Final Report

XIV International Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics (ESEE 2022), Pisa 14-17 June

“Will Achilles catch up with the tortoise?” It’s high time for transformative action on sustainability

On June 14-17, 2022, the 14th International Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics (ESEE) was held in Pisa. The Conference was organized by the Institute for Research on Land and Environment – “Leonardo” (IRTA-Leonardo) and was supported by the Department of Economics and Management of the University of Pisa. The local committee was headed by Prof. Tommaso Luzzati in collaboration with Dr. Tiziano Distefano.

This year is a special one: exactly 50 years ago the environmental crisis was internationally acknowledged during the first UN conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm. In those fruitful times, Georgescu-Roegen gave us early warnings that technology alone cannot provide us the fix; rather, we need to curb the huge waste of energy and matter that does not add to our well-being. After fifty years we know he was right, but we remain hesitant. While some progress has been achieved, overall environmental degradation has become increasingly alarming. 

Concerns regarding environmental issues and growing social inequality are more and more at the center of attention for the academic world. The large turnout of scholars from Europe and beyond at the conference clearly shows it: a total of about 550 people attended it, of whom more than 450 presented their scholarly contributions. In additionƒ, about 50 students from the summer schools organized on the sidelines of the conference on the previous days (June 11-14) by the University of Pisa in collaboration with MIT Boston and Virginia Tech were also able to attend.

The main thematic areas covered the impact of social and environmental policies, the role of both institutions and individuals in the ecological transition process, the use of resources, the proposals for alternative development models, including the post-de-growth debate and eco-feminism, and also issues related to the epistemological foundations of the discipline.

For about 60 percent of the participants, this ecological economics conference was the first one they had attended. This was in part due to the participation of more than 160 doctoral students and about 60 students from both masters and three-year courses. Young people’s participation was encouraged by very low participation fees for doctoral students presenting papers and free participation for all hearing students. This was made possible by a generous liberal contribution from the Bank of Italy.

Great attention was dedicated to the sustainability aspects of the event: those who traveled by less polluting means (train, bus, and ship) were guaranteed a discount depending on the distance traveled. The majority of requests were for the 1000-1500 km range, confirming the great sensitivity to the issue of transportation climate-changing emissions by the Ecological Economics community. More than 210 lecturers benefited from the discount. This resulted in more than €7,000 in contributions from the organization. In addition, those from more remote areas or those with difficult personal or family circumstances were guaranteed an online presentation. In terms of food choices, nearly 30 percent opted for a vegetarian diet to which another 10 percent of vegans should be added.

The XIV  ESEE Conference was characterized also by the inclusion of the whole community and, in general, of the non-expert audience. Live broadcasts of all plenary sessions were transmitted on Youtube, and all recordings are accessible to everyone on the website’s conference. Moreover, a special session was also organized called “Question Time!”,  in which some representatives of civil society (e.g Fridays for Future) together with middle school children were the protagonists of questions asked to politicians of national and international prominence (such as Conte, Lamberts, Letta, Toussaint).  To conclude the ESEE Conference, Right after the “Question Time!” session, at the Leopolda session it took place an event opened to all dedicated to board games on the topic of sustainability.

For further information visit the Conference website: