It is essential to address the ecological crisis generated by the old-paradigm economy - our winners have highlighted the relationship between economic systems, resources (materials and energy) and social issues
Winning a Nobel Prize is like having your star added to the walk of fame. Nothing beats a Nobel for name recognition. But the Nobel prize for economics should be different. It was added to the list of awards long after the death of Alfred Nobel. "Against his death wish", says the Swedish human rights lawyer and descendant Peter Nobel. He adds: "Nobel despised people who cared more about profits than society's well-being".
That's why the late Alfred Nobel might have liked the Leontief Prize for Economics more than the award given in his name. The Leontief Prize is given to the world's economists that have contributed most to support just and sustainable societies. The prestigious award was made in honour of Wassily Leontief. Ironically, he was a Nobel laureate himself, as well as a former member of the Global Development And Environment Institute (GDAE) at Tufts University. This team still looks at how societies can pursue their economic and community goals in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner. Which is why the winners deserve more credit and attention than those that win a Nobel Prize for economics.
James Boyce and Joan Martinez-Alier
This year's award, entitled Economics, Equity, and the Environment, recognises professors James Boyce and Joan Martinez-Alier for their ground-breaking theoretical and applied work that has effectively integrated ecological, developmental, and justice-oriented approaches into the field of economics.
"It is essential to address the ecological crisis generated by the old-paradigm economy," said GDAE Co-Director Neva Goodwin. "James Boyce and Joan Martinez-Alier have highlighted the relationship between economic systems, resources (materials and energy) and social issues. Their particular focus on the intersections among economics, poverty, and inequality has strongly informed GDAE's thinking on these issues."
Dr James K. Boyce is a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and director of the program on Development, Peacebuilding and the Environment at the Political Economy Research Institute. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Oxford University. Dr Boyce's current work focuses on strategies for combining poverty reduction with environmental protection, and on the relationships between inequality and environmental degradation. Since 2011 he has served as the president of Econ4: Economics for People, the Planet and the Future.
DrJoan Martinez-Alier is emeritus professor at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), where he received his Ph.D. in 1976. During his long career, he has held positions at Oxford University, Stanford University, University of California-Davis, FLACSO, and Yale University. Most recently he has served as co-director of the EJAtlas and currently directs the EnvJustice Project at ICTA-UAB (2016-2021) on ecological distribution conflicts and the global movement for environmental justice. He has played a crucial role in the development of ecological economics, and served as a founding member and past president of the International Society for Ecological Economics.
During yesterday's award-ceremony (28th March, 2017) at Tufts University in Medford, Joan Martinez-Alier stressed that even a non-growing industrial economy would require new supplies of fossil fuels and other materials from the commodity extraction frontiers because energy is not recycled and materials are recycled only in part. "The economy is not circular, but entropic: there are therefore many resource extraction and waste disposal conflicts, at different scales, such as those on responsibility for the excessive amount of greenhouse gases."
Martinez-Alier spoke a lot about the EnvJustice project and the EJAtlas. And whilst he is now beyond the usual age for retirement, he still plans to expand this atlas, the global Vocabulary of Environmental Justice and the understanding of the alliance between the Global Environmental Justice Movement and the Degrowth (Décroissance, Post-Wachstum, Prosperity without Growth) movement in Europe. The main reason his contributions to the growing debate on the macro-economic sustainable degrowth alternative are so important? The currently dominant macro-economic model (based on the neoliberal ideology) offers no answer to the human induced sixth mass extinction of life on earth.
Nick Meynen is one of the Ecologist's New Voices contributors. He writes articles and books on topics like environmental justice, globalization and human-nature relationships. When not wandering in the activist universe or when his Facebook page is dead, he's probably walking in nature.
Announcement of the 2017 Leontief Prize Winners:
Dr Boyce's latest book is Economics, the Environment, and Our Common Wealth (2013). His previous books include Reclaiming Nature: Environmental Justice and Ecological Restoration (2007); Natural Assets: Democratizing Environmental Ownership (2003); and The Political Economy of the Environment (2002).
Dr Martinez-Alier is the author of numerous renowned books and articles, including Ecological Economics: Energy, Environment and Society (1987) and The Environmentalism of the Poor: A Study of Ecological Conflicts and Valuation (2002). He also co-edited the textbook Ecological Economics from the Ground Up (2012) and the Handbook of Ecological Economics (2015).
In addition to Amartya Sen and John Kenneth Galbraith, GDAE has awarded the Leontief Prize to Paul Streeten, Herman Daly, Alice Amsden, Dani Rodrik, Nancy Folbre, Robert Frank, Richard Nelson, Ha-Joon Chang, Samuel Bowles, Juliet Schor, Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Stephen DeCanio, José Antonio Ocampo, Robert Wade, Bina Agarwal, Daniel Kahneman, Martin Weitzman, Nicholas Stern, Michael Lipton, C. Peter Timmer, Albert O. Hirschman (posthumous), Frances Stewart, Angus Deaton, James K. Galbraith, Duncan Foley, Lance Taylor, Amit Bhaduri, and Diane Elson.