THE name environmental economists seems to be a contradiction in terms. What have economists to do with environment? Marston Bates sums up the feelings of many ecological purists:
Economics and ecology, as words, have the same root; but that is about all they have in common. As fields of knowledge, they are cultivated in remotely separated parts of our universities, through the use of quite different methods, by scholars who would hardly recognize anything in common. The world of ecologists is "unspoiled nature." They tend to avoid cities, parks, fields, orchards. The real world of the economists is like Plato's; it is a world of ideas, of abstractions--money, labor, market, goods, capital. There is no room for squirrels scolding in the oak trees, no room for robins on the lawn. There is no room for people either, for that matter--people loving and hating and dreaming. People become the labor force on the market.1
Bates's assessment comes down too hard on economists and perhaps not hard enough on ecologists. Both disciplines, after all, do use abstract models, with corresponding methodological values, and ecologists now are almost as familiar with statistical measures as economists. Furthermore, there are more varieties of economic thought than there are schools of ecology. Surely not all should be condemned.
Like ecologists, economists use their discipline to solve problems; their tools or methods change as do their perceptions of prob____________________