Rich Burkmar

An economically curious ecologist


Rich Burkmar with microscope

An ecologist by instinct and training, macro-economics has always alienated me because of the unchallenged hegemony of growth. Throughout my adult life, I’ve been acutely aware of degradation of the environment being driven by the economy, but the universal advocacy for economic growth led me to think that there must be a fundamental requirement for it that I just hadn’t grasped. But in the summer of 2022 my good friend Richard Price (the creator of gifted me a copy of Jason Hickel’s book Less is More. I started to read the book without much appetite for it, but soon found it hard to put down. I felt as though the scales had fallen from my eyes. It made me realise that the reason economic growth seems so fundamental to our way of life is that our social and economic structures have, for centuries, been deliberately structured around it to provide opportunities for a limited number of people to accumulate wealth. Nature is commodified and enclosed to facilitate growth and the accumulation of wealth into the hands of these few.

The book changed my outlook: where previously I had viewed the future – especially the future for my children and grandchildren – with a sort of resigned hopelessness, Jason Hickel showed me that there is an alternative to riding the juggernaut of growthism to oblivion. He calls it degrowth – others prefer the term post-growth economics. He showed me that there is nothing fundamentally necessary about untrammeled GDP growth and that there are better, achievable ways for us all to lead good lives and fulfil our potential.

This website is my response to that realisation. To bring about a new economic paradigm that gives all the world’s people a fighting chance for a just and prosperous future, we must start by challenging the current hegemony of growthism – or developing a counter-hegemony as Schmelzer et al (2021)1Schmelzer, M., Vetter. A. and Vansintjan, A. (2022). The Future is Degrowth: A Guide to a World Beyond Capitalism. United Kingdom: Verso. put it . I want this website to help me make whatever small contribution I can to moving that debate higher up the social and political agendas.

I started my adult life with a degree in zoology followed by a PhD in avian ecology2Burkmar, R. J. (1991). The effects of upland pasture improvement on breeding passerine populations, particularly skylarks and meadow pipits.. After a short spell working as an ecologist, I moved to the IT sector where I worked for 15 years as a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) applications developer. After completing an MSc in biological recording3Burkmar, R. J. Ecology and Habitat Requirements of the Sandhill Rustic Moth (Luperina nickerlii gueneei Doubleday, 1864) at Birkdale Green Beach, Merseyside., I moved back into the ecology sector where I have now been for some 17 years, along the way managing a Local Biodiversity Action Plan4The North Merseyside Local Biodiversity Action Plan., a Local Environmental Records Centre5Merseyside BioBank Local Environmental Records Centre. and running a biological recording training and research programme6Tomorrow’s Biodiversity – a five year project for the Field Studies Council. Outputs from the research phase of the project included three reviews: Drivers of Biodiversity Loss, Monitoring and Indicators of UK Biodiversity Change, and The shifting Paradigm of Biological Identification.. For the last four years I’ve worked as a web application developer with the UK Centre of Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH) where I utilise both my ecological and coding skills.

None of the above qualifies me as an commentator on economics! Yet a new battle of economic paradigms is where I believe the future of humanity and nature will be won or lost. And if I can get my head around it, then so can anyone else. I don’t feel any compunction about diving into economics without an economics background: politician-economists with no ecological background or empathy for nature have, for decades, facilitated profound environmental damage. What the economy needs today is more opinionated input from ecologists, sociologists and anyone else who wants to call a halt on the most destructive and wrong-headed project ever forced upon humanity and the planet.

As well as my thoughts on economics, the website is a home for some of my other writing, including articles that I published on a wildlife gardening website I created in 2003 (called Space For Nature), some that I wrote for a biological recording blog which I briefly flirted with in 2013, the odd poem here and there and other odds and sods!