Introduction: economics and ecology — the next frontier

  • Edward B. Barbier


At meetings where I am speaking to a ‘mixed’ audience of economists, ecologists and researchers from other disciplines, I sometimes like to begin my talk with the following tale:

One day, an economist was walking across a huge parking a lot. Out of the corner of her eye, she spied a ten dollar bill. She stooped down to pick it up, but then stopped herself. Scratching her head, she muttered to herself, ‘Oh no, the probability of my findiong a ten dollar bill in this parking lot is too small!’ As the economist walked off, she was soon followed by an ecologist. He saw the ten dollar bill and also stopped to pick it up. But in turning it over, he noticed some condensation, a little moss and some tiny organisms underneath the bill. ‘My goodness!’, he exclaimed. ‘There is a whole ecosystem under here!’ The ecologist soon became lost in observation so that he failed to notice the ten dollar bill blowing away. The bill soon blew across the path of an environmentalist. He saw the ten dollars and picked it up. ‘Tsk, tsk’, he proclaimed to himself. ‘The amount of litter in this car park is shameful!’ And so he threw the ten dollar bill away in the nearest waste basket.


Tropical Forest Natural Capital Exhaustible Resource Intergenerational Equity Dollar Bill 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1993

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  • Edward B. Barbier

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