From Information and Simulation to Practical Solutions”

Pereslavl-Zalessky, Russia on July 16-21, 1995
Report for ISEE Bulletin (N1, 1996)
Paul Safonov
(Russian Academy of Sciences)


The second ISEE/RC meeting was held in Pereslavl-Zalessky, Russia on July 16-21, 1995. It was organized by ISEE Russian Chapter, Institute of Control Sciences (ICS) and Program Systems Institute (PSI) of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), Russian Ministry for Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, University of Pereslavl (UP), Tilburg University (KUB), European Centre for Nature Conservation (ECNC), and Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW, Mannheim).

Over 50 participants from 12 countries attended and helped draw attention to the current socio-economic and environmental predicament in Russia. A key purpose of the meeting was to call upon the combined talents of those in attendance to help articulate strategies for future development throughout Russia that will be economically sound and ecologically sustainable.

The presented papers focused on topics such as:

  • Regional and Global Problems of Sustainable Development;
  • Indicators of Sustainability;
  • Mechanisms of Ecological Regulation;
  • Environmental-Economic Information Systems and Natural Resource Accounts;
  • Ecological-Economic Modelling;
  • Education and Social Aspects.

At the opening session, a report was presented detailing the scientific heritage of an outstanding Russian environmental economist, K.G.Gofman (1934-1994), whose investigations during the last 25 years concentrated on theoretical and methodological problems of economic efficiency in environmental protection and reproduction of the natural resource potential, and the creation of economic regulation systems for environmentally sustainable economic development.

Analyzing the transition process of Eastern European societies towards sustainable development, Jan van der Straaten (Tilburg University) explained that the transition process is a difficult one, irrespective of geography. One of the greatest difficulties is that sound environmental policy is facilitated when the state machinery is able to implement strict norms. In Russia, where a strong state machinery was one of the most significant disadvantages of the past system, talk of a strong state machinery is not always appreciated. Additionally, it can be understood that strict norms are not easy to implement where a rise in the level of production is necessary and given a high profile. So while circumstances in Russia cause considerable frictions in the implementation of environmental policies, said van der Straaten, ecological economics can help to make clear that merely intensifying the level of production is detrimental to the long-term health of both the ecology and economy of the region.

A presentation of Bernardo Aguilar analyzed interactions between socio-economic indicators and ecosystem health in privately owned zones in Costa Rica. Helmut M. Knoflacher (Austria) spoke about sustainable development under constraints of systems dynamics and information transfer.

Anthony Friend (Canadian Chapter of ISEE) led a discussion on Indicators of Sustainability. Christian Azar and Ulrika Carlson (Goeteborg, Sweden) created the indicators, intended to give a warning signal to the unsustainable use of natural resources. The purpose is to have these socio-ecological indicators serve as a tool in planning and decision-making processes at various administrative levels in society.

As the structure of production changes problems in an economy in transition, one of the most pressing problems is that of unemployment, emphasized Anil Markandya (Harvard Institute for International Development): “Hitherto, the ‘costs’ of this unemployment have either focused on the value of the lost production, or on the cost to the government of supporting the unemployed, which is inappropriate from a social welfare viewpoint. He discussed the cost of unemployment in terms of their impacts on human welfare, particularly the health effects. On the positive side, as inefficient industries are shut down and as production responds to market pressures, wasteful government subsidies are reduced, as is the level of environmental pollution. Clearly therefore, there is a trade-off between the environmental and economic efficiency benefits on the one side, and the welfare costs of the unemployment” Markandya stated and proposed a model to analyze this trade-off, and investigated applications to the coal sector in Russia.

Rene Pizzati (Honduras) discussed the role of civil organizations in the sustainable development of a country. Mario Giampietro (Italy) talked about biophysical constraints in socio-economic processes of self-organization. He stressed that the field of ecological economics is forcing us to recognize the obvious fact that the objects of our analysis are complex systems, that operate on more hierarchical levels. This means that different perspectives have to be used when dealing with the same process on different levels. Our challenge is to find ways to bridge these different perspectives. However, we still don’t know how to translate the findings of different disciplines into the language used by the others. Giampietro asserted this is the real challenge facing the people working in the field of ecological economics – they must find as soon as possible new ways to listen and speak to economists, ecologists, and other classic scientists, decision makers, voters, consumers, etc. to encourage the overdue dialogue among all these actors.

In this effort we have to open our minds to different methods of thinking about science. For example, the Children Ecological Theater of Saratov gave a superb lesson on how to describe and communicate problems in the field of ecological economics, and its performance can also be considered a worthy contribution to the agenda of the meeting along with other strictly “scientific” presentations.

The field trips did a good job of providing participants with a taste of Russian culture and history an essential component in understanding the context in which economic activities are imbedded and the natural environment is used in the huge territory of Russia.

A session on ecological-economic modelling demonstrated different studies of scientists from the Russian Academy of Sciences, traditionally advanced in the field of mathematics.

For complex analysis of ecological-economic problems, forecasting development outcomes, and estimation of control efficiency, an interactive system for computer modelling – ECORUS was used in the research by Sergey Dubovsky. He presented several scenarios, and emphasized that the realization of special ecological programs (legislation, investment control) is necessary to stop the tendency of a severe aggravation of ecological problems.

The experimental calculations in accordance with a simulation dynamic input-output model of the national economy, elaborated by Elena Ryumina, have made it possible to trace the reaction of the national economy to the realization of various groups of environmental protection programs by the year 2005 and find the optimum criterion in macroeconimic model to achieve sustainable development.

To investigate the stability of anthropogenic biosphere Alexander Tarko has developed the world dynamics model, where ecological processes are described by a global spatially distributed carbon dioxide cycle model. According to the model, the positive development of a civilization with a high standard of living and large population during at least 1-2 centuries is possible. It is also shown, that the insufficient development of new technologies can result in the degradation of the biosphere within the next 50 years.

A session, chaired by Vladimir Gurman (University of Pereslavl), concentrated on Environmental-Economic Information Systems and Natural Resource Accounts. The environmental policy, as reported Olga Novoselova (Director of the Ecological Monitoring Department of the Russian Ministry of Environment), can not be implemented without a thoroughly elaborated ecological information decision-support system on the regional level. A fundamental structural reform of traditional data collection and processing activity is urged. As a result of contributions and discussions at the meeting, Anthony Friend suggested the idea of a project “An integrated accounting system of natural capital, economic development and environmental quality for Russia”, which was drafted together with Paul Safonov, and discussed after the Workshop with the representatives of Russian Ministries of Environment and Economy and State Statistical Committee.

The evaluation of the meeting by participants indicated the event was a successful attempt to exchange ideas and points of view between western and Russian ecological economists. Anil Markandya concluded:

“Clearly, the difficulty is to justify allocating resources to the environment when the economy is so depressed. However, several important arguments for making such allocations were presented at the Workshop, and, despite difficulties in communication, a great deal was achieved, and the field of ecological economics is now truly established in Russia”.

The workshop was highlighted on Russian television in a program focusing on the environment, where the significance of the meeting from a sustainable development perspective in Russia was pointed out. A volume of the selected papers of the Workshop is planned to be published either as a special issue of Ecological Economics or in book form.

Abstracts of ISEE/RC’95 in PDF format