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The Ecological Economics of Boulding's Spaceship Earth

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  • Clive L. Spash

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Abstract

The work of Kenneth Boulding is sometimes cited as being foundational to the understanding of how the economy interacts with the environment and particularly of relevance to ecological economists. The main reference made in this regard is to his seminal essay using the metaphor of planet Earth as a spaceship. In this paper that essay and related work is placed both within historical context of the environmental movement and developments in the thought on environment-economy interactions. The writing by Boulding in this area is critically reviewed and discussed in relationship to the work of his contemporaries, also regarded as important for the ecological economics community, such as Georegescu-Roegen, Herman Daly and K. William Kapp. This brings out the facts that Boulding did not pursue his environmental concerns, wrote little on the subject, had a techno-optimist tendency, disagreed with his contemporaries and preferred to develop an evolutionary economics approach. Finally, a sketch is offered of how the ideas in the Spaceship Earth essay relate to current understanding within social ecological economics. The essay itself, while offering many thought provoking insights within the context of its time, also has flaws both of accuracy and omission. The issues of power, social justice, institutional and social relationships are ones absent, but also ones which Boulding, near the end of his life, finally recognised as key to addressing the growing environmental crises.

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File URL: http://www-sre.wu.ac.at/sre-disc/sre-disc-2013_02.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Environment and Regional Development, Department of Socioeconomics, Vienna University of Economics and Business in its series SRE-Disc with number sre-disc-2013_02.

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Length: 30 pages
Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wiw:wiwsre:sre-disc-2013_02

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Postal: Welthandelsplatz 1, 1020 Vienna, Austria
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Keywords: Kenneth Boulding; spaceship Earth; thermodynamics; entropy; limits to growth; ecological economics; Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen; Herman Daly;

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References

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  1. Clive L. Spash, 2011. "Social Ecological Economics: Understanding the Past to See the Future," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(2), pages 340-375, 04.
  2. Clive L. Spash, 2009. "The New Environmental Pragmatists, Pluralism and Sustainability," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 18(3), pages 253-256, August.
  3. Clive L. Spash, 1999. "The Development of Environmental Thinking in Economics," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 8(4), pages 413-435, November.
  4. Kallis, Giorgos, 2011. "In defence of degrowth," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(5), pages 873-880, March.
  5. Ayres, Robert U., 1998. "Eco-thermodynamics: economics and the second law," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 189-209, August.
  6. Bianciardi, C. & Tiezzi, E. & Ulgiati, S., 1993. "Complete recycling of matter in the frameworks of physics, biology and ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 1-5, August.
  7. Herman E. Daly, 1968. "On Economics as a Life Science," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 392.
  8. Spash, Clive L., 2007. "The economics of climate change impacts a la Stern: Novel and nuanced or rhetorically restricted?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(4), pages 706-713, September.
  9. Martínez-Alier, Joan & Pascual, Unai & Vivien, Franck-Dominique & Zaccai, Edwin, 2010. "Sustainable de-growth: Mapping the context, criticisms and future prospects of an emergent paradigm," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(9), pages 1741-1747, July.
  10. Ayres, Robert U. & Warr, Benjamin, 2005. "Accounting for growth: the role of physical work," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 181-209, June.
  11. Clive L. Spash, 2011. "Terrible Economics, Ecosystems and Banking," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 20(2), pages 141-145, May.
  12. Costanza, Robert, 1989. "What is ecological economics?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 1-7, February.
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