Relative and Absolute Scarcity of Nature: Assessing the Roles of Economics and Ecology for Biodiversity Conservation

27 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2006 Last revised: 26 Feb 2014

See all articles by Stefan Baumgärtner

Stefan Baumgärtner

University of Freiburg - Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Christian U Becker

Colorado State University

Malte Faber

Heidelberg University - Faculty of Economics and Social Studies

Reiner Manstetten

Heidelberg University - Faculty of Economics and Social Studies

Abstract

Our aim in this essay is to identify and analyze some of the difficulties with interdisciplinary integration of economic and ecological contributions to the study of biodiversity loss. We develop our analysis from a widely accepted definition of economics which is based on the concept of scarcity. Taking a closer look at this notion, we find that economics actually limits itself to a very particular aspect of scarcity, which we denote as relative scarcity. We describe in what respect the economic approach towards biodiversity is based on this notion, and also reflect on the specific understanding of the relation of humans and nature behind the economic approach. We then turn to absolute scarcity as another notion of scarcity, and show that this is not within the scope of economics, but has been a theme of ecology and ecological economics. We describe in which way ecological and ecological-economic approaches towards biodiversity are based on the idea of absolute scarcity, and also reflect on the specific understanding of the human-nature relationship behind this notion of scarcity. Against this background, we discuss the roles of economics and ecology for nature conservation. We conclude that the interdisciplinary integration of ecology and economics requires a philosophical underpinning, and suggest a framework for further research.

Keywords: absolute and relative scarcity, biodiversity, economics, ecology, interdisciplinary integration, philosophy

JEL Classification: Q57, Q20, Q30

Suggested Citation

Baumgärtner, Stefan and Becker, Christian U. and Faber, Malte and Manstetten, Reiner, Relative and Absolute Scarcity of Nature: Assessing the Roles of Economics and Ecology for Biodiversity Conservation. Ecological Economics, 59(4), 487-498 (2006), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=892106

Stefan Baumgärtner (Contact Author)

University of Freiburg - Department of Environment and Natural Resources ( email )

Tennebacher Str. 4
Freiburg, 79106
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.ere.uni-freiburg.de

Christian U. Becker

Colorado State University ( email )

College of Business
Fort Collins, CO 80526
United States

Malte Faber

Heidelberg University - Faculty of Economics and Social Studies ( email )

Grabengasse 14
Heidelberg, D-69117
Germany
06221 542948 (Phone)

Reiner Manstetten

Heidelberg University - Faculty of Economics and Social Studies ( email )

Grabengasse 14
Heidelberg, D-69117
Germany

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