Welcome to ESEE2022 Pisa from the LOC

A warm welcome to the XIV International Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics (ESEE 2022), and welcome to Pisa!

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.  

The UN’s Brundtland report identified two key concepts for defining sustainability, acknowledgment of limitation and satisfaction of needs, regardless of their temporal dimension (http://www.un-documents.net/ocf-02.htm). Unfortunately, a distorted interpretation has become mainstream, namely that sustainability is a mere concern for the future. Perhaps this is the reason for the delays in political action and for the growth-mania, the illusion that economic growth will solve our problems, despite the increasing amount of scientific evidence of biophysical limits and the claims for more justice advocated by social movements.

Regrettably, it seems that every year the distance between what should be done and what we do remains the same: the system seems locked into unsustainable trajectories and policies have not been capable of freeing us from them. This situation recalls to our mind the famous story of Achilles and the tortoise. The Zeno’s paradox entails that movement, and hence change, is not seen as possible. The paradox has been solved by a paradigmatic shift. Similarly, attaining sustainability requires a change in the vision of politicians and the collective imagination. The conference intends to provide a forum for scientific debate and discussion on theoretical and practical issues to answer the following questions:

Will politicians catch up with science and engaged civil society?
What are the transformative actions to escape from the current unsustainable paths? 

Around 450 papers (out of 620 submissions) will be presented in about 50 sessions during the conference.
The sessions are organized around the following broad themes:  

  • Transformations 
  • Theory and new ideas 
  • Teaching and communication 
  • Resources 
  • Policies 
  • Institutions and power 
  • Business and transition 
  • Behaviours and social change 
  • Alternative economies 

As Ecological Economists, we are aware of the limits that constrain our actions. The conferences received many submissions, but the available time does not exceed three days and a half. Additionally, we face space limits, namely the number and the size of rooms available for the conference. For example, the large Congress Hall next to the Department of Economics and Management was available when Pisa’s LOC applied to organize the conference but unfortunately, it is not anymore. Hence, we will have to move to the Stazione Leopolda for the lunch (10-minute walk) and behind Polo Piagge for the coffee breaks. Furthermore, plenaries must be held in two remotely connected rooms.  

The time and space limits we face make it impossible to conceive our conference as a place where we can present and discuss in-depth our works, as in seminars. Rather, our conference is a place for meeting in-person to become aware and get updated about the work in progress in our community. A compromise solution for having many participants in a limited environment is to have short presentations. This would allow avoiding the frustrating experience of a very high number of parallel sessions. For this reason, the 2022 Pisa conference offers participants the opportunity to give 5-minute lightning talks (“elevator pitches”) in only 4 or 5 parallel sessions, hence to a large audience.  

To encourage the acceptance of this novelty we also offered the possibility to participate in a lot for presenting for 15 minutes to the same large audience. This opportunity is also given to six students selected among those who applied to the student best papers competition. We hope that experiencing the new presentation formats will show that shortness can contribute to the enjoyment of the ESEE conferences.  

Finally, we reaffirm that it is highly worth meeting each other, despite our concern for carbon emissions (and flights). For this reason, we offered fee reductions for using less unsustainable travel modes to get to Pisa. Of course, in exceptional cases, we allow remote presentation, while plenaries and special events will be broadcasted on YouTube. An online conference archive will be maintained to make abstracts/conference presentations/full papers available after the conference. 

The opening lecture will be held by Samuel Bowles, while the closing one by Joan Martínez Alier. We organised a “Question time!” involving politicians and engaged civil society, plenaries on “The future of Energy”, “The art of communication” and “Sustainable finance”. The final round table on “50 years after …” and the final ceremony will not be  


You’ll have some more; we will cross the bridge and go back to Stazione Leopolda to play the “Games for Sustainability”. The day after, a bunch of survivors will move to the Apuan Alps for four-days hiking and discussions. At home, you will feel nostalgia for ecological economics … no worries, surf our webpage and listen to the podcast of the XIV ESEE conference “Back to the future: talks on Ecological Economics”, realized in collaboration with Il Bo Live (University of Padua). 

We wish you all an inspiring and pleasant conference. Hope you will enjoy your stay and the city of Pisa! 

Tommaso Luzzati and Tiziano Distefano  
with Claudia Riani, Janne Mercedes Prinsen, and the L.O.C.