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World revolutionary

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Robert Costanza, ecological economist, argues that the measure of economic success should  include more than simply the sum of all goods and services

Robert Costanza, ecological economist, argues that the measure of economic success should include more than simply the sum of all goods and services.

Robert Costanza is part of a band of revolutionaries who want to remake Planet Earth.

The University of Vermont scholar shared a set of ideas that would shift focus from expanding material consumption toward an economic model that promotes the well-being of humans and protects ecosystems.

His keynote address Wednesday in Ritsche Auditorium was part of Convocation Week, St. Cloud State's annual assembly of employees, ideas and information.

View video clips from Robert Costanza's Aug. 19 Convocation keynote address

View Costanza's slide presentation (.ppt)

Costanza is among an international group of ecological economists whose views are coming into the mainstream. Driving acceptance of their ideas: Diminishing fossil fuel stocks, the 2008 global financial meltdown, climate change and overpopulation.

The time is ripe, Costanza said, for leaders to pursue these and other strategies . . .

  • Invest 45 billion a year in protecting ecosystems.
  • Switch to sustainable, renewable energy sources.
  • Factor natural and social capital -- not just land, labor and manufactured capital -- into economic decision-making.
  • Create an Earth Atmospheric Trust (PDF) whose goal would be to reduce greenhouse gas levels to 450 parts per million.
  • Add income distribution, pollution costs and other neglected measures to calculations of economic success.
  • Tax activities that do damage to ecosystems.
  • Eliminate government subsidies that are ecologically harmful.

Costanza is one of the pioneers of ecological economics, a co-founder of the International Society for Ecological Economics, the author of more than 300 scientific articles and the founder of a new journal called Solutions (PDF), which is expected to debut in September.

He serves on the board of directors of Earth Inc., a non-governmental organization that views Earth as an enterprise and her citizens as shareholders.

Among his most startling statements is the assertion that the global recession began decades earlier than 2008. While gross domestic product has been increasing since 1950, Costanza said, human well-being began declining worldwide in 1975. 

Convocation 2009 is managed by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, St. Cloud State's engine for inquiry and critical engagement.


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