Ecological economics and degrowth principles

Number of ECTS: 6 Price: 720 €
Teaching Language: English Place: UAB Campus

Teaching Period: 25 June to 13 July


Professor:  Claudio Cattaneo

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Claudio Cattaneo holds a PhD in ecological economics from UAB, the same place the International Society for Ecological Economics was founded back in 1987. He is also a degrowth activist and one of the founding members of the association Research and Degrowth, which from 2008 promotes the divulgation of degrowth ideas in academic circles. He is now an Associate Professor at UAB and has been teaching Ecological Economics Principles and lecturing about Degrowth since 2003 in different European universities.


Contents overview

The conventional economic model is based on the hypothesis of infinite monetary growth, made of virtual bank money. Nonetheless it also requires considerable inputs of energy and materials, which are not infinite and have an impact on our planet. Environmental signals show us we are on the edge of a crisis and the uncertainty about our future environment relates to the development of a new discipline: ecological economics.

The course aims at presenting a new perspective in the economic field by relating it to the environment: it will consider the possibility of green economic growth, the main dilemmas and implications for the environment; students will be able to contrast two economic visions, that of growth-based economics and of ecological economics and the real-world implications of each one: the trade-off between economic growth (and job creation) and environmental protection and social justice. As well it aims to re-embed economic analysis with social and human dimensions.

The course will adopt Team-Based Learning a novel teaching method in which the students have to read compulsory material prior to the class, and will be evaluated with a closed-answer quiz at the start of each class, first to be answered alone, then with the team. The rest of the class will consist of a short traditional lecture (magistral class), watching a documentary related to the topic of the day, team work analysing the documentary, a presentation to the class by a team randomly selected and a class discussion based on the video presentation and the theory exposed. Homework assignments will be reading the material for the next day and, in the third week when all groups will have already presented, the writing of a report based on the video presentation and the feed-back obtained in class. The final mark will be based on the results of the closed-answer tests and the written report. In the last three days there will be two visits to real-life projects related to the topics of the course and, for the last day, an overall evaluation and take-home insights.

Contents and Teaching / learning activities
Week 1
Foundations of Ecological Economics

  • Monday: presentation of the course. 
  • Tuesday to Friday: compulsory home readings, quiz, short magistral class, video watching, team work, class presentation and discussion.

Week 2
Applications in Ecological Economics

  • Compulsory home readings, quiz, short magistral class, video watching, team work, class presentation and discussion.

Week 3
Degrowth principles, field visits

  • Monday and Tuesday: compulsory home readings, quiz, short magistral class, video watching, team work, class presentation and discussion. 
  • Wednesday and Thursday: field visits. 
  • Friday: evaluation and closing of the course

From day 2 to day 12 of the course: 11 closed-answer quizzes at the beginning of each class, based on the compulsory readings in preparation to the class. [Contributing to 50% of the final mark]
From day 2 to day 12 of the course: 11 video presentations –depending on the size of the team and the number of enrolled students, it is likely that each team will present more than once in class. [Contributing to 25% of the final mark]
By the end of week 2 [and after the completion of the first round of class presentations by the teams] handling a 2000-word report based on the video that has been presented, its relation to the theory learnt in class and the feedback received during the presentation. [Contributing to 25% of the final mark]
It is expected by the end of the class on day 12 (Tuesday of week 3) the student performance will have been completely evaluated and communicated

Links and references
Week 1: Foundations of ecological economics.
1) Readings will be available from this online book (most in Part I and Part II):
2) The first 9 activities from this website:

Week 2: Applications in ecological economics.
1) Readings from part VI of
2) A tutorial booklet on Social Multicriteria Evaluation (attached, with further readings in the reference section)

Week 3: Degrowth principles, field visits.
1) 5-6 activities from this website (those that follow “The story of stuff”)
2) Analyze and discuss entries from the degrowth vocaboulary