Lecture on Ecological Economics @rethinkecon NL

I have been extremely honoured to be invited to the Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands to join a deep discussion on sustainability organized by Rethinking Economics association.

The Rethinking Economics initiative is a unique forum, which emerged out of “disillusionment with the education” that was given to students in economics departments. It started from a meeting in Tubingen, Germany in 2012 aimed to discuss alternative ways to teach economics and offer a more pluralistic view of the issues at stake both from the methodological and the thematic point of view. Groups of students began to emerge in centres like LSE, UCL, Cambridge and Manchester.

As a result, an open letter stating the shared values of theoretical pluralism, methodology and interdisciplinarity has been signed almost 100 associations of students in more than 30 countries.

This development is very encouraging for ecological economist have been striving to reform economics education for at least four decades. I am proud to say that I belong to this tradition, which pioneered methodological pluralism in economics, emphasized the need to conduct interdisciplinary research and focus on bigger picture issues.

In this light it was an extremely pleasant surprise to find that our audience in the Netherlands is absolutely full with over 100 participants registering for the discussion. What better opportunity to reach out on the crucial issues of today and share the news of our exciting and truly interdisciplinary project resulting in the Ecosystems album you might have seen described in previous posts on this blog.

I have been given enough time to explore several topics and have chosen to focus on issues of paramount importance today, namely climate change and its mitigation, sharing the case study that has been recently published in our paper: Shmelev and Speck (2018).

The story of Sweden’s amazing history of reducing harmful CO2 emission is presented here from the point of view of a detailed analysis of factors that could be the driving forces for such a reduction. Our special achievement in this paper has been the precise formulation of the effect of a Swedish carbon tax. We found that it had a statistically significant positive effect on reducing CO2 emissions in Sweden.

The second case I focused on was the paper on multidimensional benchmarking for cities: Shmelev and Shmeleva (2018). This paper deals with cities, and offers a methodology to benchmark their performance on sustainability drawing on a database of 60+ cities. Cities are fundamental to solving the problem of climate change, waste reduction or, ultimately, biodiversity crisis.

Finally, I was able to discuss the new photoalbum, the Ecosystems with a new Dutch audience, who asked many questions about ways to solve the problem, the role of companies, greenwashing, how various sustainability metrics could help. It has been a tremendous experience to see so much interest and the fact that over 100 participants were prepared to engage in a serious discussion on a Friday night.

All of this gives me hope that we could change something. If you haven’t done so already, you can order a copy of Ecosystems here: Shmelev (2018) Ecosystems

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