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Celebrating long-form environmental writing

The Eric Zencey Prize in Ecological Economics celebrates outstanding writing on the environmental limits of our finite planet.

Named after pioneering scholar Eric Zencey (1954-2019), the prize recognizes the best current affairs book or long-form journalism that advances public understanding of real-world environmental challenges using the principles of ecological economics, a field that explores the relationships between economics and Earth’s limited natural resources.

The biannual prize is currently valued at $4,000.

Zencey Prize criteria:

  • Current affairs book or long-form journalism
  • Written for a general audience
  • Published in 2018 or 2019
  • Addresses real-world environmental challenges
  • Uses principles of ecological economics
  • English language

The term “ecological economics” need not appear in submitted works, but the field’s underlying goals – understanding links among ecological, economic and social systems and advancing sustainability, equity, and human well-being – must be evident. 

“I hope this prize will inspire future generations of environmental writers and ecological economists to communicate real-world solutions beyond ‘the Ivory Tower,’” said Eric Zencey (1954-2019), an esteemed scholar and public intellectual who worked to understand and address the great environmental challenges we face.

The Zencey Prize is awarded by the Gund Institute, in collaboration with the U.S. Society of Ecological Economics.

About Eric Zencey

As a writer, thinker, teacher, and public intellectual, Eric Zencey (1954-2019) worked to bring ecological economics – a system for understanding the political, economic, social, and environmental challenges facing our civilization – out of the academy. The Zencey Prize in Ecological Economics honors that work and encourages others to continue it.

Born in Delaware and holding a PhD in political philosophy and the history of science, Zencey made substantial contributions to understanding the biophysical foundations of the economy during his career at the University of Vermont and Washington University in St. Louis. He believed that infinite economic growth is impossible on a finite planet, because the laws of thermodynamics apply to economic systems.

Zencey is author of four books, including The Other Road to Serfdom and the Path to Sustainable Democracy (UPNE); Greening Vermont: Towards a Sustainable State (with Elizabeth Courtney); and Virgin Forest (U of Georgia Press), a collection of essays on history, ecology, and culture. His first book was the internationally best-selling novel and New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Panama. His writing has appeared in media outlets ranging from  The New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education to Adbusters. Zencey has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller-Bellagio Foundation, and the Bogliasco Foundation.

In Vermont and Missouri, Zencey has been a pioneer in the compilation of and advocacy for the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), a more comprehensive measure of economic, social, and environmental health than GDP. His efforts led directly to Vermont becoming one of the first states in the nation to adopt GPI measurement.

Zencey’s affiliations at UVM included the Gund Institute, the Political Science Dept., the Honors College, the Center for Research on Vermont, and the Center for Rural Studies. At Washington University, his appointments included teaching and research positions in the College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the Sam Fox School for Design and Visual Art. Zencey also served as chair of the online history department at SUNY Empire State College, and taught in the college’s international programs, chiefly in Prague.

Read Eric Zencey's obituary

About the Zencey Prize

The Zencey Prize will be awarded every other year to the best book or work of long-form journalism that illuminates current affairs while advancing public understanding of the principles of ecological economics.

The winning author will visit UVM to receive the award, to give at least one public seminar and to engage with students. The winning author will also be named a Global Affiliate of the Gund Institute. The prize will not be awarded in years in which judges determine that no entry is sufficiently worthy.

“My sincere hope is that this Prize will help nudge our civilization onto a better path—one that arrives purposefully at an ecologically sustainable relationship between society and nature,” said Eric Zencey. “It’s important to me that the ideas we foster here in the Academy get to work in the world. I hope this prize will inspire future generations of environmental writers and ecological economists to communicate real-world solutions beyond ‘the Ivory Tower.’”

Diversity and inclusion are priorities of UVM and the Gund Institute, and we seek submissions from a broad range of journalists, authors, and scholars.

Submission Guidelines

Submissions must meet the criteria outlined above and come directly from the author or publisher. 

1. If available in electronic form, send nomination to gund@uvm.edu with subject line: Zencey Submission – [Your Full Name]

2. For physical books or magazine pieces, mail four copies to: 

Eric Zencey Prize in Ecological Economics
c/o Nora Shahoud
Gund Institute for Environment
617 Main St. 
Burlington, Vermont
05401
USA

3. All submissions, online or physical, require a cover letter (2-page max.) with: 

  • Clear contact information, including name, phone, email and mailing address
  • Brief, general overview of the submission, including a summary of how the piece uses the principles of ecological economics
  • Confirmation of original publication date of the submission

Support the Prize

The Zencey Prize endowment was created by Eric’s family and friends to honor his work, encourage others to continue it, and to support future generations of writers and scholars. Donate now to the Zencey Prize to help the fund grow.

Zencey Prize News

Contact

To recieve Eric Zencey Prize news, contact Basil Waugh