WHAT’S AT STEAK? ECOLOGICAL ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ETHICAL, ENVIRONMENTAL, AND POLICY IMPLICATIONS FOR GLOBAL LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION
Pelletier, Nathaniel L
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Achieving environmental s¬ustainability in human organization is the defining challenge of the modern era. In light of the inability of the existing economic paradigm to provide for sustainability objectives, novel approaches to understanding and managing economic activities are required. Towards this end, the emergent field of ecological economics provides an alternative paradigm that expressly prioritizes the development of the theory and tools necessary to operationalize environmental sustainability in economic activity, which is viewed as prerequisite to sustainability in any other sphere. Here, I advance an internally consistent framework for understanding and implementing the core ecological economic sustainability criteria: appropriate scale relative to biocapacity; distributive justice; and efficient allocation. This framework includes: (1) an ecological communitarian conception of distributive justice which recognizes environmental sustainability as the first principle of distributive justice; (2) the rationale for biophysically-consistent ecological economic modeling of human activities as a basis for environmentally-enlightened policy and management; and (3) an appeal for scale-oriented environmental governance as could potentially be operationalized by a strong, centralized World Environment Organization. I further apply this framework to evaluating the current and future status of livestock production systems at regional and global scales with respect to efficiency considerations as well as their relationships to sustainability boundary conditions for human activities as a whole. It is suggested that the current and projected scale of the livestock sector is fundamentally unsustainable, and that all leverage points must be exploited to rein in this sector in the interest of preventing irreversible ecological change. This must include, but cannot be limited to, strong eco-efficiency measures and changes in production technologies, species substitutions, and consumption patterns and volumes. Outcomes are interpreted in terms of their implications for environmental policy and governance oriented towards the sustainability objective.