Environmental and Natural Resource Economics
Instructor: Vail, David
Subject area: Economics
Course number: 218
Year taught: 1997
Instructor's email: dvail@Bowdoin.edu
Please note that the copyright for this syllabus is retained by the
Course Objectives We shall not cease from exploration and the end of
all our exploring shall be to arrive where we started and know the place for the
first time. TS Eliot
The central goal of Economics 218 is to deepen students' "environmental
literacy" by applying basic economic concepts and tools to analyze forms of
environmental degradation such as pollution, resource depletion, and ecosystem
stress. A related goal is to develop your ability to evaluate alternative public
policy responses in terms of their goal attainment, cost-effectiveness, and
The course also encourages students to consider the perspective of ecological
economics: a way of thinking about relationships between the human species
and "nature" which starts from the premise that economies are open
sub-systems of ecosystems, co-evolving with them and subject to bio-geo-chemical
limits. This perspective leads naturally to an emphasis on the long term
sustainability of economic systems -and specifically capitalism-at the local,
national and global levels.
Economics 218 encourages and requires students' to be actively engaged with the
subject matter and with each other, in collaborative learning processes.
The assignment for each class will be announced in advance and you are urged to
come to class prepared for active involvement in the day's topic. Current events
dealing with environmental conditions, scientific discoveries, and public
policies will frequently be interspersed with the assigned material, and you are
encouraged to bring "news" to share with the class.
Monday discussions will be held from 9-10 and 10-l l, On eight Mondays
during the term, there will be student-led discussions, with the general topic,
suggested readings, and occasionally videos set out in the syllabus. Typically,
three students will organize and lead each discussion. Within the loose
framework of the designated topic, leaders are encouraged to come up with issues
and techniques that will encourage everyone to get involved. For many
topics, a "game-like" approach-role playing, experiment, debate,
etc.-is likely to be more effective than straight Q&A. Above all, discussion
leaders should not spend a lot of time lecturing (there will be plenty of that
in the regular classes). A separate form lists the eight discussion dates and
topics and asks you to indicate your preferred topics and classmates with whom
you'd like to collaborate as discussion leader.
Note that hour exams are also scheduled on two Mondays, 6 October and 17
November, and at least one Monday time slot late in the semester will be used to
begin planning the final project.
Detailed course topics and reading assignments are set out in the SYLLABUS. All
books used in the course are on H-L Library reserve in multiple copies. You are
strongly urged to purchase the core text, Eban Goodstein's Economics and the
Environment and to pay $7.00 to the Economics Department for copies of
nearly thirty articles listed in the SYLLABUS. Two recommended purchases are
Dorfrnan and Dorfman's collection of "classic" essays, Economics of
the Environment. Selected Readings (3e) and a set of chapters duplicated
from Tom Tietenberg's Environmental and Natural Resource Economics (Joe).
This fall there will be several campus events closely related to the course. A
partial list includes:
* 4 October: Conference on Health and the Environment
* 16 October: Norman Myers (Oxford University) lecture on "Population,
Consumption, and Sustainable Development"
* 20 November. Evan Richert (Director, Maine State Planning Office) lecture on
"Suburban Sprawl and Land Use Planning"
Grading Provisionally, the grade will be based on the following
components: Reaction essays and problems 25% Class participation 15% Two hour
exams 40% Final project 20% Any proposed changes in the grade formula will be
discussed with the class.
Reaction essays are short responses to particular
readings or authors' contentions: maximum 2 pages, double-spaced. As the term
"reaction" implies, they are not summaries of a reading, but rather
your own thoughts about an issue or argument. The purpose is to encourage you to
reflect on and react to a reading that will be emphasized in class.
Class participation includes leadership of Monday discussions twice
during the semester as well as involvement in day-today class activities.
Attendance is not normally taken at Wednesday and Friday classes, but it will be
noted at Monday discussions and at classes preceding and following the scheduled
October and November breaks.
Hour exams are provisionally scheduled for 6 October and 17 November. If
for some valid reason! you need to shift in an exam or essay due date. the
change must be approved in advance.
The final project will focus on two controversial global challenges to
sustainable development: preserving biodiversity and human-caused
climate change. The class will divide into two teams and the project will
entail research and writing as well as oral presentations during the reading
Texts: In the following schedule of readings:
* Goodstein refers to Eban Goodstein, Economics and the Environment
* Tietenberg refers to Tom Tietenberg, Environmental anal Natural Resource
* Dorfman refers to Robert and Nancy Dorfman, eds., Economics of the
Numbered Readings: A set of handouts available to students for a fee of
$7. to cover duplication and copyright release costs.
I. THE ECONOMY WITHIN THE ECOSYSTEM (1.5 weeks) Goodstein chapter I and
take a look at ch. 3 Herman Daly, "From empty-world economics to full-world
economics" [ I ] Carl Folke, et al. "Investing in Natural Capital -
Why, What and How?" 
(8 Sept) Discussion 21 - Environmental Ethics: Good and Bad Right and Wrong Goodstein
chapters 2 & 9 plus pp. 177-81 Peter Singer, "Environmental
Values"  Robert F. Kennedy Jr., "Pollution's chief victims: the
poor"  John Bellamy Foster, "Global Ecology and the Common
II. ECONOMIC ANALYSIS OF ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION (3.5 weeks) Goodstein
chapters 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10 and appendix T1 & review ch. 9 Garrett Hardin,
"The Tragedy of the Commons", Dorfman ch. l Richard Wilson and E.
Crouch, "Risk Assessment and Comparisons", Dorfman ch. 24 John
O'Neill, "Cost-Benefit Analysis, Rationality and the Plurality of
(15 Sept) Discussion 42 - Environmental Degradation and Death: Valuing Human
Life Goodstein pp. 99-102 Steven Landefeld and Eugene Seskin, "The
Economic Value of Life", Dorfman ch. 22 Thomas Schelling, "The Life
You Save May be Your Own", Dorfman ch. 23 Robert Bullard, "Toxic
Colonialism Abroad" 
(22 Sept) Discussion #3 - Discounting the Future: Economics and Ethics Goodstein
pp. 63-72 Timothy Brennan, "Discounting the Future: Economics and
Ethics"  Laura Wallace and William Cline, "Discounting Our
(6 Oct) First Exam
III. US ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION POLICIES (3 WEEKS) Goodstein review pp.
79-81, chapters 11 through 17 plus appendixes T2 and T4 K. Arrow et al.
"Benefit Cost Analysis in Environmental, Health and Safety
Regulation" John Adams, "Cost Benefit Analysis: the Problem, Not
the Solution"  Ronald Bailey, "Environmentalism for the 215t
Century"  Dallas Burtraw, "Trading Emissions to Clean the Air:
Exchanges Few, Savings Many" 
(13 Oct) Discussion - Power, Politics and Environmental Policy review
Goodstein chapter 11 plus pp 252-58 Cam Duncan, "Anti-Environmental
Blitzkrieg"  David Helvarg, "The big green spin machine" 
(Friday 24 Oct) Discussion 4-5 - 1997's Hot Button Issue: Tighter USAir
Quality Standards review Goodstein pp 216-20, 230-37 J. W. Anderson,
"Revising the Air Quality Standards"  Clipping File: 1997 Air
Quality Standards 
IV. THE ECONOMICS OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES (2.5 weeks)
Goodstein chapter 18 Tietenberg, chapters 2 (pp 16-19), 6, 8, 11, 12 Christopher
Flavin, "Fossil Fuel Use Surges to New High" (Vital Signs 1997)
 Anne McGinn, "Global Fish Catch Remains Steady" (Yital Signs
(3 Nov) Discussion 6 - Recycling: Panacea or a Waste of Resources? Review
Goodstein pp 340-41, 355-64 and Tietenberg ch. 8 John Tierney, "Recycling
is Garbage"  video: "Waste Not Want Not" (Race to Save the
(10 Nov) Discussion 7 - What are Nature 's Services Worth? Review Folke
et al.  page 4 Robert Costanza et al. "Value ofthe World's Ecosystem
Services and Natural Capital"  Cornmentaries on Costanza et al. 
(17 Nov) Second exam
V. SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF GLOBAL CAPITALISM (3 weeks & reading period)
Goodstein chapters 5 and l 9 through 22 review Folke et al.  K. Arrow, et
al., "Econornic Growth, Carrying Capacity and the Environment" 
Robert Solow, "Sustainability: An Economist's Perspective", Dorfrnan
ch. 11 H. Daly, "Operationalizing Sustainable Development by Investing in
Natural Capital"  David Vail, "Organizational Resilience and
Sustainable Development"  Robert Costanza, et al., "Sustainable
Trade"  Scott Barrett, "International Cooperation for
Environmental Protection", Dorfrnan ch. 26 review John Bellamy Foster 
(24Nov) Discussion #8 - Consumption, Well-Being, and Sustainability Goodstein
Chapter 20, pp. 458-464, review chapter 9 Alan Durning, "Asking How Much is
Enough"  Redefining Progress, "Gross Production vs. Genuine
Progress: 1950-1994"  Stephen Moore, "The Corning Age of
Abundance"  video: "Do We Really Want to Live Like This?" (Race
to Save the Planet)
Final week of classes and reading period - two global challenges to
sustainability: - Preserving Biodiversity as a Global Public Good: Why? How?
- Climate Change as Degradation of a Global Commons. Why? How?
*Readings to be announced
Topics for Monday Discussions: (students sign up to lead discussions)
8 #1 - Environmental ethics: good and bad, right and wrong
15 #2 - Environmental degradation and death: valuing human lives
22 #3 -Discounting the future: economics and ethics
13 #4 - Power, politics and environmental policy
24 #5 - 1997's hot button issue: tighter US air quality standards
3 #6 - Recycling: panacea or a waste of resources?
10 #7 - What are nature's services worth?
24 #8 - Consumption, well-being and sustainability