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The Size Thing Revisited: The Optimal Scale of the Transdiscipline of Ecological Economics

Barry D. Solomon


While ecological economics addresses the optimal scale of the human economy as a foundational issue, the optimal size of this field of study
has not been addressed. As a transdiscipline, ecological economics must eclectically borrow and synthesize the best theories, models and methods from economics, systems ecology, conservation biology, and other traditional disciplines. This broad field of vision naturally expands the potential contributions and number of contributors. The size of the main professional society, The International Society for Ecological Economics, however is modest at 1,710 members, although formal affiliation with the Chinese Society for Ecological Economics could almost triple the size. Moreover, there are only about two dozen
universities worldwide that provide training in ecological economics, and only five formal graduate degree programs plus two additional certificate programs. Despite its small size, ecological economics has had disproportionate influence on environmental science and public policy through a few highly cited works and very active individuals. In this paper, I consider the factors that will influence the further evolution of ecological economics in the U.S. and worldwide, and how large it might become. It will be shown that the field could grow to a minimum of 6,500 and perhaps as many as 10,000 members in ten years, if a vigorous recruitment and outreach campaign is undertaken.

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