SD-440: Ecological Economics

SD-440: Ecological Economics


Ecology is a discipline that explores how living organisms interact with their environments. It however has hardly been successful at providing adaptions to human society. Economics deals with the efficient allocation of scarce resources among all actors of society, be they natural or man-made. The historical focus of economic policy on unrestricted grown had given little consideration to the finite nature of natural resources that drive economic activity.

Ecological economics is an emerging discipline that seeks to fuse the basic concepts of the two disciplines in a way that addresses the limitations of the natural ecosystems in supporting finite economic growth. It puts into perspective, the idea that the global economy is essentially a subset of the biophysical world, and economic activity must not be pursued at the expense of the capabilities of the world’s ecosystem to regenerate and equilibrate. Furthermore, it explores the options that humans have in maintaining economic development, and not necessarily growth, in a natural environment that retains its ability to support economies across generations.

This course seeks to provide an overview of economic thought and suggested ideologies on how to merge ecological principles into economic policy, towards a more sustainable future.

Main textbook description:

Conventional economics is often criticized for failing to reflect adequately the value of clean air and water, species diversity, and social and generational equity. By excluding biophysical and social systems from their analyses, many conventional economists overlook problems of the increasing scale of human impacts and the inequitable distribution of resources. Ecological Economics presents an emerging paradigm that addresses this flaw in much economic thought.

The textbook used for this course defines a revolutionary “trans-discipline” that incorporates insights from the biological, physical, and social sciences, and it offers a pedagogically complete examination of this exciting new field. The book provides students with a foundation in traditional neoclassical economic thought, but places that foundation within a new interdisciplinary framework that embraces the linkages among economic growth, environmental degradation, and social inequity. Introducing the three core issues that are the focus of the new trans-discipline — scale, distribution, and efficiency — the book is guided by the fundamental question, often assumed but rarely spoken in traditional texts:

What is really important to us? After explaining the key roles played by the earth’s biotic and abiotic resources in sustaining life, the text is then organized around the main fields in traditional economics: microeconomics, macroeconomics, and international economics. The book also takes an additional step of considering the policy implications of this line of thinking. Ecological Economics includes numerous features that make it accessible to a wide range of students: more than thirty text boxes that highlight issues of special importance to students lists of key terms that help students organize the main points in each chapter concise definitions of new terms that are highlighted in the text for easy reference study questions that encourage student exploration beyond the text glossary and list of further readings.

An accompanying workbook presents an innovative, applied problem-based learning approach to teaching economics. While many books have been written on ecological economics, and several textbooks describe basic concepts of the field, this is the only stand-alone textbook that offers a complete explanation of both theory and practice. It will serve an important role in educating a new generation of economists and is an invaluable new text for undergraduate and graduate courses in ecological economics, environmental economics, development economics, human ecology, environmental studies, sustainability science, and community development.

1 US Credit

1.7 ECTS



The main aims of the course are to advance the interdisciplinary concepts of ecological considerations necessary for sustainable economies and to equip students with appropriate ecological economic tools for solving environmental and social problems. This will be done through the following:

  • An examination of the background of neo-classical economic theory, its evolution and environmental/resource economic concepts
  • Elucidation of the macroeconomic role of natural resources
  • The exploration of relevance of ecological considerations in economic activity
  • Debates on the shortfalls of classical economics in dealing with ecological disruptions associated with growth
  • Discussions of prominent themes in ecological economics and their relationships with steady-state economic theory
  • Explanation of fundamental concepts of efficient resource distribution required for environmental accountability and policy

At the end of this course, the student will be able to:

  • be conversant with fundamentals of ecological economics as a trans-discipline and is able to apply the ecological economics approach to project evaluation.
  • In particular, the student is able to:

    – Use and explain relevant terminology

    – Discuss cases and applications studied in the textbook.

Pr Mounir Ghribi
MSc in Environmental Management and Strategic Planning from MAICh (Greece); Doctorate in Environmental Sciences and Engineering from the University of Trieste.