Economics, Environment and Community
Hempstead, New York
Instructor: Christensen, Paul
Subject area: Economics
Year taught: 1996
Instructor's Email Address: ECOPPC@vaxc.hofstra.edu
Please note that the copyright for this syllabus is retained by the
Discipline: Economics; a university "core" course in social
sciences, this course is for non-majors. I structure course to develop a natural
science and evolutionary foundation for understanding our history as a species,
our economy, and our interaction with environment.
Recommended Texts and Readings:
J. Peet, Energy & Ecological Economics of Sustainability (Island Press,
P. Harrison, The Third Revolution: Population, Environment and a Sustainable
In addition to the Harrison and Peet books, a number of individual readings are
assigned on various topics. Our approach is to develop an interdisciplinary
approach to environment and economy which integrates a physical and ecological
approach (natural science) with a technological and organizational approach to
economics. We will briefly cover the standard <neoclassical> market
approach to Resources and Environment but this will only constitute a small part
of the course. The goal is develop an <ecological and social> approach to
economics. We start with the material, energetic, and information basics of
physical and biological production systems. We then outline an evolutionary
understanding of the natural environment and the development of human cultures
and technology. Our understanding of how markets work is developed from this
physical and evolutionary approach. Throughout the course we develop an
understanding of resource and environmental issues and policies for
environmental and social sustainability in terms of this framework.
Homework Assignments, Two Papers (6-7 pp.), Two Exams and Final.
1. Theories: Ways of Thinking about Nature, Economy, and Society
Peet, Ch 2: "The Scientific World View"
Timothy Ferris, "This is not the Universe", The Mind's Eye.
Gregory Bateson, "Every Schoolboy Knows", Mind and Nature: a Necessary
2. Scarcity: Limits to Growth or Market Abundance?
Julian Simon, "Pre-Debate Statement," Scarcity or Abundance
Lester Brown, "Nature's Limits", State of the World-1995.
3. Emergence of Global Environmental Problems
M. Oppenheimer, Preface & ch. 1-2: Dead Heat, pp. 1-33.
Harrison, ch. 15, 3rd Revolution
4. Standard Economics: Basic Assumptions and Approach
Peet, Ch. 4: "The Political-Economic World View"
H. Kohler, "Marginal Benefits and Marginal Costs", Economics, pp.
5. Market Based Solutions to Environmental Problems
T. Tietenberg, Ch 2&3, "Economics of the Environment" (Sel),
6. Matter, Energy, Information, and Organization: a bio/ecol approach
Peet, Ch. 1: "Energy in Nature", pp. 1-11
Dahl, "ECOSystems as a model for understanding Nature and Economy"
Harrison, ch. 2: "Three Billion Years of Environmental Crisis"
7. A Physical-Organizational Approach to Economics
P. Christensen, ch. 4: "MEITO: A Production Approach to Economics"
8. Exponential Growth: The Problem of Growing Numbers
D. Meadows, Ch. 2: "The Driving Force: Exponential Growth," Beyond the
9. Is Population the Problem? a Problem?
T.R. Malthus, Chs. 1 & 2: selections, Essay on Population
Harrison, ch. 1: "One Part Wisdom: The Great Debate"
10. The New Resource Limits
J. Gever, R. Kaufmann, Chs 1-2: "Carrying Capacity & Declining Resource
Harrison, ch. 3: "The New Limits"
11. The New Environmental Limits
P.&A. Ehrlich, Intro & Ch. 1:"Saving the Planet?" &
"Our Life Support Systems"
12. The Problems with Fossil Fuels (Energy and Affluence)
P&A Ehrlich, Ch. 2: "Energy and the Environment"
13. Green Revolutions: Can the World Feed Itself?
L. Brown, "The Vulnerability of Oil-Based Farming"
Patnaik, "Social & Econ Consequences of Growth"
Paarlberg, "Politics of Agricultural resource Abuse", Environment
14. Destroying and Sustaining Forests
Daniel Orr, "Forests and Trees," Earth in Mind.
Alan Durning, "Redesigning the Forest Economy," State of the
15. Bio-Diversity and the Health of Ecosystems
E.O. Wilson, "Is Humanity Suicidal?" NYT Magazine (5/30/93).
P. Harrison, Ch. 4: "The Passing of Biodiversity"
16. Land and Water Pollution
Harrison, chs. 13-14, "Solid Waste" and "Sea of Troubles:
VIDEO: "Ocean Planet"
17. Ocean Fisheries
C. Safina, "The World's Imperiled Fish," Scientific American (Nov.
18. Human Health
Ann Misch, "Assessing environmental Health Risks", State of the
19. Towards Sustainable Development Possible?
Harrison, chs. 19-20: "Options for Action" & "Towards the
Paul Elkins, "Making Development Sustainable" in Sachs, ed., Global