Call for papers on capitalism and ecological crisis

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From Heterodox Economics Newsletter, Sept. 3, 2012.
(thanks to Matthew Brett)

Review of Radical Political Economics
Special Issue:
Political Economy of Sustainable Development

More than 120 heads of state attended the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from June 20 to 22, 2012 (also known as Rio +20 conference). About 50,000 people, including business executives, mayors, representatives of non-governmental organizations, youth, and indigenous people, participated in the conference.

Officially, the conference intended to set the stage for the global community to recommit to sustainable development and take concrete actions. However, the conference accomplished nothing more than a weak affirmation of the earlier declaration agreed to by the United Nations summit in 1992.

The conference was considered by environmental groups as an “epic failure.”

The United Nations conference took place as the global ecological crisis accelerates in almost every dimension and the various global ecological systems have overshot their natural limits.

According to a paper co-authored by 29 of the world’s leading scientists, “Anthropogenic pressures on the Earth System have reached a scale where abrupt global environmental change can no longer be excluded.” The scientists identified nine planetary boundaries within which humanity can operate safely. According to the scientists, “transgressing one or more planetary boundaries may be deleterious or even catastrophic due to the risk of crossing thresholds that will trigger non-linear, abrupt environmental change within continental- to planetary-scale systems.”

The scientists estimate that humanity has already transgressed three planetary boundaries: for climate change, rate of biodiversity loss, and changes to the global nitrogen cycle.

Despite the urgency of the global ecological crisis, the world’s governments, corporations, media, as well as mainstream academics continue to propagate the belief that resources depletion, water crisis, deforestation, desertification, air and water pollution, climate change, ocean acidification, and many other environmental problems can be contained and resolved within the basic institutional framework of capitalism, perhaps through a combination of “green” technologies and some enlightened social reform, if not the automatic self-adjustment of the free market.

Given this context, The Review of Radical Political Economics is going to publish a special issue on “Political Economy of Sustainable Development.” We invite papers that contribute to the discussion of any one of the following topics:

  1. The relationship between capitalism and global ecological crisis: can ecological crisis or environmental crisis be resolved or alleviated under capitalism?
  2. Issues related to green technologies or green economy: what is a green economy? Can capitalist technologies or capitalist economy be green?
  3. Sustainable development: how should sustainable development be defined? Can sustainability be reconciled with economic growth? Is “sustainable development” a contradiction-in-terms?
  4. The political economy or economics of various specific areas related to sustainability: e.g., energy, climate change, resources depletion, water crisis, pollution, deforestation, soil erosion, desertification.
  5. The geopolitical issues related to global ecological crisis: can meaningful international cooperation on sustainability be achieved within the capitalist world system? What are the impacts of U.S. hegemonic decline? How should the burden of global ecological adjustment (such as in the area of climate stabilization) be shared between core and periphery?
  6. The governance of common pool resources and local/regional systems of ecosystem management as alternatives to existing organization of the conservation and exploitation of natural resources.

Submissions are due by April 1, 2013, and must follow the Instructions to Contributors listed in each issue of the Review, on the RRPE section of the URPE Website, or available from the managing editor.

All submissions are subject to the usual review procedures, and they should not be under review with any other publication. We strongly encourage authors to send a brief title and abstract as soon as possible.

Send an anonymous electronic version in Microsoft Word for PC format to Hazel Dayton Gunn, Managing Editor,