In this paper we first critically review conventional environmental economics. We conclude that the standard theory offers too narrow a perspective for many real world problems and that many theories are not empirically tested. Consequently, environmental economics is at risk of producing aeroplanes without engines. Next, we welcome and discuss some recent trends, particularly the rapid developments of behavioural and new institutional economics as well as the increased interest in empirical analysis. Yet, we conclude that more „logical duels‟ between competing theories, more interaction between theory and empirics, and more integration between the social sciences are needed to achieve a better understanding of real world environmental problems and the development of adequate policy handles. Finally, we present an outline of steps towards the development of an environmental social science and briefly present the papers that make up this special issue as important building stones of such a discipline.