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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2010 Jan;1185:237-45. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.05284.x.

Ecological economics and economic growth.

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1
Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. pvictor@yorku.ca

Abstract

Boulding's 1966 paper on the economics of spaceship Earth established the framework for ecological economics and an understanding of economic growth. In ecological economics, economies are conceptualized as open subsystems of the closed biosphere and are subject to biophysical laws and constraints. Economic growth measured as an increase in real gross domestic product (GDP) has generally been associated with increases in the use of energy and materials and the generation of wastes. Scale, composition, and technology are the proximate determinants of environmental impacts. They are often reduced to two: scale (GDP) and intensity (impact per unit GDP). New work described in this paper defines "green" growth as intensity that declines faster than scale increases. Similarly, "brown" growth occurs when intensity declines more slowly than increases in scale, and "black" growth happens when both scale and intensity increase. These concepts are then related to the environmental Kuznets curve, which can be understood as a transition from brown to green growth. Ecological economics provides a macroperspective on economic growth. It offers broad policy principles, and it challenges the primacy of economic growth as a policy objective, but many important questions remain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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