Ecological Economists Support Message of Religious Leaders to Cop 26

His Holiness Pope Francis, His Grace Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew issued an urgent joint message in advance of COP 26. They have been joined by many leaders of other religions in their call for creation care with justice.

They remind everyone of our individual and collective responsibility to take action to avert global environmental catastrophe, resulting from our having “greedily consumed more of the earth’s resources than the planet can endure.” They warn that the future will be worse for our children unless we act collaboratively and urgently as the situation clearly requires. They state that “we must decide what kind of world we want to leave to future generations”.

The profound exhortations of the religious leaders resonate deeply with us, the undersigned Circle of Ecological Economics Elders. Working across the natural and social sciences we have come to the same conclusion. Since the early 1970s, humanity has overshot the resource regenerative and waste absorptive capacities of the earth and has been moving in an unsustainable direction ever since – to the benefit of very few at the expense of very many.  The problems we face can usually be traced to the excessive scale of our economies which require increasing quantities of materials and energy, produce ever greater quantities of wastes, and degrade the earth’s land, air, and waters. To respond to the call of our religious leaders, to respond to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor, now requires a significant reduction in the physical size of our human niche rather than a continuing expansion and faster degradation of the biosphere in the name of growth.

Mainstream economics, about which members of our Circle are both very well-informed and notably dissatisfied, continues to be excessively fixated on growth in GDP. The momentum of growth and overshoot cannot be immediately reversed without itself causing great harm. We face more catastrophes as we belatedly reduce both the social inequalities and the physical stocks and flows of our economy to fit our finite biosphere. Our late start reinforces the urgency of policies that constrain the throughput of resources; incentivize resource-saving technologies and lifestyles; and fairly distribute income and wealth.

Ecological economics starts from the recognition that the economy is a subsystem of the finite biosphere and lives from it by a metabolic flow of useful inputs exchanged for waste outputs. Our population times our per capita consumption must fit within the earth to care for creation in the ways that the religious leaders call for. In choosing life: “We must choose to live differently.”  We are eager to add our voices to their call for the care of creation with justice. COP 26 must be far bolder in its actions than were COP numbers 1 through 25.

The Circle of Ecological Economics Elders

Professor Emeritus Clovis Cavalcanti, MA.
Professor Robert Costanza, MA, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus Herman Daly, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus Malte Faber, MA, Ph.D.
Professor Joshua Farley, MA, Ph.D.
Nicholas Fitzpatrick, PhD candidate.
Professor Peter H. May, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus Richard B. Norgaard, MS, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus William Rees, BSC, Ph.D., FRSC
Cynthia Riddle, MA.
Professor Emeritus Peter A. Victor, Ph.D., FRSC
María Páez Victor, Lic., MA, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus Richard Wilkinson, MA, M.Med.Sci.