Importance Of Ecological Economics To Wildlife Conservation
Based on the 1998 TWS symposium in Buffalo, New York, this article defines “ecological economics” and develops the logic for identifying economic growth as the limiting factor for wildlife in the aggregate.
Ecological economics differs from environmental economics. Ecological economics is an alternative approach to mainstream economics, whereas environmental economics represents the application of neoclassical theory to environmental issues. Historically, neoclassical theory has produced the policies most problematic to wildlife conservation, for example the theory of economic growth asserts that due to the substitutability of resources there is no practical limit to economic growth, which is at odds with the concept of carrying capacity.
The paper by John Gowdy introduces the terms and concepts of ecological economics, comparing weak sustainability with strong sustainability, illustrating key distinctions between ecological and neoclassical economics. Ecological economics provides a vision that is more consistent with the principles of wildlife ecology than the neoclassical vision of sustainability.
The paper by Jon Erickson shows how policies derived from neoclassical economics tends to show overconfidence in the ability of markets to protect wildlife species, arguing that “well-defined limits to substitution, minimum stocks of natural capital, and preservation of ecosystem function” is a challenge to define these limits and function.
There are many ways to address the market failure with respect to wildlife conservation. For example, by managing wildlife and regulating wildlife consumption and habitat destruction independently of the market, or by fixing the market mechanism to the extent possible. Likewise, another method is to devise proxy markets for decision-making purposes.
Finally, this article examines the concept of ecotourism by Jack Isaacs. Ecotourism has the potential for reconciling the goals of economics growth and wildlife conservation, but the net effect of ecotourism on wildlife conservation is unlikely to be positive unless the scale of ecotourism is constrained by non-market forces.