Ecological Economics – curriculum, planet and social justice

One of the most focussed writers on the growth problem, former Oxfam economist Kate Raworth has just written a very fine piece on the struggle of economics students to broaden the narrow, neoclassical economics curriculum that dominates University economics teaching.  She notes that a diversity of approaches is not enough, since the fundamental issue today is the limits (to growth) imposed by our planet, which also provides the very basis for any economy.
It is well worth reading the piece, follow this link

One response caught our eye.  Kevin Watkins agued that ecological economics has a blind spot for equality.

Steady State’s Mark Burton took issue with this and since this was an opportunity to briefly summarise how equality is central to ecological economics and to identify some shortcomings of the approach, we are reproducing the comment (with typos corrected, and links added) here:

“An excellent piece as always. I don’t agree with Kevin that equality is generally ignored by ecological economics. Look at the Enough collection, Daly’s own work, Douthwaite/FEASTA’s Sharing for Survival, not to mention the more socialist inspired Degrowth fork. Our own attempt to articulate the approach in relation to a local/bioregional economy has certainly emphasised this, and we’ve worked with equality and anti-poverty campaigners precisely on this question.
My concerns are a bit different – I see the North American school of ecological economics as rather naive with regard to the drivers of GDP growth – they tend not to problematise capitalist accumulation. They also tend not to emphasise that the implications of climate change almost certainly imply the need for a reduction in the scale of economic activity (as we know it) so tending to a steady state won’t give us rapid enough reduction of the emissions that continue to cumulate devastatingly.
But with that caveat, I think Kate is absolutely right to take the heterodox economics project to task for not giving sufficient emphasis to the ecological basis, and limits, for the economy. But the tools of the other elements (Marxian, post-Keynesian, etc) of the heterodoxy are needed to deal with the generative processes.”

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