Ecological Economic Development Goals: Reincorporating the social sphere in ecological economic theory and practice
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The various approaches and methods within ecological economics all have their benefits, limitations, and internal debates. In this dissertation, I focus on macro-social theoretical ecological economics which seeks to find large patterns of opportunity for dealing with the cycles of socio-ecological and socio-economic life over time. In doing so, I broadly critique other areas of ecological economics, mainly in their lackluster attempts at including the social sphere in their analysis. While many are interested in ensuring that we have an economy that fits within the biosphere, they ignore the question of whether it will also fit within the social sphere. There tends to be very little focus on what a sustainable society might look like and how the economy might fit into that. It is much more common for a scholar to look at how society views nature, and to have the economy reflect that. It is a subtle but important difference. One puts society as a central tenet for shaping the economy and the other uses existing economic systems to measure how society values their environment. In my research, I argue that the economy needs to be seen as a subsystem of an eco-social system, and thus we need to determine what a ‘healthy’ social system is, and how the economy could service that. I present a reconfigured framework for ecological economics which explicates social and cultural dimensions for local economic change drawing on Polanyian economics – economics submerged in social relations – and early ecological economic work by Herman Daly. I provide a framework for ensuring future inclusion of the ecological economic social sphere in the development of a realistic green economic vision. I use lessons learned from a case-study of Maker Culture in Prince Edward Island and Southern Ontario, alongside historical sociology to suggest what a healthy ecological economic social sphere might look like. The work on historical sociology draws on work from Weber, Marx, and Durkheim and modern sociologists Rifkin, Pinker, and Bauman. Throughout my dissertation I question if we can continue to have a progressive, high-tech, and multicultural lifestyle while being environmentally and socially responsible. The results from the case study indicate early signs of strong out group antagonism and reduced value on science within degrowth communities. This suggests that within the social sphere there may be cherished liberal processes undermined by the process of degrowth.
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Kaitlin Weedmark-Kish (2018). Ecological Economic Development Goals: Reincorporating the social sphere in ecological economic theory and practice. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/13199