Herman Daly, professor who introduced ecology to economics, dies at 84

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Herman E. Daly, an economist who envisioned a new practice in his field, a discipline known as ecological economics, in which growth is not an undisputed good and the environmental and social impact of trade is as important as the flow of money, died October 28 in a Richmond hospital. He was 84.

His death was announced by the University of Maryland, where Dr. Daly was a professor at the School of Public Policy from 1994 to 2010 before retiring. The cause was a brain hemorrhage, said his daughter Karen Daly Junker.

dr Daly is widely credited as the founder of ecological economics, a field that was on the fringes of economics study five decades ago when he entered academia, but has garnered increasing attention around the world in recent years.

He advocated a fundamental shift in the way the economy is understood – not as an independent system, but as one that exists within the Earth’s ecosystem and is constrained by the resources available on the planet.

For generations, the economy was viewed broadly as a money cycle. But “as the economy expands, it absorbs more energy and more matter,” noted Dr. Daly. “Where does it come from? From the biosphere. And the more we consume, the more waste we throw away. Where do we throw it? Back to the biosphere. That is exhaustion and that is pollution.”

Although it took years to catch on, Dr. Daly has become increasingly influential in recent years.

“Herman Daly’s deceptively simple act of drawing a circle – representing the living world – around the schematic box of economics is, in my opinion, the most radical act in rewriting economics, for it changes everything that follows,” Kate Raworth, Author of Donut Economics: 7 Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist, according to an email.

“That’s exactly why so many economists resist it: because it dethrones their outdated tools and analysis,” she continued. “But the social and ecological crises of this century force us to start all economics this way. In fact, I believe today’s business students deserve it and should demand it.”

dr Daly outlined his ideas in dozens of scholarly articles and books, including Steady-State Economics (first published 1977 and republished 1991), Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development (1996), and For the Common Good. , co-written with theologian John B. Cobb Jr. (first published in 1989 and republished in 1994).

He saw the concept of “sustainable growth” as a contradiction – in his view, “sustainable development” was more achievable – and argued that metrics such as gross domestic product are insufficient to quantify the direction of an economy. For him, even the most robust manufacture of products and the increase in prosperity were not economic growth if the earth’s resources were exhausted. Rather, depletion of resources was what he called uneconomic growth.

Growth “may cost more than it’s worth,” he said, “and this is the new era we are entering and we need to recognize that.”

Instead of GDP, he promoted measures such as the “Index of Sustainable Economic Wellbeing” and the “Real Indicator of Progress,” which took into account factors such as pollution and the destruction of farms or marshlands, in addition to the value of goods and services produced.

“If there’s an oil spill that we have to clean up, that adds to GDP,” but “that’s not a very good measure of progress,” said Dan O’Neill, an environmental economist at the University of Leeds in England in One Interview. “He really made us question why we pursue certain economic goals. Is growth just a means to an end and not the end itself?”

like dr As Daly put it, economists should “concern what counts, not what can only be counted.”

Herman Edward Daly was born on July 21, 1938 in Houston. His father owned a hardware store and his mother was an accountant.

dr Daly studied economics at Rice University in Houston, where he received a bachelor’s degree in 1960. He received his doctorate in economics from Vanderbilt University in Nashville in 1967.

He chose economics “because he felt it was grounded in the humanities and science and didn’t want to choose between them,” said Peter A. Victor, author of the 2021 book Herman Daly’s Economics for a Full World: His Life and Ideas,” reads an email. “He discovered that it wasn’t due to either of them and made it his life’s goal to remedy it.”

His work is also deeply rooted in his Methodist faith, his daughter said, and his hope for the survival of what he saw as God’s creation.

dr Daly taught economics at Louisiana State University for two decades and has also lectured around the world. From 1988 to 1994 he was Senior Economist at the World Bank before moving to the University of Maryland.

Survivors include his 59-year-old wife, formerly Marcia Damasceno of Midlothian, Virginia; two daughters, Terri Daly Stewart of Suwanee, Georgia and Karen Daly Junker of North Chesterfield, Virginia; a sister; and three grandchildren.

dr Daly received the 1996 Right Livelihood Award, sometimes referred to as the “alternative Nobel Prize,” in recognition of his “significant contributions to improving the understanding of the relationship between economics, ecology, and ethics.” He continued to work until a week before his death, his daughter said.

My duty is to do my best and publish some ideas,” said Dr. Daly of the New York Times earlier this year. “It’s not up to me whether the seed I plant will sprout. It’s just up to me to plant and water it.”

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