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Odum Source: BioScience, Vol. 50, No. 4, Integrating Ecology and Economics (Apr., 2000), pp. 363-368 Published by: American Institute of Biological Sciences Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1313713 Accessed: 15/03/2010 19:01
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sustainabilitymay more effectivelybe understood and dealt with in terms of a two-dimensional carryingcapacityconcept. a goal that requires implementingplans for the futurebased on the concept of sustainable development (e. money is seldom made available for growth management or land-use planning until congestion and trafficbecome majorproblems. The overshoot patternoccurs in natureand. or technology availableto maintain a complex system are inadequate.e. GA30602-2202. Barrett (e-mail: gbarrett@sparrow. congestion. and rising costs of schools.for details.ecology. taxes. appeared attemptedto summarize many of the earlierperspectives surroundingthis topic. when rapid growth and developmentwere necessaryand desirable. in human affairs (Catton 1980). Catton 1987). "Carrying capacity" a conthat was originallydevelopedby ecologistswith refercept ence to the number of animals of a given species that can be supported without injury to the habitat (i. in which growth levels off as limits (K) are approached. which considers not only numbers but also per capita impact at the ecosystemand ecospherelevels (Ehrlichand is Holdren 1971. affluencereducesthe number of people that can be supported by a given resource base. carried over long periods of time without reducingthe capacityof the habitatto support that many animalsin the future." supor yielding.as to what is meant by sustainabledevelopment. the Instituteof Ecology.""to mainport. that "sustainable ment is development that meets the needs of the present without compromisingthe abilityof future generationsto meet their own needs"(p. Dictionaries define "to "to sustain"as "to hold.In other words. Although the self-crowdingproblemsthat large. Unfortunately. 1991.and the mystique of growth persists from the pioneer days.@2000 AmericanInstituteof BiologicalSciences.and the exponential.then the system becomes disorderly and soon defaults or dies. Lubchenco et al..rapidly growing cities are experiencing are generally blamed on poor fiscal management. From this functional or energetic viewpoint. As pointed out by Wiegert (1974). In terms of human affairsover the long term. Goodland on which 1995). increasingly... ecologists have to be concerned not only with density but also with per capita demands. Emeritus. 4 * BioScience 363 .""to keep in existence.especiallyamong the citizenry. see Pulliam and Haddad 1994). the definition in the widely cited Brundtland developreport (WCED 1987)-namely. Thus. these forms representthe slowest and fastestgrowthforms." in EcologicalApplications (November 1993). money."or "to supplywith necessitiesor nourishmentto prevent from falling below a given threshold of health or Given these definitions.may consume 100 or more times is Gary W. Barkley and Seckler(1972) listed four factorsthat force or encourage urban development to overshoot the optimum: detrimental self-crowding effects (e. A forum on "Perspectives Sustainability. carryingcapacityis reachedwhen P/R is approximately1. NCR 1991. maintenance) on the average does not exceed production (P).the businesspersonoften vitality. however.just considering numbers (density) is not enough because individuals can differ greatly in the intensity of their impact on the environment.g.""to endorse without failing tain.g." views sustainabilityas sustaining profits based on everincreasing consumption of limited natural resources or sustaining rapid economic growth forever!At the other extreme. and police protection) are not felt until sometime afterthe optimum density has been exceeded.An American citizen. For example.Roundtable The Twenty-First Century: The World at Carrying Capacity P BY GARY BARRETT W.political poweris concentratedwithin a few wealthy or "keystone"groups who benefit more from growth in size or quantitative growththan the average-incomecitizen. creatinga "boom-andbust" pattern.and Eugene P. Heinen 1994. in which the momentum resultsin overshootinglimits. pollution. in reality such cities have overshot not only their economic support base but also their regional life support base. for example. Figure 1 depicts the two contrastinggrowth forms: the sigmoid. 8)-is so vague as to be impossible to quantifyor implement. AND EUGENE ODUM yearsregarding Much need to live within a society that sustains its the resources for the future. 1991. 1995) in which respiration (R. Fromanotherviewpoint. two major concerns must be addressed:the tendency for growth to overshoot carryingcapacity and the possibility that the optimum carryingcapacityis less than the maximum. of University Georgia. Odum is Director at Athens. ecosystemdevelopmentparallels societal development in that both will inevitably end up in a non-equilibrium pulsing stable state (Odum et al.considerableconfusion remains. Huntley et al.50 No. If the energy.with many populations exhibiting intermediate patterns of growth.edu) Odum Professorof Ecology. Wackernageland Rees (1996) present several regional examples of populations that April2000 / Vol. has been writtenin recent as much energy and resourcesas a citizen of a developing country. i.e.uga.. When referringto humans. To use carryingcapacity as an index for sustainability.
The earth can probablyfeed more than 10 billion people. politicians used to talk about "the greatestgood for the greatestnumbers"as a goal for society. 364 BioScience o April2000 / Vol. With rapid urbanization occurring throughout the world.either. the maximum carryingcapacity. Smail 1999).landlessagriculture)will enable 10 billion people to coexistwith enough naturalenvironmentto provide for the necessarylife support.g. growth refersto increasein numbersof humans. . then there will have to be a period of negative growth in population and per capita consumption. comes when the numbers are not as high as they can possibly be-and when the per capita impacts are not maximized. Indeed. UN 1998)..although if such a density proves to exceed the optimum carrying capacity for a qualitylifestyle. But this slogan is rarelyheard now because society is finding out by experience that the greatestgood. and enjoymentof nature (see Ausubel 1996).a 1-yearregional crop failurewould cause widespreadstarvation. after experiencing the trauma and disorder of many booms and busts.Km).50 No. not too long ago. Maximum Carrying Capacity(Km) Optimum Carrying (Ko) Capacity - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - gSigrnoid Growth (S-Shaped) Growth Exponential (J-Shaped) Pointofnflection i 0 - I Time - I I requirean areathat is much largerthan their home territory to support their present consumer lifestyles. p.has said. For example. we show the overshoot followedby a downsizing to a lower carrying capacity level (Ko). New technologies will certainly increase the carrying capacity of the earth for humans. preservationof endangered species.as many ecologists believe will be the case (e.with a projected plateau at 9. land-use planners.observedthat muskratsthat had securedens near feeding areas were much less vulnerable to predation by mink than muskratsthat did not have such high-quality housing (Errington 1963). In Figure1. unwanted babies.be just beyond the point of inflection in the sigmoid growth model (see Figure 1)."safecarryingcapacity. as Paul Gray. for example. some "cornucopianoptimists"believe that developing technologies (hydrogen economy. Of course.as is now occurringin North Africa. Thus.waste.in fact. Fortunately. the momentum of rapid population growth is such that downsizing is not likely to occur until after the overshoot.4 billion by the year 2100 (Bongaarts1998. which we We term "optimumcarryingcapacity. comes out of A relatedconcept. "A paradox of our time is the mixed blessing of almost every technological development"(Gray 1989.4 billion by the year 2050 and 10. these predicaments are becoming global in extent. and the increasinggap between rich and poor worldwide. The number of muskratswith safe dens represented the safe carrying capacity (Ko).In this case.who is well known for his lifelong studies of muskrat and mink populations in Iowa freshwater marshes. which was almost alwaysless than the maximum number that could be supportedby the food supply in the absence of predators(i. Currentworld human population densitymay. even with increasingaffluence. and resource ecologists need to consider the merits of downsizing based on a carryingcapacitythat is more sustainableover the long term. 4 Such examples from natural populations could serve as models for human population growth as well.Roundtable Figure 1. In other words. People in developedcountriesare increasinglybecoming concerned about overconsumption. wasteless industries. However. The contrastingsigmoid (S-shaped)and exponential (Ishaped)growthform models in relation to the maximum (KI) and optimum (Ko) carrying capacity concepts.e. but. societal thinking and planning will reorient to emphasize qualitativeratherthan quantitative development (Odum 1975). Qualitative development would preventthe kind of living on the edge in which. economists. For example.. in terms of quality of life for the individual. policymakers. It seems likely that such a period of negative growth and per capita consumption will come soon." presentthis pattern as an optimistic prediction for the future.former president of the MassachusettsInstitute of Technology.the "ecologicalfootprint"of Vancouverspans the LowerFraserValleyand is 19 times largerthan the areaof Vancouver itself. long-term Paul Errington. human population growth seems to be beginning to level off in sigmoid fashion." studies of animal populations.
1992). Rather than expecting continuing unregulated human population growth well into the new century.with the thresholdsuggestedas the optimum carryingcapacity. the time had not yet come for any kind of reconstruction of economics.GNP index. 1974).ISEWindex. In the 1970s.even though they document cases where limits have been exceeded (Meadowset al. Odum 1979a. with terms in parentheses(on the curves)added by the authors. economist Kenneth Boulding wrote about the need to move from quantitative (getting bigger) to qualitative(getting better) economics.g. mainstreameconomists paid little attention.They contended that value and price were determinedby people's"willingnessto pay"and not by the amount of energy requiredto produce a prod- .The time was not yet right to implement his ideas.4 * BioScience365 April The carrying capacity concept as related to economics The urgent need to integrate nonmarket goods and services (naturalcapital) into mainstreameconomic systems (see Barrettet al. No. Gosselink et al. Odum and Odum 1972. Such planning would benefit from a better understandingof how to integrate economic capital with nature's capital. We suggest that the economic welfare threshold is equivalentto optimum carryingcapacitybecauseit represents the point at which increasingreturnsof scale (bigger is better) changes to decreasingreturns of scale (biggeris 50 2000/ Vol. solid boxes. 1972). Many technologies. 140 130 Ecomonic Growth 120 110 o" o 100 Threshold (Carrying Capacity) 90 o Economic Welfare (Quality of Life) 80 70 60 1945 1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 Year Figure2.. However. the time was right for a serious dialoguebetween ecologists and economists. net energy and feedback controls) to human population growth. but Max-Neef (1995) presented graphs depicting similar trends for all of the countries in westernEurope. EcologicalEconomics. Becauseit takes energywithin an economy to make money. Ecologist Robert Costanzaand economist Herman Daly collaboratedwith many others to establishthe International Societyfor EcologicalEconomics and a new jourFor example. Recenttrendsin the gross national product (GNP) index and the Index of SustainableEconomicWelfare(ISEW)in the UnitedStates. We contend. such as fission atomic energy or deep-sea drilling for oil. Even Donella Meadows and colleagues.e. during the 1980s and 1990s. Odum uct or service (a quantity now labeled "eMergy". For example.However.. that there exist limits (e.in the 1960s. 1966b) were admired and he was one of the first economists to be elected to the National Academyof Sciences. Again. Boulding 1962) and papers (Boulding 1966a. Howard and Eugene Odum suggested using energy as a common denominator to evaluate and combine both marketand nonmarketvalues (Odum 1971. This need has long been recognizedbut poorly implemented. economist Mannal. energeticvalues can be convertedto monetary values. and that these limits and regulatory processes are increasinglycoming into play. Dollar values for wetlands calculated on this basis were impressiveenough to the citizenry to play a major role in coastal marsh protection legislation of Atlantic and Gulf Coastwetlandsin the early 1970s. whose 1972 book Limitsof Growthpredictedovershoots unless economic policies changed (Meadows et al. A weak ecological economics infrastructureduring the 1970s most likely impeded the integrationof ecology and economics at that time.although the thresholdpoint comes a bit later in time in some of these countries. they have provided little or no net energy). 1998) is the focus for this special issue of BioScience.Figure2 represents the United States' situation. cost more than they are worth (i. Although his books (e. society should plan for a future based on a sustainableoptimum carrying capacity (Ko). are now somewhat optimistic that the worst "booms and busts" can be avoided. especiallyas relatedto the qualityof human existence. 1996). A Reconstructionof Economics. Odum 1979b). The Odums and economists LeonardShabmanand SandraBatie engaged in a point-counterpoint discussion of this differencein the pages of the CoastalZoneManagement Journal (Shabman and Batie 1978. therefore.g. The two indexes trackone another and then separateat a time known as the economic welfarethreshold. fred Max-Neef (1995) compared trends in the gross national product (GNP) index with the Daly-Cobb (1989) Index of SustainableEconomic Welfare (Figure 2).. 1973.Open circles.Roundtable 192). Figuremodifiedfrom Max-Neef (1995).economists of that time objectedstrenuouslyto the conversionof energy values to monetaryvalues.
. ..Roundtable ... 1991) makes a distinction between economic growth.. therefore... . E 0 C M 0 I N (:::?:a'O' S :~:::::. (1997) initial estimate. We have made a case for the proposition that the optimum carryingcapacity (Ko) is less than the maximum (Km). 4 anced by negative throughput growth for the rich.?r Figure3.which involvesgetting larger(quantitative growth). . .Scientificand CulturalOrganization (Goodland et al. Although mainstream economists were quick to challenge the Costanza et al. it is encouragingthat there now exists a serious discussion focusing on the quantitative(monetary) value of nature'sgoods and services.. Accordingly. the economic growth required for poverty reduction (especiallyin the less-developed countries) "must be bal366 BioScience * April2000 / Vol. global carrying capacity.. It would seem. ... (1997) have estimatedthat the value of the total biospheric natural ecosystem services in monetary terms is greaterthan the value of the total world market goods and services.. and that carryingcapacityis reached when the P/R ratio approximates 1.. It is importantto distinguishbetween economic growth and economic development if society is to achieve a quality of life carryingcapacity. HUMAKINDS GODS AND SERVICES ATUE'S AND OOD SERVICES COEVOLUTIONARY:~:~~??~:~?~ ? LANDSCAPE (URBAN-RURAL)5~: DEVELOPMENT?' ~~-~ no longer better). of Sustainability Human society is rapidly approaching. which involves getting better (qualitativegrowth) without increasingthe total consumption of energy and materialsbeyond a level that is reasonablysustainable. .:~~:~:~:~:: . Costanzaet al.there exists an urgent need to bring together essential proceduresand approachesthat in the past were consideredseparate and unrelated operations (the "one problem-one solution"mind set). .. .? ' .that economic growth measuredby GNP is beginning to overshoot what might be called "qualityof life carrying capacity"in the developed countries. .2.. ? . . ECOLOGY~.... . and economic development... . and in some aspects already overshooting.. . .. . 2+."A good example is Anderson (1998). .50 No.....?=?. . Anderson says that he was after inspiredto make his "mid-coursecorrection" A readingPaulHawken's Ecologyof Commerce: Declaration (Hawken 1994). Carpets taken back to the factory when they are worn out are completely recycled and reconstituted into new carpets with almost no waste and pollution. It is also encouraging that during the past 5 years there has been a flood of new books that might be classified under the heading of "the greening of business..... Odum Overview:An integrated (ecologic/economic)capitalism .the report goes on. ....ratherthan sells.." A noteworthyroundtablediscussionof carrying capacityand ecological economics by Daly (1995) and Mark Sagoff (1995) has helped to continue this dialogue among ecologists and economists. . z~~Ki . carpets. . . Convertinga bifurcatedaesthetic perspectiveof nature'scapital and human market capital to an integrativelandscapeperspectivein which a coevolutionary(urban-rural)system emergesthat includesall goods and services necessaryto sustain a quality life for all of Earth's inhabitants..The reportconcludesthat "a five-to-tenfold expansion of anything remotely resembling the presenteconomy [which some economists say is necessary to reduce poverty worldwide] would simply speed us from today'slong-run unsustainabilityto imminent collapse"(pp. Some of these needs or strategiesare as follows: A need to bring together market and nonmarketgoods and servicesas a basis for a more holistic economic and ecosystem/landscape management perspective.. 10-11).. . ... which we define as two dimensional (density and intensity of per capitause).A 1991 report from the United Nations Educational. ... RayAndersonis CEOof a carpetcompany named Interfacethat leases. . Therefore.
in view of the increasingthreatsto the health of the cohabitants of Earth. In addition to developingthese strategiesto bring together scholarsand practitionersof ecology and economics. by and large.50 No. Seckler DW.. not scientists-and researchscientists. r-selected species in pioneer or early successional communities but K-selectedspecies in mature systems. competitive view of ecology and economics. with little communication among them. 1998) suggests creating an integrated "dualcapitalism" (i.will help to develop C.Roundtable (1997a. mutualistic relationship between human society and natural systems. 1992. BarkleyPW. or managed for the short term in accordance with a traditional economic purpose or a cultivated taste) as and "beautiful" natural. editor-in-chief of BioScience. 1998).. * Reorganizingcolleges and universitiesto promote more interdisciplinarycourses. EnterTowarda Sustainable AndersonRC. technoecosystems (term suggested by Naveh 1982). it is important to do so quickly. and yards of carefully swept soil (i. B.Barrett1985. Cairns (1997) expresses this need in terms of promoting a coevolutionary. but society was not as ready for this approachas it is now. Acknowledgments G.in r-selected species. McHarg 1969). and attractivevillages.society could learn from the study of the pioneer to mature naturalecosystem development (r to K selection). Barrett et al. resources are directed to persistence. Many people view heavily fertilized and watered gardens.Figure as a way to capture the substantial benefits that. natural life-supporting ecosystems and the high-powered. her editorialskills in bringing this issue to fruition. which are often segregated in separate schools in academia. an integrativelandscapeperspective. lawyers)-who are.New York: Barrett GW. rather than high growth rate.The time has come to find ways to develop trulyintegrativeideas about sustainabilityand carrying capacity and to implement these as soon as possible. corporate managers. Snow's "third culture. We sense that human society is ready to usher in new integrative(transdisciplinary)and ecological definitions of carrying capacity and sustainable growth as we enter the twenty-firstcentury. prise:The InterfaceModel.Atlanta(GA):Peregrinzilla AmericanScientist84: AusubelJH. including an integrative science approach (Barrett and Odum 1998). clean streams and lakes.of a diverselandscapethat includes natural areas. Society could find ways to make a similar transition.many of the ideas and concepts about sustainability and carrying capacitybeing espoused in recent reviewsand books have remained traditional and disciplinary in concept and implementation. * Finally. something to be weeded. Lester Brown recently noted that human society appears to be approaching a threshold regardingan environmentalawakening. are indebted to TerryBarrettand three anonymous reviewersfor their criticalreview of the manuscript for and to RebeccaChasan. or woodlands as "ugly. 1994).This plenary session served as the catalystfor this special issue of BioWe Science.Appliedecology:An integrative paradigmfor the 1980s. materialuse.urban transportationand planning.e.1984. urban." Figure 3 illustrateshow this previously bifurcated aesthetic perspective is now being integrated into a holistic. Referencescited * April2000 / Vol. Ian McHarg pioneered this approach to planning three decades ago (e.g. P. For this concept to come to fruition. (1997).e. This task is difficult because political lines often separate city from country. 1996. Environmental Conservation11:319-322.Italy. in K-selectedspecies under carryingcapacity conditions. well-managed farmland. mowed lawns or clipped grasses.economists.as well as the utility. * A need to unite ruraland urbanplanning initiativesinto comprehensivelandscape-levelplanning (Barrettet al.) Naturalselection favorsopportunistic.towns. 4 BioScience 367 .which requiresimprovingthe dialogue between decision-makers (politicians. 1972. manicured.self-sustainingmeadows. * A need to promote appreciationof the aesthetics. * A need to bridge the communication gap between science and society. 3) as summarized by Daily et al.who are increasingly more specialized (reductionist) and isolated from the realitiesof public policy.including shifting views concerning energy.. and human population growth (Brown 1999). 1998) that acknowledges the interdependence of the low-powered. Decay. Indeed. W.grasslands. (Resourcesare diverted to high growth rate and fecundity. rather than an individualistic.rather than persistence. and cities all operating together to maintain a high quality of life (i. An informed and educated society that understandsthe goods and servicesprovided by an integratedurban-rurallandscapewill likely conduct its business based on an educational incentive rather than a regulatorymandate (Barrett1989). a closer liaison must be established between basic and applied disciplines (Barrett 1984. Economic Growth and Environmental HarcourtBraceJovanovich.Unfortunately. rural. as is now under way in many colleges and universities. Mid-courseCorrection: Press." in which the communication gap between the humanities and the sciences would be closed (see Odum 1997b). coevolutionary landscape perspective. thanks Almo Farinafor inviting him to co-chair the plenary roundtable discussion entitled "Integrating Ecologyand Economics"at the VII InternationalCongress of Ecologyduring July1998 in Florence. 1998. natural ecosystems supply to human societies. naturaland marketcapital.e.. where survival and quality of the individual are more important than the quantity of production.Can technologysparethe Earth? 166-178.
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