Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Last chance for blogging credit

You don't have to answer all of these... 
What topics did you find the most interesting?
What topics did you find the least interesting?
Was this course what you expected it to be?
What topics in resource econ do you think are the most important for econ majors to understand? EVS majors?

Local issues

Today's local paper is full of issues relevant to our class... 

Zoning and land use downtown

Sea turtles vs. beach nourishment

Coal ash and electric power

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Community control, land grabbing and deforestation

Here is a nice short read at The Equation.

Who was Elinor Ostrom? How does her research relate to our class?

Visualization of the economics of deforestation in Sumatra

This is pretty cool. The website is a bit annoying, but once you get in and can move around, it's a pretty interesting view of values from forest regimes and the incidence of costs and benefits across users.

Here is a link to the publication upon which the values are based. What valuation methods did they apply?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Trash and tourism in Barbados

Here is a link to a short paper that I wrote a couple of years ago showing the empirical connection between beach litter and tourism.
Tourist perceptions of beach cleanliness in Barbados: Implications for return visitation - See more at:
Tourist perceptions of beach cleanliness in Barbados: Implications for return visitation - See more at:


Here is an interesting read from Brian Palmer at Slate regarding trash and landfill space in the US. I found the landfill statistics particularly interesting. When we recycle our trash, we typically think in terms of "saving land" from being used for garbage disposal. But, in most states, land availability is not a problem at all.  So, when you enjoy your non-use benefits from recycling, think in these terms as well.  I also find the NIMBY issue interesting. Despite the plethora of land available for trash disposal, no one wants a landfill near their city. As a result, we ship a lot of trash, creating more pollution along the way.  Of course, this is just one of many pollution problems that are simply outsourced to other locations.

As discussed in the lecture, recycling can create an host of benefits, including reduced energy use, reduced air pollution and reduced extraction of virgin raw materials. How does the US stack up when it comes to MSW generation and recycling? Not so great.

Check out some stats here from the UN, and here from Nationmaster.

This graphic is pretty cool too.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Land use

This week we'll be covering land, minerals and recycling. To get us started, here is a nice article on land use and its associated impacts by JunJie Wu at Choices. Note the discussion of tradeoffs as well as incentive-based options for regulation.  I think this article fits nicely with the land rents discussion in the lectures, especially with regard to the impact of urbanization on land use.

Time magazine recently posted a google-powered view of some interesting land use changes from all over the world. There's a lot of content on these pages, and I have not had a chance to go through all of it. Please check some of it out and let me know what you think.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The value of Caura Park in Trinidad

I'm one of the advisers for a masters student at the University of the West Indies. I'm reading her thesis (all 91 pages of it) at the moment and thought I would share this nice passage with you. She did TCM application for recreational use values and a CVM application for non-use values.

"In the absence of non-market valuation the true worth of national parks remains hidden and the attention that is due both in terms of their provision and management is sometimes not rendered. Not only may they be under-provided but they also become vulnerable to conversion (Buyinza et al, 2007). Lowered perceptions of a park’s value, may falsely imply that increased financial benefits stand to be gained by a change in land use. The costs associated with park provision typically have explicit price tags attached. The benefits publicly received however are more difficult to measure considering the fact that they may be intrinsic in nature. Non-market valuation helps to balance the scales by focusing on revealing those benefits in a like unit (money) so that fair comparisons can be made between them, the explicit costs of park provision and the opportunity costs of sacrificed investments (Loomis 2006). Thorough economic assessments therefore help to ensure that recreational parks are not mistakenly estimated to be less valuable to the public than they really are. It aids therefore in the process of sustainable development planning and it contributes considerably to the formation of sound environmental policy (Ndebele 2009).
Non-market valuation has the potential also to emphasize the importance of proper management. According to Robinson (2001) an understanding of the science regarding the degradation that may be imminent, on its own can be too one-dimensional and therefore insufficient to ensure that governments take action to address issues of overexploitation. The addition of valuation studies to such a debate however, can help to create more convincing arguments in that regard. The probable losses to society as a result of degradation may be quantified and it is this value estimate that tends to act as the stimulus that compels governments to action. It helps to highlight the urgency with which exploitation aversion strategies ought to be implemented (Alvarez 2008). For economic studies to reflect the true worth of recreational parks however, holistic analyses must be conducted such that their total economic values (TEVs) can be estimated." 

Nice, huh?

Monday, June 3, 2013


We're starting our study of valuation. Valuation means figuring out what something is worth, usually in dollars.
It is important to note that economic value involves much more than market transactions. People value things that are not traded in markets and people value things that they never use.  Another important point is that economists don't just go around trying to place a value on things for no reason. We engage in valuation when understanding what something is worth can help inform the policy process. Any time there is a tradeoff involving environmental quantity or quality, valuation can serve an important role in terms of helping us understand what is at stake.

One situation where valuation is useful is in determining the monetary value of a fine or fee to impose on a responsible party in the case of natural resource damages. For example, BP will pay about $4.5 billion in criminal and civil penalties for the Deep Water Horizon spill.  Transocean (the owner of the rig) will pay $1.4 billion.
What are some other scenarios where valuation might be useful for informing policy?

I sometimes encounter hostility when I first present the idea of valuation to people who have never been exposed to it.  One line of reasoning is that valuation somehow "cheapens" the environment by expressing its worth in dollars and cents. My response to this objection is that the default value is typically zero. That is, most people treat the environment as if it were free, and you can't get much cheaper than that.  Valuation often helps people realize that the environment is extremely valuable, despite it being available for "free".

Another thing to realize is that we are constantly engaging in valuation anyway, through our actions.  For example, when society chooses to spend a certain amount of money on highways, healthcare, and social security and NOT spend that money on environmental protection, are we not indirectly placing a value on the environment relative to those other things?  On a micro level, when you choose to drive your car instead of walking, are you not revealing that you value your own convenience more than you value the environmental damage from your emissions?

Here are some links to more reading about valuation:

The National Ocean Economics Program

NOAA's State of the Coast

Ecosystem Valuation

Economic Values without Prices (Loomis, Choices, 2005)
FAO Fisheries Valuation Summary
Here is a pdf version of a presentation that I put together for SocMon Caribbean