Interests and Preliminary Work
Interests and preliminary work see the German text.
Proposal for a Research Programm
On the state of the art of ecological economics and further tasks -
Punctuation for Green Economics Conference London 2006
1.We only do the first steps of a still very long journey
My engagement 1985 – 2007 as a member of an Austrian town council/ town councillor did have many effects (renewable energy, more flexible public transport, foiling of silly measures, …) but in relation to the necessities of sustainable development we only did first steps on a still very long way, and could not turn round the trends.
Why it is so hard to check real measures with long-term sustainable aims? Why majorities stick to the parties of power although they see the big risks e. g. by the climate change?
Anyway we have to look more generally at anthropological aspects of sustainability: about risk perception and decision at risk, models for the establishment of incentives for action - directed toward a long-term (sustainable) development, the perception of complexity and the creation of striking rules of thumb to reduce complexity.
What are the central key elements on a real path to sustainability? Which have most priority?
2. The central importance of energy
Born near the site of the unique nuclear atomic power station in Austria I was engaged in the campaign. After a national plebiscite 1978 Austria does not use nuclear energy till now. Since then I ever has been more convinced that energy is a (the) central question of sustainability:
The general access and use of fossil energy (coal in steam engines) to substitute labour (from the 19th century until now)
- initiated the industrial revolution in Europe
- multiplied the productivity of labour
- was (and is) the basis of (actual) capitalism and imperialism
- at the same time multiplied the harmful emissions to environment
- and at the same time reduced causally the diversity of species on our planet
Energy not only is an important link between economy and ecology but energy is a most important, perhaps the central question of the future of mankind. In it actually central problems flow together:
- the environmental and climate question, and thus
- the protection of the largest wealth of mankind, the diversity of species,
- the (regional) employment question by use of regional sources of energy,
- the reinforcement of regional participation by promotion of initiatives and empowerment
- the faster development by higher productivity (better energy use)
- the distribution question between “north” and “south” and thus
- the question of war, terror, and peace
The energy question can be positively solved by more energy efficiency on the basis of renewable energies (wood, wind, solar energy, biogas, tidal power plants...). Technically and economically the complete world energy supply is possible on basis of renewable energy in medium-term. But this transformation will not be easy because of social locking
2.Towards a convincing concept of measuring sustainability
There a many concepts of measuring sustainability but it seems to lack the real striking concept and even more important the real joint implementation. And because of this the old false GDP still is triumphing. Maybe a fairly used second-best system of measures which tend to get hegemonial use would be better than waiting to the great break-through.
Anyway we need robust key indicators, and also regional economic-ecological welfare measures being capable to hold against GDP.
3.“Islands of sustainability”?
The story of “islands of sustainability” seems to be open: will there be regions that go ahead and other will follow later; or is this not possible in a globalised world?
There exists some “ecovillages” and already town with autarky of energy. We need systematic local/regional case studies. We need identification of key ranges at adopting the path of concepts of sustainable development .
Towards a general socio-ecological theory in time and space
Even more generally: we don’t have a good theory of sustainability/green economics, but: “There is nothing more practical than a good theory”, said Albert Einstein.
For practical uses we need a strong theory: I want to contribute to a striking general socio-ecological theory of sustainable development with the following approaches
Background: The historical “world-system-theory” (Wallerstein, Arrighi, Amin): Social processes are part of a world system, connected with historical tendencies of at least 200 years.
By an input-output framework labour theory of value, gender, and world-system approaches are integrated. The horizontal distribution between
- regions (space), and
is extended by
- ecological dimensions (energy, resources, ecological resilience, diversity of species): time axis,
- and distribution between generations by appropriate (time)-discount rates.
Then 4 exploitation ratios are possible: for labour, women, “third world”, “nature”. Trade-offs exist: Example: higher exploitation rates of nature compensate exploitation rates of labour. Sensitivity analyses show parameter constellations with viable paths in distribution between classes, countries, gender, and sustainable relations to nature; or possibilities of national and global coalitions for sustainable socio-ecological/green development.
So Political economy can join political ecology. Should not be a common notion?
In a systemic model of concentration processes oligopolies (monopolies) along a theory similar to “monopolistic competition” are shown probably blocking (lock in, sunk costs) sustainability (product variation and huge funds for branding instead of fundamental innovation)
More generally social development consists of 6 levels of interaction and exchange processes:
- work(time) – goods – labour-value,
- capital – surplus,
- financial capital.
Different levels of interactions are connected by flows/stocks. Mass and energy interact by heat/entropy. When mass and information interact structures emerge.
Power not only over goods/work-time/capital but also over information and energy is essential.
There are at least 2 different types of exchange processes:
- on basis of reciprocity;
- on asymmetric power relations, Example: (over)exploitation of nature.
Can risk as an ecological category be combined with economics? Bearing risk is a most fundamental justification also for profit.
Common interdisciplinary issues anyway are : the integration of risk, stochastics, uncertainty as function of time and emergence.
Short term versus long-term interests at individuals and in systems have to be combined.
So sustainable development is "balanced" development in time.