University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA. Meta_economics theory explicitly includes the moral dimension in formal models.  AECN/NRES 883 Ecological (Sustainability) Economics

                                                                     Syllabus, Jan. 13 - Mar. 21, 2014
(also see the Class Schedule, for detail on timing of the topics)

                                        "We are... always only one failed generational transfer away from darkest ignorance" (Daly and Farley, 2011, p. 41)

Ecological Economics 883 is a "Hybrid" class, offered both on-campus (this year at Arizona State University) and On-line (Asynchronous) in a Distance Education/Web-based Class

Updates: January 16, 2014 . We are in the process of updating this site for the 2013-2014, offering. Notice we have moved the class from the fall to spring term. The new feature of the offering this year incudes the on-campus version being taught through the School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe campus, on Thursday evenings, 4:45-7:30 p.m. The Distance offering remains the same as in years past in terms of the way the material is delivered. The course will be open to students at ASU in several programs, including the School of Sustainability, generally, including students associated with the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity. Other ASU students are also welcome, including MBA students. This course has historically included students from the Distance MBA program here at the University of Nebraska; Masters in Community Development through Great Plains IDEA; Masters and PhD students in the Human Dimensions option in the School of Natural Resources; students from the Masters of Applied Science program at UNL; as well as both Masters and PhD students from Agricultural Economics/Economics. This combination of backgrounds and perspectives works well in producing a stimulating Discussion Board, the latter being a substantive feature of this course. Thank you for visiting this website at the  University of Nebraska in Lincoln (UNL), Nebraska, USA. This course is jointly listed through the UNL Department of Agricultural Economics , School of Natural Resources, and College of Business Administration, as well as the Great Plains IDEA (Interactive Distance Education Alliance and the ASU School of Sustainability (also see the ASU Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity; ASU Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives, the latter including the recently initiated Executive Master's for Sustainability Leadership degree program).

Ecological Economics Participants

This course is designed for individuals intrigued with  the possibilities for using more of an "eco-frame" (i.e. seeing economy embedded within the larger biosphere) leading to an eco-approach to achieving sustainability in business and industry, economy and community. Ecological Economics is compared and contrasted with the more traditional Environmental Economics framework and approach. The eco-approach suggests the potential for joint and co-evolutionary business, industry, economic, ecosystem and community development.  It builds upon first and second law (thermodynamics) concerns with conservation and entropy; it recognizes the need to build resilience into eco-businesses and eco-communities. It also moves beyond traditional environmental economics framing by recognizing the new scientific findings on the complex motivational structure that is human nature, as related to the human dimension of natural resources, ecosystems and natural environments.  This new science suggests the dual nature, the dual interest nature humans, that people are driven by a combination of selfish and altruistic motives (see Robert Frank's book, What Price the Moral High Ground?)," emerging on a more ideal path serving the own-interest... including a kind of tempered self-interest. Also, see Jeremy Rifkin's most recent book (quick overview, JSE Review, detailed PowerPoint overview ), regarding the possible role of empathy in being that tempering force in achieving sustainability. In effect, the course sees the reality and complexity faced by real "Humans" making choices, rather than "Econs" in some sense maximizing outcomes in a far simpler world (the "Humans and Econs" distinction made by Thaler and Sunstein in the popular Nudge book).

This course is accelerated, encompassing material normally addressed in a regular 15-week semester, covering this material in 10-weeks. It facilitates earning a full 3-semester credit of material on a shorter time frame. As noted, the 2014 offering is the first time it has been offered within the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University. The course continues to also be offered in several other venues, including that through the Great Plains IDEA (Interactive Distance Education Alliance), a partnership of 20-universities. In particular, it satisfies a requirement in the Natural Resources Management Track within the Community Development master's degree program under Great Plains IDEA. It also is a core course requirement in the Human Dimensions of Natural Resources graduate specialization in the School of Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  It is also an elective course in the UNL-MBA in Agribusiness program, due to ever more interest in eco-production (e.g. PRIME Biosolutions) and environmental sustainability in agribusiness firms (e.g. see Nestle, esp. Creating Shared Value Report; Dole).   It is also an elective in the overall UNL-MBA Distance program (see recent rankings , now ranked 2nd in the Big 10), and will be of interest to those pursuing  MBAs in other programs, due to the move to sustainability through the "eco-approach" in many businesses and industries [e.g. see Asian Companies; Walmart; and Walmart Sustainability Index,.. related to the latter, see the sustainability initiatives in the University of Arkansas Walton Business School Applied Sustainability Center, and in the Global Sustainability Institute at Arizona State University, especially in the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives program). Also, see Interface (See May, 2007 Article); World Business Council for Sustainable Development; and many companies and other entities intrigued with Green Power.  Also, see the book by Esty and Winston (2008) on how ever more of the major corporations and businesses are ever more on an eco-path, taking the eco-advantage (see brief review at Lynne(2008); for a more extensive PowerPoint overview with Notes, see Lynne(2007)].  We are on the leading edge of a major shift in business and industry toward the eco-approach. (See , for latest developments, e.g. January 2014 announcement that McDonalds will buy sustainable beef in 2016. Also, see Best Global Green Brands). The banks/financial sector are also going green, seeing the eco-path (See Green Banking and Finance).  In response, and also in leading this shift, several business schools have developed MBA programs/specialties in sustainable business (See: "Business schools find it pays to offer programs in sustainable development" with the principles of such development addressed in this course). Individuals are also designing eco-houses and living in eco-communities (e.g. see Solar/Hydrogen Houses  and Sustainable Communities ),  and developers are starting the move toward truly sustainable land and community development (e.g. see Joslyn Institute for Sustainable Communities); the course serves as an environmental elective in the UNL Community and Regional Planning environmental planning option. Also, communities are evermore becoming involved directly in helping business and industry take the eco-path (see BALLE). 

The eco-approach to business and industry, economic and community development defines our future.  Individuals having graduate level training in economics are also encouraged to enroll with the course of study customized to individual needs, in that the eco-approach (and behavioral economics) are growing in their influence on economic thinking and frameworks, with the trend expected to become ever more pronounced in the decades ahead. The eco-approach is helping the pronounced move toward ways to include the phenomenon of cooperation and community in economic approaches and theory, on how to model individual action in the context of collective action in which the individual also participates.

For some sense of the experiences with this course by other students, see the recent course evaluation. Many also like the diversity of students in the class, drawing as it does from business, community, natural resoruce and economics arenas, located in both off-campus and on-campus places (due to this being a hybrid class), with 48% strongly agreeing and 32% agreeing (12% neutral, so only 4% disagreeing or not answering) with the statement: "A positive feature of the class is having the diversity of students (backgrounds, experiences, etc.) afforded by having both on-campus and off-campus locations in the same class." And, perhaps most importantly: 40% strongly agreed and 40% agreed (and 8% were neutral, leaving only 4% who disagreed or did not answer) that "What I have learned in this course will help me in substantive ways to contribute to the ongoing conversation about sustainability (eco-business, eco-industry, eco-community and eco-government) issues."  Hope you will consider joining us!

Ecological Economics Course Number and Name

AECN/NRES 883/CDEV 883 Ecological Economics is a Distance Education/Web-based course. The course may be accessed through several different paths:

1. On-campus offering at Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ campus. Register for SOS 598-1011 (26073), Thursday 4:45 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.., in WGHL 401)
2. For those registering through the UNL Distance MBA program, AECN 883, Section 911, please contact Kerri Hiatt ( ).  
3. For those registering through the Great Plains IDEA (Interactive Distance Education Alliance) program through UNL, CDEV 883, Section 991, please contact Diane Wasser, (For registration through the other GP IDEA locations, see Community Development Admissions).
4. For all other Distance students, please register in AECN/NRES 883, Section 700 here at UNL. If you are a graduate student in some other university graduate program, you will need to apply and obtain UNL Graduate School visiting status (See ).

Please note that the course materials are centered in the Blackboard delivery system. We post pdf files of PowerPoints with Podcast audio recordings, as well as provide access to readings, etc., on Blackboard. We also do Adobe Connect Pro recordings. Students will also be interacting with one another through the Discussion Board system in Blackboard. This course engages and encourages a learning community among students with interests in business and economics, community, and natural resources... with the focus on the scientific principles for achieving sustainabilty in business and industry, economy and community.

Ecological Economics Prerequisites

Generally, anyone having graduate student standing may enroll in the course, albeit basic knowledge gained in an introductory economics course is presumed. Ideally students will have taken at least one introductory microeconomics course, or, have otherwise, through self-study, gained at least the knowledge of basic principles as illustrated in the book by Gowdy and O'Hara (1995). Please note that the additional readings available through the Syllabus are generally not required reading for students having only introductory training in economics.

It is understood in all cases, due to this course being at the graduate level, that the student needs to be engaged in a substantial amount of self-education, being self-directed as it were, in the learning process. We each need to accept and exercise responsibility for our own learning.   Students generally note that at least an introductory economics course is a good idea, and more economics is better, but not essential to gaining a reasonable amount of understanding.  Also, those with advanced training in economics generally find the course a good overview, map of the field, and helpful in directing them to deeper reading and self-study of the fundamental science of ecological economics. We also make ourselves available to consult with the economics majors, working with them individually in helping them find the broader and deeper base of scientific materials.

This is to say, students with graduate level training in economics are also encouraged to enroll in the course. For these cases, the instructor is open to working with said students in order to customize it to individual needs including paying special attention to the additional readings in the Syllabus.  For more advanced students, the course gives the road map for deeper self-study (which is largely, as noted, what graduate education is about, anyway!). The grading requirements are also different for economics majors. If interested in this option, please contact the instructor (Gary Lynne) at or call cell phone 402-430-3100.

Ecological Economics Credits/Hours/Timing

3-credit hours, offered in the time frame, Jan. 13 - Mar. 21, 2014.

Ecological Economics Timing 

The materials covered during the Thursday night class each week are generally posted on Blackboard by mid-day on Fridays, with discussions on the Blackboard Discussion Board continuing until the start of class on the following Thursday, which always ensures a weekend in the middle, for each topic covered. This kind of scheduling better ensures ample time for interaction throughout the semester among all students through the Discussion Board.

Ecological Economics Instructor

Ecological Economics Teaching Assistant

Ecological Economics Technical Support (Hardware and Software, Course and Blackboard Site Design)

Online Applications Used in this Ecological Economics Course

Blackboard holds the set of course material, except for the textbook which needs to be purchased. The Blackboard site is accessible through . Once you are logged-on to Blackboard, you also have full access to the UNL library generally (through the Academic Resources tab at the top of the Blackboard screen), and the digital resources resources in particular, e.g. you have full access to the on-line version of the Ecological Economics journal. If you need help with Blackboard, you can click on My.UNL Help at the top of the Blackboard screen. If you still have questions, problems, please contact Terry Workman, Instructional Designer, University of Nebraska-Lincoln at (his office phone is 402-472-0977).

Ecological Economics Course Overview

This course considers alternative framing, and suggests a quite different approach to business and industry (including agribusiness and the food system), economics and community. Generally, we bring forward a world (as "spaceship Earth") that sees the economy embedded within the ecosystem rather than the traditional economic view of the ecosystem being embedded in the economy, while going beyond the latter in working toward a new synthesis (see Two World Views). This course works especially at bringing ideas from Ecology and Behavioral Economics under the new transdisciplinary umbrella that is coming to be called “Ecological (and Behavioral) Economics,” while also drawing on constructs from Environmental Economics.  It has in its base three fundamental ideas, and a  corollary idea that follows from the other three (also, see details for what distinguishes this kind of economics):

Also, see utility v. ecology, disciplinary v. transdisciplinary, and pragmatic considerations.      

Ecological Economics Course Objectives

We seek to help students both as citizens and as contributors in the working world,  who will be or already are working in businesses and industries, government and non-governmental agencies, and communities to form better natural resource management, eco-management, eco-business, eco-industry and eco-community approaches. The student will:

Ecological Economics Course Materials

The course is centered around a required text. The course focuses on the microeconomics part of this book, covering the first 13-chapters. This is brought together in the policy part, starting with Chapter 21. We work to keep these materials up-to-date by drawing on the latest scientific journals (e.g latest issues of the Ecological Economics journal and the Journal of Socio(Behavioral)-Economics) and books. The Daly and Farley book may be ordered through any number of web based sources, e.g. Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  etc., directly from the Publisher (see links) or purchased through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and other University Bookstores:

Daly, H. E. and Farley, J.  Ecological Economics: Principles and Applications, Second Edition.  Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2011. As noted at that site (also, this book was actually released in late-2010, so it carries a 2011 publication date):

"The book describes a relatively new 'transdiscipline' that incorporates insights from the biological, physical, and social sciences. It provides students with a foundation in traditional neoclassical economic thought, but places that foundation within an interdisciplinary framework that embraces the linkages among economic growth, environmental degradation, and social inequity. In doing so, it presents a revolutionary way of viewing the world."

Related texts, references if you wish to develop more familiarity with economic approaches, as a supplement to the required text (these are also available through a number of web based and university bookstore sources):

Costanza, R., Cumberland, J., Daly, H., Goodland, R. and Norgaard, R.  An Introduction to Ecological Economics. Boca Raton, Florida:  St. Lucie Press, 1997. (Presumes some knowledge of intermediate to advanced undergraduate microeconomics. This is an "e-book" available on-line, and continuously being revised, including contributions by other authors; see: )   

Gowdy, J. and O’Hara, S.  Economic Theory for Environmentalists. Delray Beach, FL: St. Lucie Press, 1995 (For the student with essentially no undergraduate background in economics).  (See a PowerPoint overview of main chapters needed from this book at: )

Harris, J. M. and Roach, B. Environmental and Natural Resource Economics: A Contemporary Approach. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2013. This is the best undergraduate level text in this field, in that it introduces ecological economics framing, and works at developing a synthesis of that frame with the more traditional natural resource and environmental economics framework. This book is used in the undergraduate Natural Resource and Environmental (and Ecological) Economics class here at UNL (see )

Hanley, N., Shogren, J.F. and White, B.  Environmental Economics in Theory and Practice.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. (For the student with substantial undergraduate training in economics). This book has a "tinge" of ecological economics framing, albeit largely uses the natural resource and environmental economics framework.

Journal and other readings:  In some Lessons, a particular journal paper or part of another book will be required reading. In these cases, the material will be made available through Blackboard, or, students may access the material directly through local university libraries (e.g. through JSTOR or other reference services; generally the library has direct access to the electronic version of the journal if the library has a subscription to it, which is the case for the Ecological Economics journal and the Journal of Socio-Economics in the University of Nebraska library).  For a listing of the historically most salient publications in Ecological Economics, see:

Costanza, R., Stern, D., Fisher, B., He, Lining, Chundo, Ma. “Influential Publications in Ecological Economics:  A Citation Analysis.”  Ecological Economics 50,3-4 (October, 2004): 261-292. (See PowerPoint Overview of this Paper).  Also, see Ma, C., Stern, D.I. "Environmental and Ecological Economics:  A Citation Analysis." Ecological Economics 58,3 (June, 2006): 491-506.

As noted, you will generally be able to access the electronic version of several economics journals through your university library system, including the main journal for this class represented in Ecological Economics, which mainly frames the economic question from the perspective that the economy is embedded in the ecosystem. We will also make reference to other journals, like the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, which mainly frames the ecosystem as embedded in the economy, and the Journal of Socio-Economics with behavioral economics framing, very much in line with Ecological Economics (in that Behavioral Economics also is empirically demonstrating the role of the "We" in "I" choices, in effect putting the "eco" back into economics). If you have an NU ID number, these journals can be accessed through the UNL library. In fact, you can quickly move into the UNL Library electronic resources through Blackboard: Just click the Library tag at the top of the Blackboard screen. Once you are into the UNL Library website, there are several different ways to get to the electronic journals: I prefer the Classic Catalog, Journal Title search, type in the journal name... and you are on your way!

Computer and software requirements:

The most fundamental need is for a fairly recent computer, either a PC or Mac will work. The commonly used Adobe Reader will be needed for accessing journal papers and book chapters provided in Blackboard; a pdf maker could also be useful, but not essential. Microsoft Word is the favored word processor for submitting written assignments through Blackboard. We use Microsoft Excel for the spreadsheets. It is also acceptable to submit assignments where the materials have been converted into *.pdf files.  

Ecological Economics Course Policies and Procedures

Some flexibility can be given in work being submitted late for good reasons. This is also true for absence from discussions.  Missed assignments may be submitted late but under penalty.  Generally, technical problems like “My computer crashed, and I lost all of my work” cannot be acknowledged, in that everyone is expected to keep back-up copies of key files.

Grading System:

Category grading is applied, using:

A: 90-100  = Excellent work
B: 80-89 = Good work
C: 70-79 = Poor work
D: 60-69 = Very poor work
F: 50-59 = Insufficient/Failure

Generally, a graduate student must maintain a “B or better” overall grade point average, with the goal to obtain at least a B in every course.   So, for each assignment and for individual exams, a grade of  79 or less is subject to the "safety-net" policy. If your grade is in this range, you have the option of redoing the exam or assignment. However, the total points added cannot give a new grade higher than 80. This policy is only to recognize that we all have bad days, bad times with a particular problem set, etc., and to help ensure everyone is successful.   

This policy does not affect the grades of others, in that grades are awarded by category. That is, there is generally no curve, albeit we reserve the option of raising (or lowering) the overall level for the entire class.  Also, the entire class, e.g., could earn a B or better grade, including all As.  Plus grades are also awarded within each category, e.g. 80-84 = B and 85-89 = B+. We encourage high quality work, and especially recognize progress made by each individual as we move forward through the semester.

Regarding the matter of grades and grading, it would be great to receive any feedback you might have on the best way for both you as student and we as the instructors to understand the nature and progress of your learning.


There will be 2-exams, accounting for 50% (25% each) of the grade. Each exam covers only new material, except to the extent that principles and approaches may apply in later exams. These are take-home exams; every student is on their honor, and expected to do their own work.

Written and Computer Based Assignments:

The end-of-semester project accounts for 25% of the grade. The assignment will be to prepare a PowerPoint presentation delineating how one real world "eco-something" is and/or could be operating. The PowerPoint also needs to consider the kinds of policies and institutions (i.e. norms and traditions, working rules of organizations and property relations) in place that led to the current situation for the entity you select, as well as your recommendations for what policy and institutional "nudges" would lead to more sustainability efforts for the kind of entity you are considering. Possible topics include:
a. Do an overview of how a Sony or Volvo have moved to accounting for recycle content from the very start of engineering and in raw material acquisition, including manufacturing through bringing the material back into the production stream at the end of useful life, and assess the potential for such industrial ecology (i.e. closed loop running on renewable energy) approaches in manufacturing for the future.
b. Explore how to develop the capacity for locally produced food in organic, sustainable farming ways to support local farmers and consumers, and/or how modern technology might be used to help make said systems more productive but yet sustainable (i.e. in synch with the flow of solar energy; in synch with the resilience of the ecosystem in which the business is embedded).
c. Consider what current agribusiness firms might move toward in the future (and companies like Nestle are doing already) with respect to introducing industrial ecology types of approaches in food processing and in manufacturing of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, and/or how these firms might approach the introduction of genetically modified organisms relative to other ecosystems.
d. Examine how your local or other community (e.g. the case in Vermont) might best integrate living and shopping space into natural features and ecosystems.
e. Examine and characterize how eco-tourism is working locally, or at other places in world, looking to the potential for the future.
f. Examine how Walmart (e.g. Walmart's push to develop a "sustainability index" and label for every product sold in a Walmart store, world-wide... and, thus, indirectly and directly "nudging" suppliers toward sustainable production approaches), or some other retailing business is applying sustainable, eco-eco principles to their operations, including encouraging suppliers to apply eco-principles in production.
g. Explore how well a certain land, fishery, forest or other natural resource approach such as resilience based adaptive management is or could be working in a specific area of reference, using the eco-eco approach, e.g. managing an urban-agricultural interface between your city and the agricultural area surrounding it, or managing a particular ocean or lake fishery, or allocating scarce water resources in an irrigation/natural resource district, or addressing any other "common-pool" kind of resource question. This generally entails an evaluation of a government agency, or, possibly a non-governmental organization, including any number of "poly-centric" institutions and organizations involved in ensuring sustainability of the common-pool in question.

These are just examples; many others are possible. A practical purpose is to enhance and expand your ability to think in more "eco-ways" and helping define what is meant by an "eco-path." The overall purpose of developing a PowerPoint with extensive Notes or Audio augmentation in this project is to not only help yourself and the reader understand but also to persuade.

Students will develop PowerPoints to address this assignment, with each slide having  "Notes"  and/or "Audio" added to each slide, and reflecting thoughtful analysis of what is on-going  in each of these cases, especially paying attention to whether the Case is being implemented on the basis of sound thermodynamic and ecological (and behavioral) economics principles. It is especially important to answer the question: Are they truly "eco-sustainable" in the sense of being in synch with the Sun, and addressing the resilience based capacity of an ecosytem to process waste flows and provide services to the economy and community, and otherwise meeting the standards suggested by principles offered in this course.  Also, it is important to point to successful policies and institutions (norms and traditions, working rules of organizations, property relations) that already have, or could in the future, lead to truly sustainable entities, processes and operations. The PowerPoint will be posted by each student on the Discussion Board as an Attachment in a Thread started by each student within  the Lesson 20 Forum. Also, each student is asked to post at least one substantive comment about some other student's PowerPoint within at least 1-thread (but, feel free to post to more than 1-thread!), as well as respond to comments posted about one's own PowerPoint. The Powerpoint needs to be both extensive and intensive enough to be the basis for a journal style paper.

Discussion on Blackboard:
Participation in the asynchronous Discussion Board forums accounts for 25% of the grade. To earn these points, each student is required to be an active participant including responding with at least one substantive (based in analysis, using course material, outside readings, etc.) posted each week, within the Group discussion. After the initial posts relating to introducing ourselves (the "Room with a View" exercise), we will form Groups, with 5-7 individuals in each. The Groups will first discuss the issues among themselves, on Blackboard, within the Groups part of Blackboard. Individuals within a Group will then take turns, one "Reporter" taking each week, in posting the overall sense of Group discussion in posting to the overall Discussion Board, for consideration and Response by other Groups. Each Group (generally the Group Reporter for that week) must post at least 1-response to another Group's post. This is an opportunity to both learn from and help teach within this learning community. The Discussion is evaluated using a Rubric for Evaluating Discussion, which recognizes that the ongoing conversation in the discussion needs to be connected to the underlying scientific conversation (seeing science as a kind of conversation) in the books, journal papers... as well as to that in other realms, like the contemporary environmental news, and with one's own experiences in dealing with such issues. 


The goal is to provide feedback on the Discussion Board, Exams and Eco-Success Assignment within 1 to 2-weeks, and always before the next exam or assignment. Feedback on the Discussion is provided about the same time as on the Exam, in that Discussion Board activity correlates with the material for the Exam.  An attempt is made to provide an ample basis for ratings and grades.  To accomplish this, rubrics (e.g. see the Supply-Demand Rubric) are used.  See the Discussion Board Rubric; Exam Essays Rubric (also, see Rating Scale);  PowerPoint Presentations Rubric; and the Papers Rubric ). This use of a Rubric gives a basis for giving the reason for the specific Rating. Audio feedback (i.e. short audio clips) will be provided on Exams and Assignments.

Ecological Economics Class Schedule (see UNL Academic Calendar for other important dates, although keep in mind this course operates on the UNL College of Business Administration time frame for the Distance MBA program)