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Amidst all the hoopla of ad campaigns, business news and growth projections, a close examination of our consumer culture reveals a very ugly truth: it thrives on the death of nature, and charges the cost to future generations.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We still have time to redesign our economic model. All it takes is a critical mass of visionaries to step forward.Adbusters_55_Revolutionaries

We all live in Adam Smith’s shadow. His influential economic prescriptions have seeped into every corner of the modern global economy and contemporary economists love his promotion of laissez-faire capitalism and free trade. As a result, the kind of neoclassical economics paradigm taught in economics departments around the world owes a lot to Smith’s writings. Ironically, Smith himself would likely denounce the economic paradigm attributed to him. Among other things, his 1776 magnum opus, The Wealth of Nations, blasted market concentration and extolled small-scale, locally owned enterprise. And Smith might also denounce economists themselves for their narrow focus on money flows, price theory, and economic growth. Smith devoted plenty of ink to these and other fundamental economic analyses, but he also wrote about ethics, literature and philosophy. Unfortunately, his intellectual offspring haven’t managed to maintain that breadth of study. In fact, many contemporary economists have the idea that economics is a physical rather than a social science that has nothing to learn from other disciplines. Their glorification of scientific rationalism got a boost during World War II when the American government relied heavily on the statistical analyses and mathematical models of economists in their battle plans. These days, they cling to the notion that their models are not tainted by the subjectivity that confuses other social sciences. In that vein, George Stigler – a leader of the Chicago School – once scornfully remarked that “without mathematics, we’d be reduced to the caviling of sociologists and the like.” The 1969 introduction of the Nobel prize in economics – which Stigler won in 1982 – seems to have fueled these delusions of grandeur.

Critics of neoclassical economics chuckle at the the idea that its precepts can withstand the rigor of the scientific process. They argue that Homo economicus – the theoretical self-interested ‘everyman’ that economists base their analyses on – is a misrepresentation of human nature. The model does not account for structural factors and altruism, and assumes rather ambitiously that peoples’ choices are guided by perfect rationality.

The reliability of this and other neoclassical economic models would be irrelevant to the wider world if the prescriptions of Stigler and his ilk were confined to the halls of academia. But the Chicago School with which he was famously aligned had an enormous influence on governments’ economic policies. Affiliates of the school like Milton Friedman shaped Ronald Reagan’s and Margaret Thatcher’s economic agendas and helped set the tone for the era of fervent free-enterprise boosterism, market liberalization and privatization that swept the globe during the 1980s and 1990s. Their thinking has also helped shape the International Monetary Fund and World Bank directives that have only managed to widen the gap between the rich and poor.

The physical environment has also suffered under the neoclassical economic orthodoxy that passes as religion in most economics departments. Somewhere along the way, economists decided that land derived most of its value from the labor and capital invested in reshaping it. As a result, land is treated like any other form of capital and is therefore expendable and easily substitutable. When land and resources were plentiful, the environmental implications of this view were not immediately evident. But as human population and economic activity grew, a conflict with nature was inevitable. Micro-models of the economy assume that an immediate force results in an immediate reaction. The real world, however, is non-linear, multi-dimensional, exceedingly complex and full of lags and thresholds. As a result, environmental degradation is often unaccounted for. And with the economy so much bigger than it was in Smith’s day, the failure to measure the impact of economic activity on the environment is devastating. Meanwhile, economists don’t see anything wrong with their disregard for nature. Their attitude is perhaps best articulated by Robert Solow, a much lauded Nobel laureate who had the arrogance to assert “if it is very easy to substitute other factors for natural resources, then there is in principle no ‘problem.’ The world can, in effect, get along without natural resources, so exhaustion is just an event, not a catastrophe.”

Solow’s outlook epitomizes old-school neoclassical thinking, but the ivory tower he and his cohort sit in is ripe for demolition. A new paradigm is waiting in the wings, one that values nature flows and money flows equally. One that addresses the social and environmental costs of the current model. One that calls for limits to growth and more comprehensive ways of measuring progress. At the current rate, it may take decades for this new paradigm to bump the neoclassical economic one off its pedestal. But if the Dow Jones index collapses or unchecked climate change starts wreaking greater economic chaos, it might come much sooner. However it comes about, the economic mavericks profiled in the following pages have been diligently working to build an alternative economic paradigm. As you follow their lead, you’ll find that they provide sturdy shoulders to stand on.

_Nicholas Klassen

E.F. Schumacher

E.F. Schumacher liked it when fellow economists dismissed his unorthodox ideas and called him a crank.

He took the barb as a compliment because “the crank is the part of the machine which creates revolution and it is very small. I am a small revolutionary!” Besides, Schumacher’s economic credentials were too impressive to ignore. Born in Germany, he studied in England as a Rhodes scholar and later taught economics at Columbia University and Oxford. He was a protégé of John Maynard Keynes and influenced the eminent economist’s proposal for a post-war currency system that became the International Monetary Fund. After World War II, he helped the British government’s work on the reconstruction of Germany. From there, he moved to The Timesnewspaper – the heart of the British Establishment – where he penned editorials criticizing the Labour government’s ambitious nationalization plans. That didn’t stop him from taking a position with the British National Coal Board, however, where he served as its chief economist for the next 20 years.

Early in Schumacher’s tenure at the Coal Board, the British government sent him to Burma to teach its citizens how to achieve progress based on the Western economic model. But he quickly determined the Burmese were better served drawing from their own tradition. He coined the term “Buddhist economics” to describe the opposite of the Western economic model, one that didn’t allow for unlimited growth and consumption and emphasized renewable resources. For those who questioned what Buddhism had to do with economics, Schumacher replied, “Economics without Buddhism, i.e., without spiritual, human and ecological values, is like sex without love.”

Schumacher returned to the Coal Board, but working at one of Europe’s largest commercial organizations of its day contributed to his conviction that large-scale technologies were dehumanizing and that “man is small, and, therefore, small is beautiful.” That thought inspired the title of his 1973 indictment of the neoclassical economic model Small is Beautiful. In it, Schumacher introduced the concept of “natural capital” and outlined an alternative economy based on human-scale, decentralized, and appropriate technologies that has inspired generations of environmentalists. And Schumacher lived by his prescriptions. He baked his family’s weekly bread supply with locally procured organic wheat that he ground himself in a hand-operated flourmill.

Schumacher died in 1977 but his disciples still advance his economic vision through Schumacher societies in Britain and the US, a college bearing his name, and the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG), the organization he founded that promotes poverty reduction in the developing world through sustainable technology. Today, ITDG continues to show that not only is small beautiful, it’s prosperous.

Kenneth Boulding

Kenneth Boulding gave the field of economics a healthy dose of self-criticism. “Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world,” he argued “is either a madman or an economist.” And while his fellow economists may not have appreciated the dig, they couldn’t dismiss Boulding’s opinion. He paid his dues by serving as president of the American Economics Association and authoring Economic Analysis, the authoritative textbook of Neoclassical-Keynesian economic synthesis. And he knew his credentials gave him room to dissent, noting that “Economic Analysisestablished my respectability so that I have been able to be disreputable ever since.” He was a poet, philosopher and peace activist who argued that desirable economic outcomes should be determined with ethical, religious and ecological concerns in mind. For a time he was a card-carrying Republican, but Ronald Reagan’s radicalism forced him to tear up his membership in 1982. Boulding was put off by Reagan’s supply-side economics and out-of-control military spending. He advised less saber-rattling and more dialogue with the Soviet Union, and even mocked Reagan’s communist paranoia.

Beyond his peace work, Boulding was an environmentalist who argued that economists needed to show greater reverence for nature. In 1958 he asked “Are we to regard the world of nature simply as a storehouse to be robbed for the immediate benefit of man? . . . Does man have any responsibility for the preservation of a decent balance in nature, for the preservation of rare species, or even for the indefinite continuance of his race?” He dubbed the current economic model a ‘cowboy economy’ that sees nature as inexhaustible and rewards “reckless exploitative, romantic, and violent behavior.” The alternative was a ‘spaceman economy’ in which the Earth is like a self-contained spaceship with limited resources and a disincentive to consume. Basically, he wanted truth in economics. The conclusion of his poem, “A Ballad of Ecological Awareness,” puts it this way: So cost-benefit analysis is nearly always sure,To justify the building of a solid concrete fact, While the Ecologic Truth is left behind in the Abstract.

Howard Odum

Chaos theory. The laws of thermodynamics. Few economists understand how these principles could possibly impact their work, even though they trumpet their profession’s supposed scientific rigor. For Howard Odum, however, these principles were central to economics and life in general: “The classical struggle between order and disorder, between angels and devils is still with us.”

Odum was in the vanguard of the ecological economics revolution. From the 1950s until his death in 2002, he wrote about the biological limits to economic activity, the role fossil fuels play in international relations and net energy analysis. He applied the laws of thermodynamics to demonstrate that energy use has to be measured not only in terms of usage, but also waste. For example, a lot of energy is needed to generate nuclear power. And by Odum’s measures, more energy is consumed in the creation of nuclear power than is produced. So why do it? He framed energy as “currency” to demonstrate the differences between the ecological impact of natural versus manufactured processes. Additionally, Odum is credited with developing the field of “ecological engineering,” the management and restoration of ecosystems that accounts for both the demands of human activity and the natural environment.

Late in life, Odum and his wife Elizabeth spent much of their time warning that an economic collapse is imminent if we don’t change tack. Their 2001 book, A Prosperous Way Down, argued that humans need to wean themselves from fossil fuels in light of rapidly shrinking reserves. Among other things, they suggested redistributing the world’s wealth more equitably, curbing population growth, streamlining energy use, promoting lower intensity agriculture, and modifying capitalism to make it less focused on growth. Doing so gradually would allow a “soft path down” that would make the world more prosperous after a global economic descent. As usual, Odum was ahead of his time.

Herman Daly

Herman Daly has been ostracized from the fraternity of economists because he doesn’t worship at the altar of unlimited growth. He believes that one of the main problems with his estranged colleagues is that “they think that the only way to solve environmental problems is to get richer and don’t consider for a minute that growth may cost more than it’s worth.” Daly began questioning neoclassical orthodoxy while studying under Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, famous for asserting that growth is limited by the economy’s biological foundations. Daly’s conversion was completed after he read the works of environmentalist Rachel Carson and spent time teaching economics in northeastern Brazil. There, he observed the extent to which runaway population growth swallows up natural resources and realized that economic growth, like human growth, comes at the expense of the environment.

Daly returned to the US and borrowed from the ideas of John Stuart Mill to develop the concept of a steady-state economy – where human population and consumption are tied directly to the ecosystem’s capacity to support inhabitants without detrimental effects.

Steady-State Economics is one of the most influential environmental books of the twentieth century, but Daly’s arguments were too revolutionary for mainstream economists. So, in 1988, he co-founded the International Society for Ecological Economics to provide a forum for other radicals blending economics and ecology. That same year, the World Bank hired Daly as part of an effort to green its image. While working on schemes to eliminate poverty in the South, Daly wondered why the Bank professed to favor sustainable development models for Third World countries, but not for the First World. After six years as a member of the Bank’s “loyal opposition of environmentalists,” he left his post in frustration to return to academia. In his parting address, he left his colleagues with a formula for sustainability: stop counting the consumption of natural capital as income; tax labor and income less, and resource extraction more; maximize the productivity of natural capital in the short run and invest in increasing its supply in the long run; and most contentiously, abandon the ideology of global economic integration through free trade, free capital mobility, and export-led growth. He also prescribed “new eyeglasses and a hearing aid” to make the Bank more responsive to outside input. Still, Daly is quick to qualify his critique of his former employer. He maintains that the Bank is staffed with good people who are merely abiding by the narrow economic ‘theology’ forced on them in university.

According to Daly, part of this theology includes a devotion to scientific materialism that helps explain economists’ disregard for the environment. If, after all, the Earth was formed by accident, then “the natural world is just a pile of instrumental accidental stuff to be used up in the arbitrary projects of one purposeless species.”

Robert Costanza

Robert Costanza figures that if the earth were a company, its balance sheet would look so lousy that “we would definitely fire the ceo.” And Costanza would be among the most active shareholders. He is a co-founder and past president of the International Society for Ecological Economics, which currently boasts over 3,000 members in more than 60 countries. He heads the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics and has turned heads with his provocative assessments of the value of nature. In 1997, he estimated the value of the services performed by the environment at $33 trillion. He has also argued that investments in ecosystem preservation can yield returns of 100 to 1. Currently, he’s developing an Earth Inc. Shareholders Report that uses a “triple bottom line” analysis of environmental, social, and financial costs and benefits.

Mainstream economists don’t tend to buy into his findings, but Costanza remains confident because he doesn’t expect their mindsets to shift overnight. “Scientific paradigms,” he notes, “change one funeral at a time.” His confidence stems from the fact that even though economists tend to focus primarily on outdated measurements of goods and services, most recognize that their field of study is supposed to be about overall human welfare. And on questions of the environment, Costanza contends that if economists were better versed in the natural sciences, they would appreciate the value of the biosphere. He thinks academics in general need to take a more interdisciplinary approach lest they become “idiot savants.” His own scholastic journey began with degrees in architecture and urban planning prior to his completion of a PhD in ecology with a minor in economics.

So how does Costanza feel about the prospects for a paradigm shift among economists? He uses the metaphor of a water-filled bucket to show how he sees the recalibration unfolding. “First the bucket has to be full,” he says. “Then somebody has to bump it. Then it will look like, all of the sudden over night, things changed, and observers will attribute this whole big change to the trigger, when in fact, it was the full bucket.” For his part, Costanza is ensuring that the water rises steadily.

Bill Rees

Bill Rees remembers the day he had his first ecological epiphany. He was nine or ten years old, sitting down for lunch on his grandmother’s country porch after toiling in her fields all day. Looking down on his plate of young new carrots, little potatoes and fresh lettuce, he “realized that there wasn’t a single thing on the plate that I hadn’t had a hand in growing. That thought hit me like a rush of cold water being poured down my back. I was riveted.”

From that point on, Rees made it his life’s goal to figure out how to reconnect people with the land that sustains them. In university he sought out courses in human ecology, but found none. He was astounded that academic ecologists didn’t treat people as components of ecosystems and focused almost entirely on non-humans. So he had to chart his own course and made a niche for himself at the planning school of the University of British Columbia. That’s where he began to examine carrying capacities of ecosystems, i.e. how much land is needed to sustain a defined human population. He came up with the ‘ecological footprint’ analysis, a tool that examines consumption patterns and then calculates the total area of ecosystem needed to assimilate a population’s waste and produce its goods and services. The acclaimed footprint model shows that if everyone consumed at the rate Americans do, we would need five Earths. Disconcerting stuff, considering how eager the rest of the planet is to achieve American levels of consumption.

Mainstream economists dismiss the footprint model for flying in the face of their “no limits to growth” philosophy. Rees recalls an incident when one told him, “Look, economists have long ago resolved this issue. Carrying capacity has no meaning, whatsoever, because, after all, we can trade. And, if there is anything in short supply then we just sell off what we have in surplus in exchange for what we need. And if trade doesn’t work, then there is technology.” Rees scoffs at economists who are too committed to the neoclassical paradigm to consider that falling water tables, collapsing fish stocks, depleted forests, changing climates and soil erosion are evidence that the economy will consume the planet if growth continues at its current rate. But he recognizes that economists have difficulty abandoning an ideology that’s been drilled into them for their entire academic careers. Yet just like the young boy who was inspired by looking at a plate of food, the adult Rees is confident that enlightened reason and mutual compassion will triumph over scripted determinism. And the Earth will be better off for it.

Marylin Waring

Marilyn Waring wishes her election to New Zealand’s parliament at 22 – making her the country’s youngest MP ever – wasn’t such a remarkable feat. After all, “It’s supposed to be a house of representatives, so it shouldn’t have been so quaint.” There was no questioning Waring’s competence, however, once she rose to chair the Public Expenditures Committee after a mere two years as MP. Thanks to a steady diet of public accounts ledgers, she became increasingly critical of mainstream economic analyses. Specifically, she wanted to know why national accounting ignored the value of the environment, subsistence production, and unpaid women’s work. In her mind, the rules for national accounts were co-opted “by a pathological value system, a system that said that making and storing nuclear bombs is good for the national economy.”

So Waring left parliament after three terms and an instrumental role in making New Zealand a nuclear free zone, picked up a PhD in political economy, and wrote If Women Counted to highlight how women’s productive and reproductive work is missing from the GDP. These days she lives on a farm north of Auckland where she raises goats in between giving speaking tours and lecturing at universities. She still thinks the GDP is a ridiculous measure of the economy, but is also leery of “environmental accounting” that commodifies nature by assigning it monetary value. She says, “I don’t want to see the things I love appearing in national income accounts, called valuable, along with nuclear bombs, nuclear power stations, toxic waste, female sexual slavery, trade in drugs and everything else.”

Paul Hawkins

A spider can spin silk as strong as kevlar, without using high temperatures or sulphuric acid. Trees use sunlight and water to make cellulose, a sugar with greater bending strength than steel. In his acclaimed book Natural Capitalism, Paul Hawken (with co-authors Amory and Hunter Lovins) proposes an industrial system where natural resources are treated as capital, and “smart designers apprentice themselves to nature” to learn the secrets of efficient production. Manufacturers are sellers, not of goods, but of services supported by long lasting, leased equipment which the manufacturer is ultimately responsible for disposing of. Hawken, an entrepreneur who writes about the interconnectedness of business and nature, sees German chemistMichael Braungart‘s Intelligent Product System as the embodiment of his theory. In Braungart’s system, all products must be easily converted back to nature. And, whether toxic or recyclable, they are the responsibility of the manufacturer for life.

Amory Lovins

To Amory Lovins, an energy efficient vehicle isn’t just one that uses cleaner fuel in a traditional combustion engine. It’s a machine in which every part is efficient, from lightweight carbon fiber materials shaped to reduce drag, to a clean burning hydrogen fuel cell engine. Lovins, the physicist who inspired the alternative energy movement with his 1977 book, Soft Energy Paths, came up with the blueprints for such a vehicle in 1994. Instead of patenting them, he put his designs in the public domain, triggering a race among car manufacturers to be the first to adopt the new technology. By 2000, the industry had committed more than $10 billion to developing it, and today parts of his designs are in hybrid cars from GM, Honda and Toyota. Meanwhile, Lovins and hisRocky Mountain Institute have joined the race, and hope to finish the first drivable prototype by the end of this year.

Lester Brown

When Lester Brown challenged china’s right to advance its economy by emulating Western patterns of consumption, his critics jumped. His 1994 book, Who Will Feed China?predicted that if Chinese rates of consumption increase to US levels, neither China nor the rest of the world will be able to support its food needs. At the time, critics called his views hypocritical. Today, China is on the verge of upending the global market by becoming the world’s largest grain importer. But Brown is used to ruffling feathers. Since 1974, the Worldwatch Institute he founded has taken on the worst offenders of the planet: non-renewable energy, pollution, overpopulation and mainstream economics. In 2001 he founded the Earth Policy Institute to provide a vision of an ecologically sustainable economy and a “roadmap” of how to get there. In the institute’s first publication, Eco-Economy, Brown describes an economy that’s compatible with the Earth’s ecosystem, where population is stabilized and renewable energy sources like wind replace fossil fuels.

Clifford Cobb

In 1995, Clifford Cobb and two colleagues from the California think tank Redefining Progress wrote an eloquent critique of the Gross Domestic Product. The article, which appeared as a cover story for theAtlantic Monthly, explained how this outmoded measure of economic growth is itself crippling progress. It went on to introduce Cobb’s Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), a new way of measuring the health of the economy that includes previously ignored costs like pollution and benefits like volunteer work. Since the GPI was first introduced, Redefining Progress has published regular audits of the US economy, and similar audits have been adopted in other countries. The GPI evolved out of Cobb’s work on an earlier indicator, the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare, which first appeared in For the Common Good (1989) by Herman Daly and Clifford’s father John Cobb, and was later revised in the Cobbs’ 1994 book,Green National Product.

James Galbraith, Joseph Stiglitz, Jaffrey Sachs and Paul Krugman

Market Misadventures like the dotcom crash of 2000 have given contrarian economic theorists a real boost in recent years. And every time the Dow Jones index bounces around erratically, the flaws of current economic orthodoxy are further exposed. University of Texas economist James Galbraith jokes that asking him for a critique of neoclassical economics is “like asking a mosquito in a nudist colony where to begin.” He feels his discipline is in a “state of disarray” and welcomes the shift away from devotion to a narrow theoretical framework. And while it still isn’t easy to advance your career or be published in mainstream journals if you reject economic orthodoxy, the mavericks are on the rise.

In 2001, for example, George Akerlof,Michael Spence and Joseph Stiglitz shared the Nobel prize for work that disputed the “perfect information” assumption of standard economic thinking. Akerlof’s observation that economic agents are just average people with emotions and limited foresight may seem painfully obvious to the layperson, but its acceptance by his colleagues was a sea change in economics doctrine.

For his part, Stiglitz’s unorthodox ideas extend far beyond the “asymmetric information” theories that won him the Nobel. He has been considered a nonconformist since his days as a 26-year-old full professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he was granted the job only after promising to sleep in an apartment instead of his office, and wear shoes at work. In 1993, he began serving on Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, but had a falling out because he refused to accept the White House culture of valuing political expediency over evidence and reason. He left after four years and moved on to the World Bank, where his tenure was no less contentious. He resigned after only two years, citing misguided policies and the refusal of his colleagues to value his ideas. He was particularly upset with the Washington Consensus, the extreme austerity measures imposed on the developing world from the early 1980s onward by the Bank and the US Treasury Department.

For all his virtues, however, it is important to note that Stiglitz still believes in the basics of the neoclassical economic philosophy. He and other high profile economic dissenters like mit’s Paul Krugman and Columbia’s Jeffrey Sachs are lauded for their critiques of right wing economic objectives, but they all operate under the same basic assumptions that encumber mainstream economic thinking. And they may in fact be more dangerous than orthodox thinkers because of the potential for their criticisms to give the false sense that economics is a vibrant discipline with multiple dissenting voices. The reality, however, is that these mainstream mavericks aren’t interested in fundamentally rejigging the economy. And so the doomsday machine marches on undisturbed.

Rising Stars

David Batker

Six years ago, David Batker was arrested for talking to reporters on behalf of Greenpeace in a protest against factory trawlers in Seattle. Since then, the former World Bank economist has rarely strayed from public view as a vocal critic of the WTO and IMF, a community educator on pollution, deforestation and fisheries and as co-author of an influential study on the perils of shrimp aquaculture. In 2003, Batker’s peers awarded him the first ever Herman Daly Award for his work in ecological economics.

Josh Farley

Josh Farley is a renaissance economist. With degrees in economics, international affairs and biology, the University of Vermont professor embodies the transdisciplinary nature of the new economics paradigm. Recently he co-authored the first comprehensive textbook on ecological economics with Herman Daly. Not content to just teach in the classroom, Farley has travelled to Australia, Brazil and the Philippines to work hands-on with community groups and governments in community-driven projects. In his opinion, “ecological economics is too important to focus primarily on academic studies that circulate among a group of . . . peers before slowly diffusing out to the broader public.”

Mark Anielski

Mark Anielski started out as a forest economist and has become a leading light in the field of natural capital accounting. His work with the Pembina Institute and Redefining Progress has been essential to the development of the Genuine Progress Indicator. In 2001 he released a GPI scorecard for Alberta, Canada, making that province one of the few jurisdictions with an accurate measure of progress. He has used the GPI to help governments and businesses develop sustainability programs that account for all forms of capital. As far as he’s concerned, “If Coca-Cola operated its accounts the way we operate our System of National Accounts, they’d be bankrupt.”

Peter May

Peter May’s work bringing agroforestry to brazil has taken on a new dimension as the consequences of global warming become more urgent. Besides combating rainforest degradation, his work combining native plant reforestation with small-scale agriculture has created newly competitive real estate markets and local industries around seed trade and forest management. But lately it’s the role these born again forests play in reducing carbon emissions that has the attention of policymakers looking for ways to implement Kyoto. As carbon credits gain credibility, look for May’s agroforests to be cropping up everywhere.

Tom Green

The Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, Canada, accounts for a quarter of the world’s remaining unprotected coastal temperate rainforest. Three years ago, conservation groups, logging companies and aboriginal groups reached a landmark agreement to develop an ecosystem-based approach to using the land. At the time, local ecological economist Tom Green co-authored an influential report on the ecological impact of economic subsidies for the logging industry. Three years later, with promises of protection slipping under political pressure, Green’s economic analyses are at the forefront of the struggle to protect what’s left of our natural resources.

Peter Tyedmers

Peter Tyedmers uses the accounting tools of ecological economics to measure the amount of energy commercial fisheries consume against the nutritional energy we’re getting in return. Large scale, industrial fisheries now account for the majority of fish caught globally. According to Tyedmers, the fossil fuel energy used in most of these fisheries exceeds the nutritional energy reaped by the catch by at least ten times. In related work, Tyedmers is using natural accounting methods to measure the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by commercial fisheries.

Mathis Wackernagel

As a doctoral student under Bill Rees, Mathis Wackernagel helped develop Rees’s idea of the ecological footprint into a tool that measures the natural resources we use compared to what nature can provide. The resulting book, Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on Earth introduced the concept to the world. Now, with his Global Footprint Network (, Wackernagel is taking his tools for sustainability to governments and urban planners, recently working with the city of London’s business council to find ways to reduce that city’s footprint.

Richard Howarth

Are people concerned enough about the environment to change the way they consume? Who really cares about future generations? Richard Howarth is a scientist who compares our habits of consumption with our perceptions of well-being to see how willing we are to sacrifice our lifestyles for future generations. In one study, he models various carbon tax levels and the reduction in global warming each would result in. Combining economics, human psychology and ethics, his work is shaping the way policies like Kyoto will be implemented.