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An assessment of ecological economics as a paradigm for development, utopian pipe-dream or confronting reality

by Johannesen, Heather

Abstract (Summary)
An Assessrnent of Ecological Economics as a Paradigm for Development: Utopian Pipe Drearn or Confronting Reality? Heather Johannesen June27,1997 This thesis compares two world views represented on the one hand, by the modemization paradigm with its growth orthodoxy and on the other hand, by the ecological economics paradigrn which advocates limits to growth. It argues that the growth mode1 is undermining the regenerative and assimilative capacity of the ecosphere and that it is weakening global scale ecosystems such as global climate regulators, stratospheric ozone, biodiversity, biomass stabilisation, and healthy soi1 for agriculture. Furthermore, the growth model, particularly in its curent neoliberal configuration, is incapable of alleviating poverty. Instead it is widening the gap between the 'haves' and the 'have nots'. In laying out the thesis, three icons are used which conceptualize environment/economy relationships. These icons demonstrate how big an economy can be, how big it actually is, and how big it should be. Vituosek et al put forward evidence that the global economy has grown to occupy 4OoA of the biosphere's total potential. ïheir hypothesis is tested using feedback from nature to conclude that the present economic subsystem has grown to its full potential and that further growth cannot be undertaken without risking catastrophic ecosystem disruption. The thesis argues the ec~gical econornics paradigm provides a more realistic and theoretically consistent approach to development. Ecological economics is a world view which recognizes limits to economic growth and which advocates ethical science and social justice. The thesis samples philosophical and economic viewpoints which provide inspiration for the ecological economics vision. Concepts which give the ecological economics paradigm form and biophysical dynamics binding the economy to the environment are explored. Tools such as footpnnt analysis provide a methodology for implementing ecological economics. The thesis concludes that it is becorning impossible to ignore the reality that the modernization paradigm is a utopian world view that has run its course. The ecological economics paradigm offers a more realistic set of principles from which we can construct sustainable lifestyles for present and future generations.
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Source Type:Master's Thesis

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Date of Publication:01/01/1997

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