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The book “Understanding Sustainability Economics” by Peter Söderbaum is offering a synthesis of major themes in ecological economics and sustainable development, which have been prominent in the policy and theoretical debates of the 1960s-2010s. Embracing the Scandinavian tradition of institutionalism, Peter Söderbaum is emphasizing the approaches to the economic analysis he has been developing over the course of his long and productive career.

Starting with Positional Analysis, and stakeholder approach to decision making, Peter devoted considerable attention to the development of the questions of values and ideological orientations of economic and political actors, pluralism in economic analysis and democracy both in day-to-day environmental problem solving and in the economic science per se. In the “Understanding Sustainability Economics” Prof. Söderbaum pays particular attention to the themes, which by the will of fate, became the central themes of my work too. Multidimensional nature of development, the role of ecosystems in the functioning of the economy, non-monetary valuation methods in decision aid, alternative economic thinking, sustainability assessment – all these themes have been key to the ecological economic paradigm shift.

Over the course of the past ten years my own research, to a large extent influenced by the works of Peter Söderbaum, whom I have known for 12 years, evolved along a very similar set of dimensions, often exploring mathematical, empirical and policy aspects. The ideas of non-monetary valuation coupled with multicriteria decision aid techniques the aim of sustainability assessment at the regional scale led to the creation of the new regional ecological-economic model, which was applied to the sustainable waste management and became the centre piece of my PhD in 2000-2003. This work emphasized the importance of multicriteria optimization for sustainable development; the results were published in Ecological Economics in 2006.

Multidimensional nature of development process, incommensurability of values and the need for the new ways to assess sustainability puzzled me a great deal. This led to the development of a new tool for sustainability assessment at the macro scale based on the application of multicriteria decision aid tools. Two papers are published in this subject in the journal, Ecological Economics and this subject is covered in great length in my new book, Ecological Economics: Sustainability in Practice, to be published by Springer in November 2011.

My involvement in the IUCN project focused on multidimensional assessment of ecosystems and biodiversity led to the preparation of the report that emphasized the different dimensions of ecosystem value, emphasizing various stakeholder preferences and orientations. Opposing the monetary valuation of ecosystems and biodiversity, I took part in the preparation of the UNEP The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity report as a reviewer of Chapter I. In this role I did everything possible to make sure that a more pluralistic, ecological-economic and multi-criteria approach is adopted as opposed to single-dimensional economic valuation. Unfortunately my efforts were not enough to make such a multidimensional vision of ecosystem value a reality.

Two books that are coming out this year, “Ecological Economics: Sustainability in Practice” (Springer) and “Sustainability Analysis: An Interdisciplinary Approach” (Palgrave) where I had a pleasure to be the lead author or an editor illustrate the wide range of cutting edge applications that developed further the ideas of ecological economics, adopted an interdisciplinary approach and became possible in part due to the work that was carried out by Professor Peter Söderbaum for the past 40 years.

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