The natural world has consistently served as an inspiration for writers, artists and liberal arts scholars, while specific fields combining the environment and humanities – such as environmental history – provide important lessons from the past and insights for the future. By including Environmental Humanities as a topic area in the Encyclopedia of Earth, we provide content that provokes both a larger perspective and introspection about the relationship between humans and the natural systems we depend upon and interact with on a daily basis.
Limitations of marketsLast Updated on 2013-11-18 08:49:39
There are a number of ways in which economic theory affects both the study and the practice of business. Economic theories may be offered to explain how businesses operate; students and teachers of business generally ignore some of the less realistic portions of these explanations, while making use of the more practical aspects. Economic theories are also used as justification for government policies that regulate or otherwise affect business.
There is an especially relevant part of economic theory that describes how socially optimal results can come about through perfect markets that allocate resources according to society’s most preferred uses. This theory is important because it is the theoretic underpinning for policies and prescriptions that have significantly shaped the modern world. Recommendations to reduce trade restrictions; to privatize utilities, prisons, or water... More »
Ecological footprintLast Updated on 2013-10-22 19:06:50
Ecological Footprint is defined as a resource accounting framework for measuring human demand on the biosphere.
The human economy is embedded in the biosphere and is entirely dependent on its ecological services. In consuming nature’s products and services, people have an impact on the Earth. But since nature has the ability to renew, it can cope with human demand as long as this demand stays within the regenerative capacity of the biosphere.
Ecological Footprint accounting documents the extent to which human economies stay within the regenerative capacity of the planet, and who uses which portion of this capacity. They answer the research question of how much of the regenerative capacity of the biosphere is occupied by a given human activity.
Such biophysical resource accounting is possible because resources and waste flows can be tracked, and most of these flows can be... More »
Post-Normal ScienceLast Updated on 2013-10-22 18:41:04
Post-Normal Science (PNS) is a new conception of the management of complex science-related issues. It focuses on aspects of problem-solving that tend to be neglected in traditional accounts of scientific practice: uncertainty, value loading, and a plurality of legitimate perspectives. PNS considers these elements as integral to science. By their inclusion in the framing of complex issues, PNS is able to provide a coherent framework for an extended participation in decision-making, based on the new tasks of quality assurance.
The shift to a post-normal mode is a critical change. The approach used by normal science to manage complex social and biophysical systems as if they were simple scientific exercises has brought us to our present mixture of intellectual triumph and socio-ecological peril. The ideas and concepts belonging to the umbrella of PNS witness the emergence of new... More »
Carbon Offsets: Growing Pains in a Growing MarketLast Updated on 2013-10-05 01:28:40
This article, written by Charles W. Schmidt appeared first in Environmental Health Perspectives—the peer-reviewed, open access journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
The article is a verbatim version of the original and is not available for edits or additions by Encyclopedia of Earth editors or authors. Companion articles on the same topic that are editable may exist within the Encyclopedia of Earth.
Carbon Offsets: Growing Pains
in a Growing Market
There’s a market growing in the United States, but unlike markets that trade in tangible commodities, this one trades in the absence of something no one wants: greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Hundreds of companies make it possible for individuals, organizations, businesses, and even events such as rock music festivals to proclaim themselves carbon-neutral by paying someone else to reduce... More »
Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) for Chittenden County and Burlington, Vermont, United StatesLast Updated on 2013-10-03 00:34:24
Cities, counties and states need indicators of their performance that can tell them something about the larger ecological and social dimensions of human communities, and the sustainability of their activities. They need metrics that go beyond the standard economic indicators like gross national product (GNP) or gross domestic product (GDP), but they also need indicators that can bring all of the disparate economic, environmental and social elements into a common framework and tell them whether they are making real, net progress.
While measures of marketed economic activity like GDP are the most commonly used measures of performance at the national and state levels, they do not serve this purpose well. GDP measures marketed economic activity or gross income. It was never intended as a measure of economic or social welfare, and thus functions very poorly as such.... More »
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