Economics and Ecology: United for a Sustainable World, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Economics and Ecology

United for a Sustainable World, 1st Edition

By Charles R. Beaton, Chris Maser

CRC Press

191 pages | 1 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9781138116450
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The earth, our home, is in crisis. There are two sides to this crisis—our global economy, and its effect on the ecology of our home planet. Despite conventional thinking that typical monetary and fiscal manipulations will put us back on the path of economic growth, the reality is not that simple. Meanwhile, the natural environment is sending unmistakable warnings. Glaciers are melting; oceans are becoming dangerously acidic; species and their ecological services are becoming extinct; and weather patterns are becoming increasingly severe and unpredictable each year. The stress on resource systems of all kinds threatens to shrink the carrying capacity of the planet, even as we call upon it for increased contributions to support a burgeoning human population.

Co-written by an ecologist and an economist, Economics and Ecology: United for a Sustainable World counsels the replacement of symptomatic thinking with a systemic worldview that treats the environment and the economy as an ecosystemic unit. The first part of the book establishes the methodological and biophysical principles needed to develop the concept of socioeconomic sustainability. The second part of the book examines the misuse of economics in the service of what increasingly appears to be a ruinous pursuit of material wealth and expansion. The third part offers advice on reconciling economics and ecology by proposing an economics in which the principles employed are aligned with the biophysical principles of ecology.

This timely volume puts forth a sustainable worldview based on systemic thinking, with the emphasis more on what and how people think than on what they do. A unique reference for professionals and laypersons alike, it can also serve as a supplementary classroom text for students of economics, ecology, biology, and environmental science.

Table of Contents



Methodological Overview

Symptomatic Analysis

Systemic Analysis

An Evolutionary View of America

Lessons from Our Energy History

Energy—The Critical Resource

The Flow of Energy Is the Only Real Economy

Follow the Energy—Not the Money

Lessons from the Laws of Thermodynamics

Five Operating Principles


The Innate Nature of Economics

Scarcity and Human Survival

Economics and Human Nature

Rational Economic Man

From Necessities to Wants and Subsistence to Wealth

Misuse of Economics in Practice

Growth as Economic Religion

Consumption Theory

Consumption for Survival

Consumption in Practice

Affluence as an Unmitigated Public Good

Toward an Economics of Enough


Original Intention: Meet Human Necessities

The Goal Has Been Unlimited Production

Reconciling the Differences

The Concept of Productivity


Politics, Economics, and Externalities

Understanding the Language

The Nature of Markets

Imperfect Property Rights

Proceeding through Example—The Paper Mill

Drawing Some Conclusions

Facing Uncertainty


The Question of Who Gets What

Distribution: The All-Important, Ignored Element

Economic Methodology Thwarts Redistribution

Revisiting the Notion of Surplus

Inequality and Economic Realities

Equity and Social Justice—The Key to Real Sustainability

Macroeconomics—Is It Still Helpful in an Age of Scarcity?

Origins of Macroeconomics

Basic Macroeconomic Worldview

The Keynesian Dilemma—Unemployment or Inflation?

Controlling the Economy

Revisiting the Capitalist Scenario

Age of Scarcity Changes the Paradigm

A Growing Economy, a Planet in Peril


The Meaning of Social-Environmental Sustainability

The Three Pillars of Sustainability

Understanding the Triple Bottom-Line

Sustainability in Practice—The Track Record

Imagining the Ideal World

We Can Only Move toward a Positive

Economic Development in the Current World

Targeting the Strategy

Counsel for Getting There

Resource Overexploitation

Communities Must Actively Plan Their Own Futures

Broad-Based Participation a Necessity

Need for Bottom-Up Thinking

A Final Word on Growth

Summing Up



Chapters include endnotes.

About the Authors

Russ Beaton received his bachelor’s degree from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, and his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Claremont University, California. His original training was in mathematical economics and econometrics, although his doctoral thesis was in location theory and urban land economics, which became a lifetime interest.

After teaching for 3 years at California State College at Fullerton (now Fullerton State University), and 4 years at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Beaton returned to his alma mater, Willamette University, where he taught economics and did research for 33 years.

He has consulted and done policy-based contract research for at least six different agencies of the State of Oregon, in areas such as land use, agriculture, timber, transportation, energy, housing, and general economic policy.

Beaton is coauthor with Chris Maser of two other books and participated in drafting the legislation, passed by the 1973 Oregon Legislature, that created Oregon’s widely acclaimed land use planning system.

Chris Maser was trained in zoology and ecology and worked for 25 years as a research scientist in agricultural, coastal, desert, forest, valley grassland, shrub steppe, and subarctic settings in various parts of the world before realizing that science is not designed to answer the vast majority of questions society is asking it to address.

Maser gave up active scientific research in 1987 and has since worked to unify scientific knowledge with social values in helping to create sustainable communities and landscapes, part of which entails his facilitating the resolution of social-environmental conflicts. He has contributed to more than 286 publications, including 34 books, mostly dealing with some aspect of social-environmental sustainability.

Although he has worked and lectured in Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Slovakia, and Switzerland, he calls Corvallis, Oregon, home.

About the Series

Social Environmental Sustainability

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / Environmental
NATURE / Environmental Conservation & Protection
SCIENCE / Life Sciences / Ecology