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In my study I analyze how the role of natural capital has changed in particular trends, how it has emerged from time to time and how it has been brought into prominence again nowadays. I think that this is quite an interesting topic, since while for instance in the case of Marshall (whose work can be described as the textbook of the given era), or Nordhaus-Samuelson, today’s textbooks do not really involve natural capital, the state of natural capital is rather changing, which arises interesting questions within economics as well. First I define natural capital and briefly outline its functions, and then I present the role of natural capital from the physiocrats through the neo-classics with some Schumpeterian detour. Finally, I present ecological footprint which based on importance of natural capital. The concept of natural capital today is almost inseparable from the concept of (the environmental aspects of) sustainability, which can be interpreted in different ways depending on which approach of economics it is based on. Thus we get different definitions of sustainability if we start out from the neoclassical welfare-based environmental economics or from the understanding of ecological economics. While the former is an economic growth-oriented techno-optimist, the latter is a steady state-oriented techno-pessimist approach [MÁLOVICS – BAJMÓCY 2009]. Both sustainability paradigms emphasize the importance of ecosystems, which are generally grasped by economics through the concept of natural capital [EKINS et al. 2003, GUTÉS 1996]


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