- Federico Demaria and Tom Bauler: The future of ecological economics: Reporting from September 2018 ecological economics and Degrowth conferences
2. News from ESEE and its members
- Upcoming ESEE elections and call for nominations
- Call for applications: ESEE ecological economics training institutes
- Call for Abstracts and Special Sessions: 13th International Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics
- Environmental Policy and Governance Journal- current issues
3. Hot topic
- Melf-Hinrich Ehlers and Christian Kerschner: Degrowth and technology
4. Student spotlight
- Ernest Aigner: The importance of pluralism in economics
5. Events, jobs and publications
- Call for papers: Special issue on how Science-policy interfaces advance research on ecosystems and people
- Call for papers: International Karl Polanyi Society Conference 2019: ‘Universal Capitalism in Decline?’, Austrian Foundation for Development Research, Austria, May 03rd to 05th, 2019
- Call for papers and workshops: 2nd Austrian Conference on International Resource Politics: ‘Resources for a Social-Ecological Transformation’, Universität Innsbruck, Austria, February 28th to March 02nd, 2019
- Call for papers: The 37th International Labour Process Conference 2019, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria, April 24th to 26th, 2019
- Nature of Prosperity Dialogue: An Economy that Works for All, Queen Elizabeth II Centre, London, UK, October 24th, 2018
The future of ecological economics: Reporting from September 2018 ecological economics and Degrowth conferences
1) Mexico: Degrowth and ISEE 2018
By Federico Demaria, ESEE Board Member
Mexico is among the most culturally influential countries in the Spanish speaking world. Last September it hosted the Degrowth-Descrecimiento and ISEE 2018 conferences, making it possible to attend two conferences with a single trip. Both conferences were bilingual. At times, debates were exciting. For instance, the ISEE 2018 organizing committee put activist knowledge at the centre in all plenaries, namely indigenous autonomy, agroecology, and social and solidarity economies.
2018 marks 30 years since the founding of the International Society for Ecological Economics. For the future, elect President Joshua Farley proposed interesting ideas at the ISEE assembly, summarized here after.
A research agenda for ecological economics
First, Farley proposed a process to identify a research agenda to reinforce ecological economics as a research community, now perceived to be in stagnation (See a call for papers here). How do we establish an interdisciplinary, international and representative research agenda? He proposed an alliance with other academic societies with affinities. Following a survey Farley promoted, ISEE members identified their priorities, for example: political ecology, feminist economics, institutional economics, commons, environmental justice, psychology, Degrowth, etc. This resonated with the proposal by Inge Røpke (who obtained the Boulding Award 2018) for a New Economics in the round table on the research agenda of ecological economics (see her keynote at the Malmö degrowth conference 2018).
Future of ISEE conferences
Paul Safonov presented his proposal for a conference in Moscow (Russia) in 2020, yet to be confirmed. More generally, Joshua proposed future conferences to be hybrid, in the sense of both face-to-face and virtual. The aim would be to make conferences more inclusive (e.g. virtual can be much cheaper for participants), and also to reduce CO2 emissions and ecological footprint.
Both issues raised by Joshua intersect with some of my own concerns regarding the future of ISEE, and which could be synthesized with a humble proposal: lets co-develop an 'Ecological Economics New Green Deal'. One possible reason for the perceived stagnation of the community might be the relative dispersion of efforts in non-coordinated themes, dimensions and research objects. A mid-term soft coordination effort could help develop some coherence, renewed leverage and political relevance. Such a process could look like the following: identify 10 topics/disciplines with their respective academic and civil societies. Then, prepare a 5 or 10 year research and action plan on these 10 items/questions/domains that would involve both the journal and the conferences as implementation means. Make sure these priorities get prominent space in the EE conferences, both regional and international (e.g. explicitly mention them in the call for papers, inviting key note speakers from these communities, or even organizing joint conferences with their respective disciplinary societies). Then, call for special issues where scholars would engage with one of these topics and ecological economics. For instance, our forthcoming special issue in the Journal of Ecological Economics on Degrowth and Environmental Justice goes exactly along these lines. Lastly, we could invite prominent scholars from these communities to be editors of the journal, making it clear that their communities contributions to the journal are welcome. This might lead to a re-definition of EE itself, towards a New Economics, or eventually also beyond economics. What is clear to me, is that ecological economics needs an ambitious plan, if it doesn't want to lose its relevance. Lets be brave and inclusive!
2) EU Parliament: Post-Growth
By Tom Bauler, ESEE Vice President
A couple of days later in September, parts of the Degrowth and ecological economics communities gathered in Brussels for a very first attempt to initiate a dialogue with European policy makers on the challenges linked to the Post-growth society (see here for more information; for a longer report see here). While questioning growth patterns is part of the DNA of both communities, a cross-party coalition of MEPs from the European Parliament - supported by the Research & Degrowth network and the Université Libre de Bruxelles – convened the generally orthodox economic policy makers for a structured exchange of viewpoints on analyses and solutions. The initiative follows from a set of preceding events running under the heading of 'Degrowth into Parliaments' and takes the slogan decolonizing our imaginaries to a new reality: 500 participants from all horizons and from all over Europe gathered in 16 thematic sessions to listen, assist and intervene into the staged dialogue between economics as in the textbooks of Samuelson and alternative economics. Probably the biggest surprise to many was that the framings of both communities coincided roughly on the analyses of the situation: emergency & urgency, economies vs. socio-environmental objectives, critical moment for democracies, relinking institutional governance with the ground. The bad news was that much of the orthodoxy in policy making does not seem to take up critical – but seminal for many of us – analyses on for instance, the non-existence of the trickle-down effects (Piketty, among many), on the impossibility to solve the agenda with efficiency gains only (Jackson, for a start), on the inefficacy and vestedness of many market arrangements.
While discussions where thus far from smooth and consensual, the event clearly confirmed that such confrontations of framings and imaginaries are not only needed but are called for from both sides. Instead of being a one-off attempt, our challenge is now to turn this into a process. One step in this direction is to keep alternative voices heard, and you may consider to join the signatories of an open letter to the EU institutions which has been issued in many national newspapers during the conference.
Upcoming ESEE election and call for nominations
Dear ESEE Members,
The terms of office of the ESEE President, 2 Vice-Presidents and 3 Board Members are ending in 2018 after 3 years, which means we have elections in November 2018!
Our election committee is chaired by the ESEE President Irene Ring and includes our country contacts Inge Ropke and Tommaso Luzzati. As usual, they will count on your feedback and on your interest in playing an active role in the ESEE Board and get nominations for the election later this year.
The official calendar for 2018 elections is as follows:
To become a nominee the person has to be supported by five ESEE Members eligible to vote. All nominations for elections shall be made in writing to the secretariat, using the email-address: email@example.com and must be received by Sunday, November 11th, 2018.
- Monday, October 15th – Sunday, November 11th: 4 weeks nomination period
- Second half of November: Preparations for elections
- Monday, November 26th – Sunday, December 16th: 3 weeks election period
Nomination shall include the names of the supporters. Supporters are asked to express their support directly to the secretariat (firstname.lastname@example.org) also up to the same deadline.
A brief CV, a photo and 5 lines on the motivation for working in the Board shall be provided to be put on the ESEE website as a pdf file during the election period.
Information on the candidates and the voting procedure will be given at the ESEE website. However, as only active ESEE Members paying their membership fees are entitled to stand and/or vote for the board elections, we encourage you to renew your membership (or become a member if you are not yet one!) as soon as possible. Based on the election calendar, you need to be an ESEE member by Friday, 23rd November 2018 to be eligible to vote in this year’s elections.
If you have any questions regarding nominations and/or elections do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.
Call for applications: ESEE ecological economics training institutes
Deadline December 01st, 2018
The ESEE board is pleased to open a call for series of trans-disciplinary and collaborative training institutes on ecological economics aimed at early career researchers, practitioners and decision-makers in Europe. Events can be focused on any of the diverse range of topics associated with ecological economics, but will share a common participatory approach and structure. Local organisers can (annually) bid for up to 2000 euros for events that meet a number of criteria, as detailed below:
Further guidelines and suggestions
- Highly collaborative and participatory; not just a series of lectures and presentations
- Trans-disciplinary: including participants beyond academia, e.g. decision-makers, practitioners, community representatives, etc.
- Students are heavily involved in organising the event
- Zero or low cost for participation, with some kind of bursary opportunities for those in a low-income situation
- A record is kept by the organisers of participant feedback on the event and this is made available to the ESEE
- Environmental awareness: a plan to minimise (and potentially compensate) the carbon footprint and other environmental costs
- The organisers should be ESEE members
In addition to the mandatory criteria, the ESEE suggests the following guidelines for the events. These guidelines will also be used to decide between competing applications if more than one application is made for sponsorship in an annual round.
Procedure for applicants
- Duration: 2 days for pre-conference events, 3-5 days for other events
- Number of participants: 20-30 participants; a relatively small group of students helps to build group cohesiveness and identity
- A mix of students and post-docs with at least a third post-docs
- Provision of opportunities for publication of outputs
- Provision of opportunities for ECTL credits associated with courses
- Remote locations preferred to maximise engagement
- Family friendly with childcare options available
- As the decision on competing proposals is taken by the ESEE Board, active ESEE Board members are excluded from submitting applications for the competition. However, they are still free to submit applications, but these will only be considered in the case of no other eligible application(s) being available from applicants outside the ESEE Board for the upcoming year
Candidates can apply to the ESEE annually for up to 2000 euros towards the cost of an event to be held within the following two years, provided it meets the criteria, but they are responsible for raising the remainder of the funding. Applications must include a short rationale for the event, including a description of the event format (max 2 pages), a budget, an indication of what budget costs the ESEE funds will be spent on, and an overview of other (potential) funding sources.
Applications for 2019 can be made by December 01st, 2018. Please send the application to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call for Abstracts and Special Sessions: 13th International Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics, June 18th to 21st, 2019, Turku/Åbo, Finland
Conference objective and themes
Since its foundation in 1996, the European Society for Ecological Economics (ESEE) has established theoretical and practical approaches for integrating often contested environmental and developmental issues. The 13th International Conference of ESEE in Turku will scrutinize the current co-creative turn in sustainability research and policy.
One key scientific challenge of tomorrow is to provide policy advice for legitimate, fair and evidence-informed sustainability transformation. ESEE 2019 will contribute to this challenge by exploring theories and applications of co-creation: an epistemic process that merges inter- and trans-disciplinary science and public deliberation with different phases of the policy cycle. ESEE 2019 brings together researchers, practitioners and civil society actors engaged in co-creation for institutional design, policy implementation and the evaluation of problem solving strategies.
ESEE 2019 builds on conventional as well as innovative formats. New interactive and dialogical formats will be applied in keynotes and co-creative events with scientists, business, governmental actors, media and civil society. We strongly encourage participants to reflect on co-creation in their own academic and non-academic work and to consider presenting their experiences, findings and insights in new creative formats.
Special session proposals
Special sessions involve 3–5 paper presentations (in 1.5 hours) with moderated discussion on specific topics and debates that complement the conference tracks and sub-tracks. Please submit your proposal by November 02nd, 2018.
Abstracts for papers and posters
Please submit a short abstract (100 words) and an extended abstract (1000–1500 words excluding references) by November 27th, 2018 via the online form. Submissions will be peer-reviewed. Each author can submit two abstracts as first (lead) author.
There will be a poster session, and a best poster prize will be awarded at the conference. After the Day 1 and Day 2 morning keynotes there will a 15-minute slot for poster teasers.
Best paper prizes and EPG special issue
We will award two paper prizes, one for the best student paper and one for a regular paper submitted for and presented at the conference.
The Journal Environmental Policy and Governance will host a Special Issue compiled from selected papers presented at the ESEE 2019 Turku conference. All papers accepted for presentation (oral or poster) will be addressed with a targeted call for the special issue. The special issue papers will undergo the usual reviewing process of the journal.
In the line of the conference objectives, we suggest contributions within seven tracks:
1- Safeguarding biodiversity, climate, and ecosystem services
2- Reconciling consumption, need, and well-being
3- Developing sustainable futures
4- Formulating transformative policies
5- Redesigning institutions
6- Building post-growth economies
7- Ecological economics as transformative science
Further information on these seven tracks and the submission process can be found here.
Environmental Policy and Governance Journal
Table of contents for current issues May/June 2018 (vol28/03) and July/August 2018 (vol28/04)
Degrowth and technology
Melf-Hinrich Ehlersa and Christian Kerschnerb,c,
(a) Agricultural Economics and Policy Group, ETH Zürich, Switzerland
(b) Department of Sustainability, Governance, and Methods, MODUL University Vienna, Am Kahlenberg 1, 1190 Vienna, Austria
(c) Department of Environmental Studies, Masaryk University. Corresponding author. Address: Jostova 10, 602 00, Brno, Czech Republic. Email: email@example.com
In the first edition of the journal of Ecological Economics Bob Constanza argued that the emerging discipline should distance itself from the dominant discourse of unreflective technological optimism and pursue prude pessimism (Costanza, 1989). Although many agreed, very little work on alternative stances on technology followed. Hence the mainstream sustainability discourses fixation with technological solutionism remains unchallenged at large. Technology has become a fetish and an end in itself, which ignores rebound effects, unintended side effects, and demand-side approaches. These dominant narratives often portray technology as value neutral, brushing the shaping of technology by vested interests aside. The Degrowth community traditionally challenges such simplistic models. However, today's Degrowth advocates make heavy symbolic use of technological artefacts, mostly low-tech such as the bicycle, but also high-tech such as digital fabricators. Technology will be part of a future Degrowth society. But how much and which type of technology? How should technology be regulated and by whom? Our Special Issue on Degrowth and Technology in the Journal of Cleaner Production elicits possible answers to these questions, which we analyse and summarise in the comprehensive editorial (Kerschner et al., 2018).
Contrary to mainstream views, Degrowth scholars and activists think that more technology is not always better and that not all technological developments benefit human society. Nevertheless, individual positions of the contributions to our special issue still diverge strongly. They spread out along four axes:
(1) attitudes towards technology between enthusiasm and scepticism;
(2) potentials of technology as an agent of change towards or against a Degrowth society, between revolutionary and neutral;
(3) normative governance, between strong control and laissez faire and;
(4) controllability (governability) between full autonomy (i.e. determinism) and complete context-dependency of technology, implying that technology is not good or bad per se.
On the enthusiastic side, proponents of 'technological democratisation' emphasise the need to make particularly promising technologies such as 3D printing broadly accessible. The respective technologies are typically embedded in institutional settings such as fab-labs or bike kitchens, which may be necessary to cultivate their convivial properties. Technology—given the right setting—can support participation in production and consumption decisions, it is argued. Likewise, debates over technology can re-politicise and provide points of entry for Degrowth ideas and generate a technological alphabetisation (Vetter, 2018) that helps us in controlling our technologies instead of being controlled by them.
'Technological democratisation' is also expected to undermine centralized capitalist production and power structures. It is argued that most technologies have been captured by the capitalist system and need to be re-appropriated, because it unleashes the worst properties and applications of technologies. Illich, however, was convinced that “… certain tools are destructive no matter who owns them...” (Illich, 1975, p. 39). In line with more sceptical positions, several authors of the special issue emphasise unintended side effects of technologies. One problem may be solved with a technology, but many new ones created (the 'hydra effect'). An appropriate solution could be a general reduction of daily use of technology. Concepts such as 'withdrawal', 'methodological Luddism', 'releasement' or 'technological ascesis' summarise such positions. Likewise, there are calls for stringent measures to control technology, including moratoria. The resulting slow-down and appreciation of limits should then “… spur creativity at multiple levels to solve problems in convivial and non-technological ways” (Kerschner et al. 2018 p. 1633).
A shared socio-technological Degrowth imaginary
The enthusiastic and sceptic views on technology are more like the poles of a magnet. There are untapped opportunities to learn from one another and construct alternatives. Critics may emphasise the social, psychological and philosophical implications of technologies, while enthusiasts may bring in empirical cases and practical knowledge. Together these two poles could establish and advance criteria for design, assessment and governance of technology. Alongside they would start building a shared socio-technological imaginary for Degrowth, as symbolically illustrated in our vase and flowers analogy (see Kerschner et al. 2018 for details).
Figure 2. Vase and flowers analogy of a shared socio-technological Degrowth imaginary (Source: Kerschner et al. 2018, Figure 5, p. 1625).
Imaginaries that clarify the shared aims of a “Degrowth society” are essential for the Degrowth community. An increasingly shared imaginary about a future Degrowth society can guide a shared socio-technical Degrowth imaginary. We would deliberatively select technologies to support the lives we want to live instead of adapting our lives to technology. Carefully selected technological artefacts can facilitate the visualisation of such futures, like the bicycle today. Technological enthusiasm can also serve as an entry point for a broader Degrowth discourse that includes critical perspectives. What is needed are constructive deliberations between members of the Degrowth community (and beyond) with different positions on technology.
Costanza, R., 1989. What is ecological economics? Ecol. Econ. 1, 1–7.
Illich, I., 1975. Clinical damage, medical monopoly, the expropriation of health: three dimensions of iatrogenic tort. J. Med. Ethics 1, 78–80.
Kerschner, C., Wächter, P., Nierling, L., Ehlers, M.-H., 2018. Degrowth and Technology: Towards feasible, viable, appropriate and convivial imaginaries. J. Clean. Prod. 197, 1619–1636. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.07.147
Vetter, A., 2018. The Matrix of Convivial Technology – Assessing technologies for degrowth. J. Clean. Prod., Technology and Degrowth 197, 1778–1786. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.02.195
The importance of pluralism in economics
Interview with Ernest Aigner, ESEE Student Representative
Tell us about yourself.
I am a PhD candidate at the Institute for Ecological Economics (WU Vienna, Austria). I received my bachelor’s degree in economics, and my master’s degree in socio-ecological economics and policy, where I learned to conduct critical research on the interactions between environmental, social and economic realities. Since then I have been involved in a variety of initiatives, courses and research projects that embrace these interactions in one or the other way. Meanwhile, I enjoy being outside in nature, hiking, skiing, climbing and swimming but also modern arts, literature, and eating rice.
What are you researching?
In my PhD, I am working on pluralism in academic economics using a scientometric approach. My aim is to contribute to a better understanding of the structure of the economic discipline and of its ontological and thematic foci, employing insights from a bibliography of articles published in economics during the last 60 years. In addition, I have been working on the integration of environmental concerns with work arrangements, and the possibility of an economy without money. Driven by curiosity and a certain resistance to follow the path of becoming an expert of one specific issue, as often demanded by current academia, I remain inspired by the combination of these topics.
If you were in charge of the world economy for one day, tell me one thing what you would do and why?
Considering the complexity of the global economy, a one-size-fits-all solution to the multiple crises in terms of trespassing biophysical boundaries, existing income and wealth inequalities, and right-wing populism does not seem feasible. One point of entry is the urgently needed rapid transition towards a fossil-free global economy. Considering run-away climate change, overcoming fossil fuel use appears obvious. A shift towards a fossil-free economy, however, also opens a path to challenge expansionary dynamics of capital accumulation processes, as machinery, work, distributional infrastructures, advertisement, and consumption heavily rely on low-entropy energy. A shift towards a fossil-free economy implies a window of opportunity to realign economic provisioning systems with ecosystems and social values such as autonomy, equality and political participation.
Tell me one thing that you think many ecological economists don’t realise, but should.
Economics as an academic discipline is a highly concentrated field, structurally dominated by a few (Western) institutions that reproduce the dominant mainstream theory, its concepts and methods. Some decades ago, academic economics abandoned the ‘political’ from its agenda (formerly known as ‘political economy’). Ever since it is prone to misrepresentations of (politically driven) dominating mechanisms that direct economic development and the respective provisioning systems. Conceptually and empirically sound research thus often requires abandoning mainstream concepts despite their wide use. This implies a necessity to stand in opposition to the mono-theoretical mainstream, a position that is often personally detrimental, but indispensable in terms of scientific rigor.
Interviewer: Jacob Ainscough, ESEE Newsletter Editor
Call for papers: Special issue of the International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management on how science-policy interfaces advance research on ecosystems and people
The International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services and Management calls for papers that shed light on conceptual and methodological developments emerging from recent science-policy interfaces, as well as lessons learned about the process of interlinking science and policy. Beside reflections on the Intergovernmental Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), other examples and general lessons on science-policy interfaces are also welcome.
Deadline: December 2018
Call for papers: International Karl Polanyi Society Conference 2019: ‘Universal Capitalism in Decline?’, Austrian Foundation for Development Research, Austria, May 03rd to 05th, 2019
In 1945 Karl Polanyi published 'Universal Capitalism or Regional Planning', using the term 'universal capitalism' to describe the political-economic system that had led to the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II. The conference refers to this motive to analyse contemporary societal change, to share perspectives from around the globe and to reflect on methodological questions. These three broad concerns will be at the centre of International Karl Polanyi Society (IKPS) conference 2019: A) Globalization, financialization, liberalization and the countermovement; B) Bringing together Polanyi-inspired research from different regions and countries; C) Commodification, double movement and embeddedness – concepts to understand the 21st century capitalism. Abstracts should not exceed a maximum of 400 words, including the author’s full name, the title of the presentation, a maximum of 4 keywords, the author’s affiliation, full address and e-mail.
Deadline: November 30th, 2018
Call for papers and workshops: 2nd Austrian Conference on International Resource Politics: ‘Resources for a Social-Ecological Transformation’, Universität Innsbruck, Austria, February 28th to March 02nd, 2019
Following the first conference ('Towards International Resource Fairness - Theories, Conflicts and Policies' in 2014), the 2nd Austrian Conference on International Resource Politics focuses on the role of natural resources for a social-ecological transformation. Highlighting a North-South-perspective, the conference aims to analyse past, present and future challenges for transformation pathways that take global inequalities, geopolitics but also transnational resistance and forms of cooperation into account. The goal of the conference is to bring together researchers, practitioners and activists from different regions and disciplines to advance inter- and trans-disciplinary research. We welcome contributions from any field of political science, development studies, geography, economics, sociology, social ecology, law and related disciplines.
Deadline: October 31st, 2018
Call for papers: The 37th International Labour Process Conference 2019, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria, April 24th to 26th, 2019
The 37th International Labour Process Conference (ILPC) will be held in Vienna, Austria, from 24th to 26th April 2019. Each year the ILPC brings together researchers from a variety of countries with the objective of enhancing our understanding of contemporary developments relating to work and employment. The conference organizers welcome papers on any issue concerning the analysis of labour processes, labour markets, labour organising and labour reproduction. The 2019 conference will additionally focus on ‘Fragmentations and Solidarities’ in contemporary work and employment relations.
Deadline: October 26th, 2018
Nature of Prosperity Dialogue: An Economy that Works for All, Queen Elizabeth II Centre, London, UK, October 24th, 2018
The idea of building ‘an economy that works for all’ has an almost universal appeal. Its roots can be traced to a call made fifty years ago by Senator Robert F Kennedy (RFK) to address the ‘poverty of satisfaction, dignity and purpose that afflicts us all’. But what does it mean in practice for an advanced economy today, ten years after the financial crisis, faced with imminent climate change, persistent inequality, and continuing economic fragilities? Our fourth Nature of Prosperity dialogue addresses this challenge and teases out some of its most pressing policy implications. Registration is open to come to Westminster to hear from Kerry Kennedy, US human rights lawyer and daughter of RFK, Clive Lewis MP, Shadow Treasury Minister, Miatta Fahnbulleh, Chief Executive of the New Economics Foundation, Michael Jacobs, Director of the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice, and Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury.