Ecological Economics and Socio-ecological Movements: Science, policy and challenges to global processes in a troubled world

Sept 10-12, Puebla, Mexico – Ecological Economics and Socio-ecological Movements: Science, policy and challenges to global processes in a troubled world –

For more than a quarter century since the ISEE was founded the international community has developed a substantial corpus of law and agreements that recognize our collective responsibility to attend to our serious global environmental problems while recognizing the extraordinary diversity of societies in our midst. Our colleagues are engaged in significant efforts to identify and understand the underlying obstacles to implementing effective policies that address the limitations of existing institutions while also searching for new approaches to overcome these problems.

In this vein, we have identified a number of important international issues that Ecological Economists are examining as part of our collective effort. Five problems of particular importance identified by our colleagues are:

  1. International capital movements to control natural endowments and social groups (land, water, and energy grabbing; biopiracy; ecologically unequal trade).
  2. International migration in response to extreme differences among regions and peoples.
  3. Continuing excessive emissions of greenhouse gases at world level in spite of international efforts to reverse the historical trend, combined with remarkable changes in the energy matrix of some countries.
  4. Concentration of wealth, income and appropriation of environmental endowments that give rise to conflicts over distribution and provoke “resistance” movements.
  5. Threats to biodiversity and the ability of the planet to sustain its natural processes.

While this list is not exhaustive, a considerable number of members of the ISEE are engaged in research on these matters. The lack of flexibility of existing institutions in most countries and the capture of many international organizations by entrenched interests (selling uncritical notions of ecological modernization, “sustainable development”, the “circular economy”) are generating complex obstacles for people searching for solutions to clearly identified problems; social and political conflict is intensifying around the world. At the same time, we are discovering that peoples around the world are adopting alternative ways to organize themselves, forging new models of “good living”, oftentimes choosing to live at the margins of their societies rather than open themselves to outside environmental and economic exploitation, and to internal and external colonialism.

Ecological economists are discovering that these peoples have much to teach us about possible alternative paths to addressing the challenges. In the terminology of Karl Polanyi, they refuse to be incorporated into the “generalized market system”. Mexico is one of the countries of the world where such social experiments are influential and widespread.

The 2018 ISEE conference especially encourages colleagues examining the problems facing the international community to explore solutions with others engaged in strengthening socio-ecological grassroots organizations. By focusing on interactions among these different communities, we hope to contribute to advancing our understanding of today’s pressing problems, while exploring solutions offered by people outside the traditional circles of influence. In academic terms, we search at the same time for a cross fertilization between ecological economics and political ecology, political economy, ethnoecology, agroecology, climate sciences as well as material and energy systems.

Within this frame of reference, we invite participants to consider organizing their contributions to the discussion within the following general themes:

  1. How does transdisciplinarity respond to different socio-ecological contexts?: Integrating diverse fields of enquiry.
  2. Ecological Economics as a paradigm to support grassroots alternatives: agroecology, solidarity economies and markets, alternative currencies, workers’ control, among others.
  3. Imagining future societies: What do alternative models of “good living” mean?
  4. Feeding 9 billion humans: Food security or food sovereignty?; rural-urban transitions.
  5. Social metabolism: evolving relations between society and the planet.
  6. Globally diverse inequities: social and environmental conflicts; environmental and climate justice; ecological debt; gender; indigenous rights; appropriation of means of livelihood.
  7. Ecological macro-economics: prosperity without growth; degrowth.
  8. The economy of care and eco-feminist economics.
  9. Ecosystem services, valuation languages, tools of measurement and policy instruments; legal and social processes; multi-criteria analysis.
  10. Energy transitions, climate analysis and policies.
  11. Global and regional sustainability and commerce: finance, trade policy.
  12. Education for sustainability: curricula, methods and popular education.
  13. Participations in Spanish in any of the themes mentioned above.

Activities in advance:  A visit to Ecological Economics reality: Integrating theory and practice

Integrating theory with real-life experience is a permanent challenge in science, and Ecological Economics is not an exception. Becoming acquainted with the community experiences in fields such as landscape restoration, ecological services, and healthy (environmental and consumer) agro-food production, will be of special interest. This interaction among those who carry out actions that have an impact on nature every day in order to meet their needs, with those who study the impacts that the management of natural resources has on the environment, the economy and social relations, of the current and future generations, will provide the participants with new visions, questions and alternative approaches to their doings.

As an activity prior to the International Congress of Ecological Economics, a space will be opened for the exchange of experiences and knowledge between attendees of the event and the rural and indigenous population who, in recent years, have taken actions to restore the landscape in its territory and undertaken struggles to mitigate climate change, overcome poverty and improve their living conditions for a better future.

With activities such as conferences with some outstanding members of the ISEE, talks, workshops, field trips, gastronomic tastings and cultural activities, an environment conducive to the coexistence and the exchange of points of view will be created to enrich the participants.

The space for this activity is in Vicente Guerrero, Municipality of Españita, Tlaxcala, headquarters of the Comprehensive Rural Development Project Vicente Guerrero A.C. ( ; It is located in the foothills, southeast of the Sierra Nevada, and has in its vicinity many ecotourism projects, environmental services and agro-ecological practices, in addition to those hosted by the Vicente Guerrero Project site.

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