papers: 19th Annual BIOECON Conference
  • Announcement: Land - Travel Award 2017
  • The 4th PhD Summer School 2017
  • Reminder: 12th International Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics
  • Job offer: Professor in Environmental Policy Analysis
  • New Issue: Environmental Values Vol.26, No.2, April 2017

1. Editorial


Editorial: Ecological Economics and Sustainable Development, 30 years on
by Olivier Petit

Anniversaries often provide an opportunity to look back and see where we came from. 30 years ago, in 1987, the Iron Curtain still existed in Europe, but a new discourse in the USSR, based on the ideas of Glasnost and Perestroïka, laid the foundations for the end of the Cold War. In October 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development - also known as the Brundtland Commission - released the famous report, ‘Our Common Future’ (Bruntland 1987). The commission was established to unite countries in the pursuit of sustainable development, and the report defined both sustainable and unsustainable development. Even if this concept has been embedded, since the beginning, in the idea to develop a ‘new era of economic growth’, the report contains several sentences which are still very pertinent to the present time. For instance, the report proclaims:

‘Poverty is not only an evil in itself, but sustainable development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to fulfil their aspirations for a better life.’

‘(...) sustainable development can only be pursued if population size and growth are in harmony with the changing productive potential of the ecosystem’.

‘Yet in the end, sustainable development is not a fixed state of harmony, but rather a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development, and institutional change are made consistent with future as well as present needs. We do not pretend that the process is easy or straightforward. Painful choices have to be made. Thus, in the final analysis, sustainable development must rest on political will.’

30 years later, the concept of sustainable development has been completely watered down, used by such exemplary firms as Total, MacDonald’s or Lafarge. However, sustainable development and sustainability continue to be mobilised as operating concepts, in the field of environmental studies and in particular in ecological economics. Ecological Economics and Sustainable Development have a long common history. Indeed, the Brundtland report was released the very same year as a pivotal workshop on Ecological Economics in Barcelona, organised by Joan Martinez-Alier. This workshop laid the foundations (5 years after the Wallenberg symposium in Stockholm) of the International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE) and of the journal Ecological Economics. As stressed by Inge Ropke (2004, p. 309), ‘the meeting in Barcelona became legendary’.... ‘Many participants remember the meeting as very inspiring, maybe because they experienced that so many people actually shared perspectives that were usually held by isolated individuals. It was discussed what these shared perspectives could be called; several suggestions came up. Considering Worster’s description of the impact of the concept of ecology, it is perhaps not surprising that 'ecological economics' won.’ (Ibid., p. 309).

30 years later, the ecological economics landscape has substantially changed. The Barcelona workshop joined together 38 participants and we now organise, through ESEE alone, international conferences with 300-600 participants. Of course, this can be considered as an achievement, but we need to keep in mind the famous slogan 'small is beautiful'. Even in such large events, how can we ensure that our debates will have (potentially) the same quality as in small workshops as the one which was organised in Barcelona? Maybe through the special sessions and parallel paper sessions, where we can share a common interest on a topic, a methodology, a theoretical approach. And this is most fitting, because there will be plenty of such special and parallel paper sessions during the forthcoming ESEE conference ( which will be held in Budapest (Hungary) between June 20th and June 23rd, 2017... 30 years after the Barcelona Workshop. In 30 years, in 2047, I will (I hope) be able to say: ‘I was there!’ And you?


Brundtland G.H. (dir.), 1987, Our Common Future, World Commission on Environment and Development, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 400 p.

Røpke I., 2004, ‘The early history of modern ecological economics’, Ecological Economics, Vol. 50: 293-314.


2. News from ESEE and its members

Environmental Policy and Governance - EPG Journal
Current Issue: January/February 2017 (Volume 27, Issue 1)

Research Articles: 

1. Contemporary Challenges in Environmental Governance: Technology, governance and the social licence (pages 3–13)
Coco Cullen-Knox, Richard Eccleston, Marcus Haward, Elizabeth Lester and Joanna Vince

2. Mainstreaming Payments for Ecosystem Services in the Global Water Discourse (pages 14–27)Marianne Henkel

3. On the Benefits of Using Process Indicators in Local Sustainability Monitoring: Lessons from a Dutch municipal ranking (1999–2014) (pages 28–44)Ludger Niemann, Thomas Hoppe and Frans Coenen

4. Corporate Strategies in Environmental Governance: Marine harvest and regulatory change for sustainable aquaculture (pages 45–58)Irja Vormedal

5. Evaluating Conditions for Integrated Water Resource Management at Sub-basin Scale. A Comparison of the Flemish Sub-basin Boards and Walloon River Contracts (pages 59–73)Hannelore Mees, Cathy Suykens and Ann Crabbé

6. Decisions at Street Level: Assessing and explaining the implementation of the European water framework directive in Sweden (pages 74–89)Mikael Sevä and Annica Sandström

7. The Impact of Resource Protection on the Transformation of Property Regimes: The cases of Moose hunting and Cod fishing in Norway (pages 90–102)Sigurd Rysstad and Bernt Aarset


The SDGs - hot air or comprehensive progress?

Since the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted, the focus of policy, civil society and academic debate is on how to implement the goals. However, a recent analysis found inherent contradictions, making it impossible to implement all goals, and thus requiring a choice to be made. The paper by Joachim H. Spangenberg analyses the SDGs regarding their coherence, and its impacts on their implementation, by using the DPSIR heuristic, that is, looking at Driving Forces, Pressures, State, Impact and Response of sustainability challenges. The opportunities for success are assessed by a closer look at the agency mentioned in the SDG/Agenda 2030 text.

The SDGs are found to be weak on agency, with limited obligations for governments and none for business or consumers. They focus on State and Impact, neglecting the Pressures and supporting counterproductive Drivers. In conclusion, the positive targets will either not be realised, or the means of implementation must be upgraded significantly.

Spangenberg, J.H. (2016). Hot air or comprehensive progress? A critical assessment of the SDGs. Sustainable Development. Available at doi or from the author, preferably via ResearchGate or
Dr. Joachim H. Spangenberg
Research Coordinator, Vice Chair
Sustainable Europe Research Institute SERI Germany e.V.


 3. Hot topics

Hot topic: Ecological Macroeconomics – A Call to Action
By Dan O’Neill, University of Leeds

On the 3rd and 4th of March, a group of researchers met in Paris to launch a bold new research network. Their aim: to share ideas about the emerging field of ‘ecological macroeconomics’, and to begin building an international network to mainstream these ideas. The meeting followed on from two previous events where ecological macroeconomics featured on the agenda. The first was the ESEE 2015 conference held in Leeds, and the second was the Degrowth conference held in Budapest last year.
The inaugural meeting in Paris brought together researchers from France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK.  On the agenda were items such as the definition of ecological macroeconomics, what the network should aim to achieve, how to fund its activities, and—most importantly of course—what to call it. High on the list at the moment are the ‘Post-growth Economics Network (PEN)’ and the ‘Network for Ecological Macroeconomics (NEM)’.

Deliberating over the name for the new network

The term ‘ecological macroeconomics’ has only emerged recently, and thus there is currently no agreed upon definition. This, in part, was the reason for holding the Paris meeting. As with so many good things, the initial idea seems to have come from Herman Daly, who called for a research agenda in ‘environmental macroeconomics’ in the early 1990s (Daly, 1991). Tim Jackson has argued that the development of, ‘a robust, ecologically-literate macroeconomics is probably the single most important recommendation’, of his book Prosperity without Growth (Jackson, 2009, p. 123).
In 2016, Ecological Economics published a special issue on ecological macroeconomics, co-edited by Armon Rezai and Sigrid Stagl. In their introduction to the special issue, Rezai and Stagl (2016, p. 184) argue that the, ‘aim of ecological macroeconomics is to inform how [ecological, economic, and social] crises are interconnected, which crisis phenomena reduce to the same root cause, and how sustainable and equitable crises responses could be formulated’.
When we held the ESEE conference in Leeds in 2015, we were very pleasantly surprised by the number of submissions on ecological macroeconomics. Lukas Hardt, who was then a Master’s student at Leeds (now a PhD researcher), decided to do his dissertation on the topic. His dissertation asked two questions: (1) What kind of macroeconomic models are currently being developed in the ecological macroeconomics literature, and (2) What is the capacity of these models to explore and assess policies proposed for a post-growth economy?
We were both surprised when the ESEE conference and subsequent digging revealed over 20 modelling initiatives. In 2015, much of this work was unpublished, and hence Lukas decided to interview the model developers to better understand the features of the models they were developing, and what they were hoping to accomplish with them. As we show in a recent article (Hardt and O'Neill, 2017), model developers appear to be motivated by three concerns: (1) the need to manage an economy without growth, (2) the desire to represent the dependence of the economy on the environment, and (3) the synthesis of ecological and Post-Keynesian approaches. The focus of many of the new models is the interaction between the financial system and the environment. This is probably not too surprising given the recent financial crisis. Popular methods to model the interaction include environmentally extended input-out analysis (to incorporate the environment) and stock-flow-consistent modelling (to incorporate the financial system).
At the first meeting of the new network in Paris, we discussed what the critical elements of ecological macroeconomics were. The result (as is often the case in such workshops) was a large number of post-it notes which we carefully arranged and organised, until a pattern began to emerge. The post-it notes have now led to a draft manifesto, which has been circulated to the wider network for comment.
While the text is still being refined, there seems to be general agreement that ecological macroeconomics should be solutions-oriented, and extend beyond the ‘Ivory Tower’ of academia to help drive change. As its starting point, ecological macroeconomics recognises that there are biophysical limits to growth, and it is particularly interested in exploring the relationships between monetary, social, and biophysical variables. It understands the wealth of nations in a plural sense, acknowledging the incommensurability of different values. It sees economies as open, dynamic, and far-from-equilibrium systems composed of heterogeneous non-optimising agents. It is therefore critical of the concepts of marginalism, equilibrium, and methodological individualism that characterise much of neoclassical economics. Despite its interest in models, ecological macroeconomics recognises their limitations, and welcomes other methods. It is a social science, and does not claim to produce laws that apply to all economies. Importantly, it recognises the importance of power relations, and issues of distribution.
A number of objectives for the network were discussed in Paris, both in the short and long term. In the long-term the aim of the network is to facilitate much-needed research on ecological macroeconomics, but also to provide a powerful voice for promoting post-growth ideas, both in other research communities as well as in the political sphere. The most immediate actions that the network has agreed to pursue include drafting the manifesto, preparing a joint paper, holding regular meetings (monthly over Skype, and ideally twice a year in person), and securing funding to sustain the network. Along these lines, there is significant interest in applying for a COST Action. COST is a long-running EU initiative that provides up to four years of financial support for networking activities among European researchers. Particular emphasis is placed on activities involving researchers from Southern and Eastern Europe (so look out Budapest!).
Currently the network maintains an active mailing list, and an online platform for sharing files, articles, and other information (built upon the Basecamp software platform). It’s an exciting research area, and the network is expanding rapidly. If you are interested in joining the movement, please contact Christoph Gran ( or Lukas Hardt (
For an introduction to the field, check out the following references:
Cahen-Fourot, L., Lavoie, M., 2016. Ecological monetary economics: A post-Keynesian critique. Ecological Economics 126, 163-168.
Daly, H.E., 1991. Towards an environmental macroeconomics. Land Economics 67 (2), 255-259.
Fontana, G., Sawyer, M., 2016. Towards post-Keynesian ecological macroeconomics. Ecological Economics 121, 186-195.
Hardt, L., O'Neill, D.W., 2017. Ecological macroeconomic models: Assessing current developments. Ecological Economics 134, 198-211.
Harris, J.M., 2010. The Macroeconomics of Development without Throughput Growth. Global Development and Environment Institute Working Paper No. 10-05, Tufts University, Medford, MA.
Jackson, T., 2009. Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet. Earthscan, London.
Jackson, T., Drake, B., Victor, P., Kratena, K., Sommer, M., 2014. Foundations for an Ecological Macroeconomics: Literature Review and Model Development. Working Paper No. 65, WWWforEurope.
Rezai, A., Stagl, S., 2016. Ecological macroeconomics: Introduction and review. Ecological Economics 121, 181-185.
Røpke, I., 2016. Complementary system perspectives in ecological macroeconomics — The example of transition investments during the crisis. Ecological Economics 121, 237-245.
Victor, P.A., 2008. Managing without Growth: Slower by Design, Not Disaster. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK.

Hot topic: Who owns Ecological Economics?
by Gael Plumecocq
Yes, I know, the question may be provocative, and I hope that most ecological economists, irrespective of their differences, would answer that, ‘we, as a community, own Ecological Economics’ – or even better that, ‘it’s not about ownership.’ However, if we define our community in relation to what it achieves (this question maybe easier to address than the one regarding who we are), the question takes a different meaning; who, then, owns the knowledge produced in Ecological Economics? Researchers do, but academic publishing companies such as Elsevier, Springer Nature, Wiley Blackwell, Taylor & Francis, and Sage Publications own the rights to the scientific documents that convey the knowledge produced (together, they published more than 50% of papers published in 2013, cf. Larivière et al., 2015). And maybe this is not a problem! Is it not? In my opinion, private ownership of the formal expression of knowledge produced by research is not a problem if (1) it does not prevent the producers (i.e. the researchers) achieving the goals they pursue, and (2) publishers actually provide services to the researchers they publish.
Currently, these services mainly consist of formatting texts by copy-editing manuscript, correcting misspellings and misprints, checking the literature cited, and most of all, attributing a unique identifier to published material (Doi). A fair conclusion would be that these services provided by scientific publishers are quite unsubstantial. On the contrary, the constitutive rule upon which scientific publications lies is peer reviewing, which is freely provided by researchers (the same researchers whose institutions pay to get access to the very same material they reviewed…). Having producers pay for broadcasting their outputs, in addition to their free collaboration in the diffusion process is a brilliant business model! Even management tasks are done by editorial boards exclusively composed by academic researchers.
Secondly, do academic publishing companies help ecological economists (and how)? The ESEE website mentions that one of its aim is to, ‘produce and disseminate information on policies for sustainability globally, nationally, and locally through electronic, printed, oral and other publication means’ (cf. Ecological Economics then developed platforms to display the work of the community by creating academic journals such as Ecological Economics (Elsevier), Environmental Policy and Governance (John Wiley & Sons Ltd) and Environmental Values (White Horse Press) (among others, but these three appear on the ESEE website). The first two are directly linked to the ISEE and ESEE (respectively). Each one prevents authors from freely diffusing their work once they are published in these journals (post-print archiving is however permitted). To ‘help’ disseminate research, these academic publishing companies support open access. They also offer ‘free’ access (Environmental Values, and Environmental Policy and Governance) or reduced fees (Ecological Economics) for ESEE members. In fact, in addition to institutional subscriptions (which cost is becoming unbearable for universities or research institutions, having increased by a factor of 5 over the last 20 years), academic publishing companies have willing authors pay for open access options, and by debiting ecological economics associations (e.g. Environmental Policy and Governance gets a commission on ESEE conferences fees for free access). As a result, while access is being sold several times, diffusion is restricted and likely to be more and more difficult in the future (even though reduction or suppression of embargoing is being discussed, and pirate archives such as  exists).
Now a final question; are academic publishing companies a ‘necessary evil’? I would suggest that they are not. Other publishing models are possible; through personal websites or academic open archives such as HAL ( and through open access journals, whether they are designed on the author-pays model (such as Ecology & Society, or PLoS ONE), or they are partially supported by public sectors (such as Développement Durable et Territoires - What would prevent ecological economists taking control of the diffusion of work done in the community? What would it take? Writing, reviewing, putting into form, attributing a Digital Object Identifier… The rest is ‘just’ putting good science online (which seems to be less costly than what is paid for in the dominant publishing model – cf. Van Noorden, 2013) for colleagues, decision-makers, journalists, and students.

Larivière V, Haustein S, Mongeon P (2015) The Oligopoly of Academic Publishers in the Digital Era. PLoS ONE 10(6): e0127502. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0127502
Van Noorden, R (2013), Open access: The true cost of science publishing. Nature 495(7442): 426–429. doi:10.1038/495426a
Press articles on the increase of subscription fees for universities or research institutions:
And probably many others…


4. Events, jobs and publications
Call for Papers: 19th Annual BIOECON Conference
September 20th – 22nd , 2017, Tilburg University, The Netherlands

The BIOECON Partners are pleased to announce the Nineteenth Annual International BIOECON conference. The conference ‘Evidence-based environmental policies and the optimal management of natural resources’ is taking place on 20th – 22nd September 2017, Tilburg University, The Netherlands.

The conference will provide a platform for the dissemination of high-quality research on the economics of environmental protection and biodiversity conservation. Complete papers may be submitted for presentation within the conference and only complete papers will be considered.  

Paper deadline: Friday May 12, 2017

More information


Announcement: Land - Travel Award 2017

We are pleased to announce the opening of the competition for one Travel Award sponsored by Land.

One Travel Award of 800 Swiss Francs will be granted to a postdoctoral fellow or PhD student to attend an international conference in June 1, 2017–May 30, 2018.

Deadline for applications: April 30, 2017.

More information

The 4th PhD Summer School 2017

The 4th PhD Summer School 2017 ‘Sustainability and Risks – How to deal with risk issues in sustainability research?’ is happening from 10th – 14th July 2017, at the University of Basel, Switzerland.

The 4th international PhD Summer School ‘Research on Sustainable Development’ considers questions of conceptual and empirical linkages between sustainability and risk issues. Participants will receive a certificate of participation and 3 ECTS. There is no attendance fee.

Application deadline: April 30, 2017

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Reminder: 12th International Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics

Remember to register for the 12th International Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics, ‘Ecological Economics in Action: Building a Reflective and Inclusive Community’. 20th - 23rd  June 2017, Budapest, Hungary.

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Remember to join the discussion in the ESEE Facebook group!


Job offer: Professor in Environmental Policy Analysis

The Department of Environmental Science at Aarhus University, Roskilde, Denmark invites applications for a position as full professor in environmental policy analysis. The position is to be filled by November 1, 2017 or as soon as possible, subject to negotiation. For the right candidate the faculty will be able to provide a start package to ease the transfer of a research group. The professorship i classified as grade 37. 

Application deadline: May 9, 2017

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New Issue: Environmental Values Vol.26, No.2, April 2017
Editorial: Knowledge, Expertise and Engagement.
by Stewart Barr

People and Planet: Values, Motivations and Formative Influences of Individuals Acting to Mitigate Climate Change. by Rachel Howell, Simon Allen
The Problem of Inclusion in Deliberative Environmental Valuation. by Andrés Vargas, Alex Lo, Michael Howes, Nicholas Rohde
Acceptance of a Payment for Ecosystem Services Scheme: The Decisive Influence of Collective Action. by Jean-Pierre Del Corso, Thi Dieu Phuong Geneviève Nguyen, Charilaos Kephaliacos
Game Theory and the Self-Fulfilling Climate Tragedy. by Matthew Kopec
The Relationship between Value Types and Environmental Behaviour in Four Countries: Universalism, Benevolence, Conformity and Biospheric Values Revisited. by Tally Katz-Gerro, Itay Greenspan, Femida Handy, Hoon-Young Lee
Recently posted articles forthcoming in future issues

Inge Konik, Ubuntu and ecofeminism: Value-building with African and womanist voices’ accepted 10-01-2017
Fernando Arribas, ‘Are poplar plantations really beautiful? On Allen Carlson’s aesthetics of agricultural landscapes and environmentalism’ accepted 23-01-2017
Yasha Rohwer, ‘A duty to cognitively enhance animals’ accepted 27-01-2017

Recently posted reviews forthcoming in future issues

Susan Owens, Knowledge, Policy, and Expertise: The UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution 1970–2011, ANDREW GILG
Alan H. Lockwood, Heat Advisory: Protecting Health on a Warming Planet, THOMAS E. RANDALL
Clare Heyward and Dominic Roser (eds), Climate Justice in a Non-Ideal World, COREY KATZ