Outgoing President’s Letter

When I came into office two years ago, I was motivated by a situation of multiple crises and transformations in which many people have lost trust in traditional economic recipes, looking upon economics more as a problem than a solution, and turning to Ecological Economics to provide better solutions. I felt there was now a window of opportunity for alternative interpretations of socio-economic and socio-ecological reality. Could I contribute, during my two years in office, to strengthen the International Ecological Economics community to grab this opportunity?

The conference in Reykjavik (June 2014) attracted 450 participants from 44 countries for the theme “Wellbeing and Equity within Planetary Boundaries”. It closed with a cramped session in which, chaired by president-elect Sabine O’Hara, several of the past presidents of ISEE expressed their confidence in the intellectual capacity of the EE community, and many young members volunteered for supporting the society in its tasks.

It is easier to recall the strategic organizational issues tackled. And there indeed was something to do.

  • The first thing to handle was a constitutional challenge to the last board and president-elect elections: there had been fewer candidates than our bylaws ask for. This was resolved by a referendum in which an overwhelming majority of the members endorsed the outcomes of the election. The good news now is that for the latest election we had substantially more than two candidates per open seat. Apparently, serving the ISEE organizationally has gained in attractiveness.
  • Next ISEE’s dire financial situation had to be stabilized; thanks to Binna Davidsdottir’s careful management of ISEE’s conference in Reykjavik in June 2014, and Board decisions taken towards a very restrictive spending policy, ISEE is now out of the red. Great thanks to Anne Aitken for reorganizing bookkeeping and control of finances!
  • Success may get you into trouble, too. This was the case with our Journal Ecological Economics, a great story regarding impact points, subscriptions, and downloads, but attracting numbers of submissions that surmount any reasonable workload for one editor (Richard Howarth) and one part-time managing editor (Anne Aitken). With strong support from Steve Hatfield-Dodds who took responsibility for handling this task as chair of the communications committee, a new editorial model was developed that backs up Rich Howarth by 8 co-editors who each self-dependently deal with a share of the submissions. These editors areStefan Baumgärtner, Karlheinz Erb, Janne I. Hukkinen, Roldan Muradian, Ellie Perkins, Leonie J. Pearson, Irene Ring and Dale S. Rothman. I am very grateful to all partners involved (including the publisher Elsevier) that we could find such a new high-quality solution. (The remaining, or rather newly emerging, problem with Elsevier’s new and apparently troublesome electronic submission system I gladly leave to my successor!)
  • It is chronically difficult to keep up the number of members of the Society: they fluctuate around 1100, and a reduced subscription price of the Journal is not as attractive as it used to be before the spread of institutional access. One of the key services we provide to members is a weekly newsletter. In the past two years, this newsletter announced dozens of vacancies, books, awards, and conferences. This activity makes ISEE’s regional conferences visible and better accessible, such as ESEE’s conference in Leeds (June 2015), the Russian Society’s (RSEE) conference in Kazan, July 2015, the 11th National Meeting of the Brazilian Society in Sao Paulo in Sept. 2015, the joint Canadian and US CANSEE conference in Vancouver, Oct. 2015, the ANZSEE conference in Armindale, Australia , Oct. 15, the 7th conference of the ASAUEE in Neuquen, Argentina, in Nov. 2015, and the 8th INSEE conference in Bangalore, Jan 2016. The meeting of the Chinese Society for Ecological Economics in July 2015 was only post festum brought to our attention by its keynote speaker Bob Costanza. Still, ISEE’s communication and networking activities could be improved – but this will require some additional manpower that hopefully the newly elected Board can provide.
  • ISEE builds upon an inter-linkage of regional and national societies. In the past period, the criteria for affiliation of such regional or national societies to ISEE had to be clarified and newly defined. This was not such an easy task as there needs to be some organizational and also economic accountability of the partners, but the legal bases of scientific societies vary strongly across countries. Thanks to a broad and lively debate under the guidance of Sharad Lele we managed to arrive at a fairly non-bureaucratic solution and can offer more transparent conditions to the EE societies springing up in many places of the world. So most recently we hope we can help to successfully revive the African Society of Ecological Economics and are working on ties with the already mentioned Chinese society.

So after these two busy years, I am happy to withdraw as active president and lean back a little. However, my successor Sabina O’Hara, and the organizational heart of the Society, Anne Aitken, can always call on me.

I thank Bina Agarwal who now will be relieved from her office as past president for all her efforts in support of ISEE, and hope she will continue to be a resource the Society may draw upon, just as much as Peter May who, as a former officer, helped me survive occasional rough waters.

I wish the newly elected Board, and in particular, the new president-elect Clóvis Cavalcanti much energy and good luck for their tasks, and hope to meet you all at the ISEE Conference in Washington, D.C.

–Marina Fischer-Kowalski