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Sustainability: Ecological and Economic Perspectives

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  • Bryan G. Norton
  • Michael A. Toman

Abstract

Admonitions to decision makers to "act sustainably" founder on conceptual ambiguities that transcend disciplinary boundaries and affect the definition and assessment of sustainability. In this article we address these underlying theoretical difficulties, paying special attention to two clusters of issues: reversibility and substitutability, and how to assess environmental values. In highlighting these two broad problem areas, we also note that cross-disciplinary disagreements cannot be resolved without making considerable progress in other areas of ecological and economic theory. We suggest that a "two-tiered" system might prove a useful beginning point for finding a more unified and interdisciplinary approach to decision making.

Suggested Citation

  • Bryan G. Norton & Michael A. Toman, 1997. "Sustainability: Ecological and Economic Perspectives," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 73(4), pages 553-568.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:landec:v:73:y:1997:i:4:p:553-568
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Toman Michael, 2014. "The need for multiple types of information to inform climate change assessment," Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis, De Gruyter, vol. 5(3), pages 469-485, December.
    2. Norton, Bryan & Costanza, Robert & Bishop, Richard C., 1998. "The evolution of preferences: Why 'sovereign' preferences may not lead to sustainable policies and what to do about it," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2-3), pages 193-211, February.
    3. Sneddon, Chris & Howarth, Richard B. & Norgaard, Richard B., 2006. "Sustainable development in a post-Brundtland world," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 253-268, May.
    4. Toman, Michael & Lile, Ron & King, Dennis, 1998. "Assessing Sustainability: Some Conceptual and Empirical Challenges," Discussion Papers dp-98-42, Resources For the Future.
    5. Hart, David D. & Bell, Kathleen P., 2013. "Sustainability Science: A Call to Collaborative Action," Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association, vol. 0(Number 1), pages 1-15, April.
    6. Norton, Bryan, 1995. "Resilience and options," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 133-136, November.
    7. Wagner, Jeffrey, 2006. "On the economics of sustainability," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(4), pages 659-664, June.
    8. Howarth, Richard B., 2007. "Towards an operational sustainability criterion," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(4), pages 656-663, September.
    9. Brand, Fridolin, 2009. "Critical natural capital revisited: Ecological resilience and sustainable development," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(3), pages 605-612, January.
    10. Daniel H. Cole, 2007. "The Stern Review and its critics: implications for the theory and practice of costs-benefits analysis," QA - Rivista dell'Associazione Rossi-Doria, Associazione Rossi Doria, issue 4, November.
    11. Toman, Michael, 1998. "Sustainable Decisionmaking: The State of the Art from an Economics Perspective," Discussion Papers dp-98-39, Resources For the Future.
    12. Anderson, Mark W. & Teisl, Mario & Noblet, Caroline, 2012. "Giving voice to the future in sustainability: Retrospective assessment to learn prospective stakeholder engagement," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 1-6.
    13. Wagner, Jeffrey, 2011. "Incentivizing sustainable waste management," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(4), pages 585-594, February.
    14. van der Heide, C.M. & Brouwer, Floor M. & Bellon, Stephane & Bockstaller, Christian & Garrod, Guy & Geniaux, Ghislain & Oliveira, Rosario & Smith, Peter & Stapleton, Lee & Weinzaepflen, Emmanuelle & Z, 2007. "Review of approaches to establish reference levels to interpret indicators," Reports 57466, SEAMLESS: System for Environmental and Agricultural Modelling, Linking European Science and Society.
    15. Dong-shang Chang & Li-chin Regina Kuo, 2008. "The effects of sustainable development on firms' financial performance - an empirical approach," Sustainable Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(6), pages 365-380.
    16. Michael Margolis & Eric Nævdal, 2008. "Safe Minimum Standards in Dynamic Resource Problems: Conditions for Living on the Edge of Risk," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 40(3), pages 401-423, July.
    17. Toman, Michael, 1998. "SPECIAL SECTION: FORUM ON VALUATION OF ECOSYSTEM SERVICES: Why not to calculate the value of the world's ecosystem services and natural capital," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 57-60, April.
    18. Ivo Šlaus & Garry Jacobs, 2011. "Human Capital and Sustainability," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 3(1), pages 1-58, January.
    19. Irmi Seidl & Clem Tisdell, 2001. "Neglected Features of the Safe Minimum Standard: Socio-economic and Institutional Dimensions," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 59(4), pages 417-442.
    20. Barrett, Christopher B., 1998. "Markets, Social Norms, And Governments In The Service Of Environmentally Sustainable Economic Development," Economics Research Institute, ERI Study Papers 28352, Utah State University, Economics Department.
    21. Grijalva, Therese & Berrens, Robert P. & Shaw, W. Douglass, 2011. "Species preservation versus development: An experimental investigation under uncertainty," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(5), pages 995-1005, March.
    22. Farmer, Michael C., 2001. "Getting the safe minimum standard to work in the real world: a case study in moral pragmatism," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 209-226, August.
    23. Richard B. Howarth, 2004. "Against High Interest Rates," Rensselaer Working Papers in Economics 0404, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Department of Economics.
    24. Nilsen, Heidi Rapp, 2010. "The joint discourse 'reflexive sustainable development' -- From weak towards strong sustainable development," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(3), pages 495-501, January.
    25. Figge, Frank & Hahn, Tobias, 2004. "Sustainable Value Added--measuring corporate contributions to sustainability beyond eco-efficiency," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 173-187, February.

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