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What started as a humble metaphor to help us think about our relation to nature has become integral to how we are addressing the future of humanity and the course of biological evolution. The metaphor of nature as a stock that provides a flow of services is insufficient for the difficulties we are in or the task ahead. Indeed, combined with the mistaken presumption that we can analyze a global problem within a partial equilibrium economic framework and reach a new economy project-by-project without major institutional change, the simplicity of the stock-flow framework blinds us to the complexity of the human predicament. The ecosystem services approach can be a part of a larger solution, but its dominance in our characterization of our situation and the solution is blinding us to the ecological, economic, and political complexities of the challenges we actually face.
Richard B. Norgaard is Professor of Energy and Resources. He received his B.A. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley, M.S. in agricultural economics from Oregon State University, and Ph.D. in economics from the University of Chicago in 1971. Among the founders of the field of ecological economics, his recent research addresses how environmental problems challenge scientific understanding and the policy process, how ecologists and economists understand systems differently, and how globalization affects environmental governance. He has field experience in the Alaska, Brazil, California, and Vietnam with minor forays in other parts of the globe.
Dr. Norgaard is the author of one book, co-author or editor of three additional books, and has over 100 other publications spanning the fields of environment and development, tropical forestry and agriculture, environmental epistemology, energy economics, and ecological economics. Though an eclectic scholar, he is also among the 1000 economists in the world most cited by other economists (Millennium Editions of Who's Who in Economics, 2000) and was one of ten American economists interviewed in The Changing Face of Economics: Conversations with Cutting Edge Economists(Colander, Holt, and Rosser, University of Michigan Press, 2004). He is currently writing on how the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment facilitate collective understandings of complex systems.
Dr. Norgaard currently chairs the Delta Independent Science Board of the State of California, is a lead author in the 5th assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and serves on the Board of EcoEquity. He has served on numerous committees of the National Academy of Sciences and the former office of Technology Assessment and was a member of the U.S. Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment. He served as President of the International Society for Ecological Economics (1998-2001). He has been a visiting scholar at the World Bank and served on the Science Advisory Board of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Independent Science Board of the California Bay – Delta Authority. He served on the Board of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (2000-2009).
Ecosystem services -- Environmental aspects, Ecosystem services -- Economic aspects, Environmental sustainability, Ecosystem management
Natural Resource Economics | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Sustainability
Norgaard, Richard B., "Ecosystem Services: The Making of a Metaphor We Live (?) By" (2012). Systems Science Friday Noon Seminar Series. 46.