1996 Right Livelihood Laureate Herman Daly passed away on October 28, 2022.

Laureate Herman Daly, who brought economy and ecology together, dies at 84

News 31.10.2022

American economist Herman Daly, who received the 1996 Right Livelihood Award for his groundbreaking synthesis of the relationship between economy, ecology and ethics, has died. He passed away on October 28, 2022, at the age of 84.

“Herman Daly redefined economics, forging a way forward that does not include the destruction of our environment for economic gain,” said Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director of Right Livelihood. “He sought to demote the notion of growth as the most important economic driver and replace it with a model that respects the limits of our natural resources. It is now our imperative to implement his contributions and ensure sustainable life on our planet.”

Daly made a masterly synthesis of the application of classical concepts of capital and income to resources and the environment, the laws of thermodynamics, and the insights of ecology. With the latter, he incorporated the concepts of flows of materials and energy through economic systems.

This synthesis has resulted in a leap in understanding why dominating economic systems are destroying the environment. Daly’s insights have deeply influenced the debate about what should be done about this question.

“What happens, according to ecological economics, is that the economy grows mainly by transforming its environment (natural capital) into itself (manmade capital). This process of transformation takes place within a total environment that is finite, non-growing, and materially closed,” Daly said in his Right Livelihood Award acceptance speech.

“But if manmade and natural capital are complements rather than substitutes, as ecological economics claims, then expansion of the economic subsystem would be much more stringently limited by that complementarity. There would be no point in transforming natural capital into manmade capital beyond the capacity of remaining natural capital to complement and sustain it.”

In 1989, Daly was one of the key figures in the founding of the International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE). ISEE is a leading forum linking economists and ecologists, as well as academics and activists. Daly was active within the network of Right Livelihood Laureates and was seen and heard in lectures, podcasts, and articles until very recently. Up to his death, Daly was also a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy.

He received the Right Livelihood Award for “defining a path of ecological economics that integrates the key elements of ethics, quality of life, environment and community.”

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