Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

Bowdoin College
Brunswick, Maine

Instructor: Vail, David
Subject area: Economics
Department: Economics
Course number: 218
Year taught: 1997
Level: Undergraduate

Instructor's email: dvail@Bowdoin.edu
Please note that the copyright for this syllabus is retained by the instructor.

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 equity.

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.

Reading Assignments
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).

Related Activities
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 period.


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 Economics (4e)
* Dorfman refers to Robert and Nancy Dorfman, eds., Economics of the Environment (3e)

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?" [2]

(8 Sept) Discussion 21 - Environmental Ethics: Good and Bad Right and Wrong Goodstein chapters 2 & 9 plus pp. 177-81 Peter Singer, "Environmental Values" [3] Robert F. Kennedy Jr., "Pollution's chief victims: the poor" [4] John Bellamy Foster, "Global Ecology and the Common Good" [5]

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 Values" [6]

(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" [7]

(22 Sept) Discussion #3 - Discounting the Future: Economics and Ethics Goodstein pp. 63-72 Timothy Brennan, "Discounting the Future: Economics and Ethics" [8] Laura Wallace and William Cline, "Discounting Our Descendants" [9]

(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"[10] John Adams, "Cost Benefit Analysis: the Problem, Not the Solution" [11] Ronald Bailey, "Environmentalism for the 215t Century" [12] Dallas Burtraw, "Trading Emissions to Clean the Air: Exchanges Few, Savings Many" [13]

(13 Oct) Discussion - Power, Politics and Environmental Policy review Goodstein chapter 11 plus pp 252-58 Cam Duncan, "Anti-Environmental Blitzkrieg" [14] David Helvarg, "The big green spin machine" [15]

(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" [16] Clipping File: 1997 Air Quality Standards [17]

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) [18] Anne McGinn, "Global Fish Catch Remains Steady" (Yital Signs 1997) [19]

(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" [20] video: "Waste Not Want Not" (Race to Save the Planet)

(10 Nov) Discussion 7 - What are Nature 's Services Worth? Review Folke et al. [2] page 4 Robert Costanza et al. "Value ofthe World's Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital" [21] Cornmentaries on Costanza et al. [22]

(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. [2] K. Arrow, et al., "Econornic Growth, Carrying Capacity and the Environment" [23] Robert Solow, "Sustainability: An Economist's Perspective", Dorfrnan ch. 11 H. Daly, "Operationalizing Sustainable Development by Investing in Natural Capital" [24] David Vail, "Organizational Resilience and Sustainable Development" [25] Robert Costanza, et al., "Sustainable Trade" [26] Scott Barrett, "International Cooperation for Environmental Protection", Dorfrnan ch. 26 review John Bellamy Foster [5]

(24Nov) Discussion #8 - Consumption, Well-Being, and Sustainability Goodstein Chapter 20, pp. 458-464, review chapter 9 Alan Durning, "Asking How Much is Enough" [27] Redefining Progress, "Gross Production vs. Genuine Progress: 1950-1994" [28] Stephen Moore, "The Corning Age of Abundance" [29] 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