Sustainability and the Global Economy

Economic system is a part of a larger global system.  Nature provides direct non-market goods and services to human civilization—services that are  not always valued in our decision making.  This course will examine the interactions between the economy and the environment focusing on sustainability and efficient allocation of scarce resources.

Modules, readings, videos, assignments

1The challenges of civilization 
2. Development, population, and poverty
 3.  Ecological economics and limits to growth  
4.  Public goods, externalities   
5.  Energy supply: Fossil vs Renewable  
6.  Energy demand: transport & cities
7.  Sustainable lifestyle

supply, demand:

8.  What can individuals, businesses and governments do?

Consumers & Businesses:

Government policies:


Final project

The final project is an opportunity demonstrate your research abilities and to apply your knowledge of environmental economics to address a real world problem.  Your task is to write a paper (8 pages) or prepare a PowerPoint presentation (15-20 slides), or a Prezi on a topic of your choice.  You may use any resources you like for this project, including course links, books, journal articles, the Internet,  personal interviews, reports in the media, etc. Be sure to name your sources properly.

Here are several project ideas:

1.  Describe how a specific company have become more eco-friendly. Consider a firm which does not have environmentalism as an inherent part of its mission, for example Sony, Volvo, Bank of America, Walmart, etc.  You may want to choose a company that is accounting for recycle content from the start of engineering and brings the material back into the production stream at the end of useful life.  Or you may examine how a retailing business is applying sustainable, eco-eco principles to their operations, including encouraging suppliers to apply eco-principles in production.

2. Use your own employer to develop ways for your company’s production process to become more eco-friendly. Describe the inputs, outputs and current technology. Compare your firm to others in the industry. Your suggestions may include using energy and raw materials more efficiently, recycling, internal environmental programs such as cash back for employees who buy a hybrid, etc. Try to do some cost-benefit analysis of your proposals.

3. Read the ebook by P.Barnes, “Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons.”   Discuss its main ideas:

4. Research “climate engineering” or “geoengineering”  as solutions to reducing global CO2 . One approach is to increase reflectivity of the earth in order to reduce solar heating and thereby reduce warming. Other methods include dumping nutrients into the sea to increase plant growth. What methods have been proposed?

5. Browse through news and examine in depth a particular local or global environmental problem of your choice (for example:  energy, fisheries, forests, water, trade).  Outline the problem, its economic implications, specific shortcomings of the current policy approach and make recommendations for specific changes in policy and specific changes in the factors that are considered when policy is formulated.  Find current policies, hot topics here:

The following questions may be helpful for analyzing your environmental issue

  • 1. What are the main historical and current causes (i.e., physical/biotic, social/cultural, or economic) of the issue?
  • 2. What is the geographic scale, the spatial distribution, and the longevity of the issue?
  • 3. What are the major risks and consequences to the natural environment?
  • 4. What are the major risks and consequences to human systems?
  • 5. What are the economic implications?
  • 6. What are the major currently implemented or proposed solutions?
  • 7. What are the obstacles to these solutions?
  • 8. What major social values (e.g., economic, ecological, political, aesthetic) are involved in or infringed upon by these solutions?
  • 9. What group(s) of people would be adversely impacted by or bear the costs of these solutions?
  • 10. What is the political status of the problem and solutions?
  • 11. How does this issue relate to other environmental issues?

Research links for your project:

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